Pocket sized proposals for a mammoth project, from visionaries from across the arts spectrum.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Museum Typology III: Signature Museum Building

The Guggenheim Museum in New York is amongst the earliest museum buildings that use the building design to establish/reinforce a reputation. These buildings match designer ego's with those of the institution. More often than not they apply a formal wrapper to the White Box gallery approach. Serving equally as icons as arks it is difficult to discern if this type of building enhances or impedes the work for which it is intended to contain. As every city snags their own capital A buildings from rock star architects like Gehry, Lebiskin, Koolhaas... do they lose their importance. How different is the Guggenheim Las Vegas than the Hard Rock Las Vegas. How different are these than Subway restaurants or Gap clothing stores.


  1. I believe facades are just that.. only the outer shell of a deeper meaning. I am a fan of fantastic building all the way back from my childhood, when i was so impressed with the child like empress's palace. I believe that the exterior of a building can mentally prepare the individual for the coming inner structure, much like a cathedral reminds the religious of the holiness of the vaunted walls.

  2. AHHHHH!!! there are so many points I want to make that were sparked by your post Josh, that my writing skills fail to provide a comprehensible comment. Maybe if I list and tangent on each...

    1-these rock start architect buildings are very different to the "franchise style" of say the Gap or Wal-Mart or McDonald's or what have you, but there is a similarity to the Hard Rock model you mention. Especially when your example images are of the Guggenheim. I believe it has to do with it's uniqueness in and to it's local. the Hard Rock Las Vegas doesn't look like the HR San Antonio, NYC etc, just like the Guggenheim NYC doesn't look like Bilbao, LV etc., they are unique to each other and therefor unique to the city they are in. For these type of organizations part of the "Brand Identity" derives from this aspect, "our buildings are unique" which creates a collector mentality among their patrons. For HR it's t-shirts that proves you've gone to different cities, for GUG we're to believe are of a higher order. It is this uniqueness that injects an aura (yes, I'll throw Benjamin in here) to these places. the building becomes a work in of itself.

    2-if we're to hold the museum's idea of a "white cube" then the GUG model fails because it forces itself into the conversation. (see above) That's why I would argue for the "franchise style" in considering this project. the ubiquity of these buildings would simple cause them to be secondary to the art. It would externalize the cube. It is now not only the space, but the location as a "blank space" It creates (referencing that book Mario mentioned before) a non-space, a space outside of place or context. This model is somewhat intriguing to me, yet...

    3-i don't believe in the cube. I think everything is relative and has context. to try and remove it and show work in an "ideal" way is a lie.

    4-back to the building rep or the wrapping idea of a building. I'm not sure it enhances or impedes a work of art. I think it adds another layer of context. I can't imaging applying a sense of implied worth (positive or negative), to the art's interaction with the building.

    of course I'd love to hear others thoughts on the subject...