Manetti Shrem Museum
Florian Idenburg is a founding partner of SO–IL and an associate professor in Practice of Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He is the 2010 laureate of the Charlotte Köhler Prize and a 2014 finalist for the Prix de Rome in the Netherlands.
Jing Liu is a native of China, has been a faculty member at The Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University since 2009, and advises the Master’s thesis at Parsons School of Design at the New school.
Ilias Papageorgiou was born in Athens, Greece. He holds a Diploma of Architecture from the Aristotle University in Greece, and a Masters in Architecture from Harvard University. Ilias has been with SO–IL since its inception in 2008 and has played a key role in the firm’s recognition and success. He became a partner in 2013.
Open Fields and the Sensory Experience
Florian Idenburg (co-principal, SO-IL)+Seunghyun Kang (associate, SO-IL) × SPACE
SPACE: The Manetti Shrem Museum is located in an area that is relatively sparsely populated with buildings. While the geographical conditions have provided for the design of a freer relationship with neighbouring buildings, there were few variables imposed by the urban context, which must have presented a challenge to the design of the museum. When embarking on the design of this project, how did you read and respond to the site’s urban context?
Florian Idenburg+Seunghyun Kang (Idenburg+Kang): The project is situated on the edge of a campus. The heart of student life is elsewhere. In the meantime, this peripheral area is also considered the gateway or entrance to the campus, and as such has a representative character.
We responded to this condition in two ways. The first approach was to treat the site as the continuation of the campus grounds. In order to create a very smooth transition, the site has been made accessible from the centre of campus, with a public exterior space as a connecting path. The canopy acts as a marker of this ‘open field’, a museum that is permeable and accessible. The canopy also marks its presence in the outside world; it rises gently out of the flat fields of the central valley. If you look at the plan in more detail, you will also see lines from the outside of the building, continuing inwards. For instance the art link, in the galleries, is a continuation of the main axis on campus.
The project is situated on the edge of a campus. The architect created a very smooth transition, the site has been made accessible from the centre of campus, with a public exterior space as a connecting path.
SPACE: Having worked on a large number of cultural spaces, SO-IL must have accumulated a breadth of understanding related to ‘museum’ programmes. In the case of the Manetti Shrem Museum, the building was designed as a space to display contemporary art. What was the most important/noteworthy factor in the transformation of the museum’s programme into a physical space? First of all, could you comment on the placement of void spaces throughout the building?
Idenburg+Kang: Unlike an independent museum, a university arts museum lends itself better to becoming a platform for invention and experimentation. It can explore boundaries between curatorial agendas, and reposition the role of art and curation as an instrument to draw together disciplines. In particular, we embrace the museum as a platform for experimentation, a testing ground for what has been called ‘new pedagogies’.
Achieving a diversity of perspectives, approaches, assumptions, and ideologies was a foundational principle. The museum creates a heightened experience for interacting with art by making it transparent, personal, approachable, and engaged across disciplines – beyond art history and studio art. The spaces the Museum creates are bold yet dynamic, informal, and improvisational. The Canopy activates the Museum’s thresholds and interiors. In so doing, it transforms the function of a museum from an inert receptacle to a lively, multi-faceted landscape of exploration. The new museum generates zones that are intimate and grand, individual and compound, interior and exterior. The design eschews a static, central space, and instead embraces diversity, contradiction, and multiplicity.
SPACE: The floor plan has been described as ‘three pavilions wrapped in transparent glass’. How was the programmatic function distributed across each mass?
Idenburg+Kang: With the ambition of producing a new context for art within education – one governed by pro-activity, participation and a bottom-up approach – the site is organized around three programmatic zones: public, making and display. The building occupies the areas in which these zones overlap, suggesting ways the interdisciplinary centre weaves together diverse programmes, and their implied scales, activities, and users. The public zone is situated towards the northwestern area of the site, forming the link between campus and museum. The making zone on the eastern edge is a place for experimentation and production. The display zone on the south of the site marks the end point of the cross-campus axis from Mrak Hall. The overlap between the public zone and, making zone generate the art studio and community classroom. The gallery’s volume is situated between the public zone and the display zone. The making zone and the display zone frames the offices and the support area. The entrance and lobby are situated at the point at which the three zones overlap, creating a central node of cross-fertilization. The organisation of the site in programmatic clusters makes it easy to navigate and configure. This strategy also offers an operational efficiency: the gallery cluster is climatically independent and easily secured from the rest of the building to host off-hours events, and the spaces are easily grouped and reconfigured across a variety of events and scales.
The architect intended to make a circulation line from the outside of the building, continuing inwards.
SPACE: By examining your past works, one observes SO-IL’s tendency for using diverse materials such as glass, wire-mesh (Kukje Gallery - K3), and translucent film (Blueprint at Storefront, New York), to experiment with the boundaries between architecture and the city. What was the purpose of utilizing a wire-mesh and steel frame (especially, used in the museum’s canopy) to continually obscure the form of the volumes? The process of studying materiality in architecture is very intriguing.
Idenbur+Kang: It was our desire to develop a covering that would optimize the intensity of shadow and light, increasing a visitor’s awareness of the space between the earth and the sky. Merging secondary structures and infill panels into a hybrid, perforated triangular beam – made of milled aluminum – enabled the particularization of each of the canopy’s cells. Spanning a lattice of curved primary steel beams, one thousand unique infill beams cover just under an acre of the site. The triangular infill beams capture and diffuse the light. Varying density and orientation have allowed for the creation of a lively play between shadow patterns.
The design process relied heavily on a combination of physical and digital modeling techniques. In order to assess the presence of the silhouette of the roof’s edge from major vantage points, isovist studies determined levels of visibility of the canopy, indicating where to intensify the geometry, the level of applied craft, and the quantity of material. With a general geometry determined, we created a Grasshopper model that tied everything together digitally: the columns and the primary steel and aluminum infill beams. The model allowed us to adjust the canopy infill’s orientation, spacing, and density. As uses evolved, the design was able to evolve along with it.
It was architect’s desire to develop a covering that would optimize the intensity of shadow and light, increasing a visitor’s awareness of the space between the earth and the sky.
Courtesy of SO-IL
Architectural model of the Manetti Shrem Museum
Architect: SO-IL (Florian Idenburg, Jing Liu, Ilias Papageorgiou)
Associate architect: BCJ
Design team (Competition team): Florian Idenburg, Ilias Papageorgiou, Jing Liu, Danny Duong, Seunghyun Kang, Nile Greenberg, Pietro Pagliaro, Andre Herrero, Madelyn Ringo, Jacopo Lugli
Location: Davis, California, USA Programme: museum of art
Site area: 4,650㎡
Building area: 2,700㎡
Gross floor area: 2,900㎡
Building to land ratio: 58%
Floor area ratio: 62%
Exterior finishing: precast concrete, steel & marine grade aluminum
Interior finishing: drywall finish
Structural engineer: Rutherford & chekene
Mechanical and electrical engineer: WSP
Design period: Jan. – Mar. 2013 (Competition)
Construction period: Mar. 2015 – June 2016
Construction budget: 25 million USD
Client: University of California, Davis
materials provided by SO-IL | photographed by Iwan Baan