Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland | Foreign Office Architects

• July 28, 2010

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, is the London-based architectural firm Foreign Office Architects (FOA)‘s first major building in the United States, and its first museum. It is approx. 34,000-square-foot with four-story structure, located at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road, the new MOCA is a flagship project of Cleveland’s emerging Uptown district, a major urban-revitalization project undertaken by Case Western Reserve University; developer MRN, Ltd.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, render courtesy FOA

+ Project description courtesy Foreign Office Architects

Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland Releases Design by Foreign Office Architects for Innovative New Building

Project is cornerstone of Cleveland’s emerging Uptown district

The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) today released the design for its new facility, following its presentation and approval at a meeting of the City’s Planning Commission. The project is designed by the internationally acclaimed firm Foreign Office Architects (FOA), London. The Museum anticipates that it will break ground for the $26.3 million project in fall/winter 2010.

The nearly 34,000-square-foot, four-story structure is FOA’s first major building in the United States, and its first museum. It will provide MOCA with street presence for the first time in its forty-plus-year history, and will enable it to present a diversity of innovative exhibitions and programs, while appealing to both current and new audiences. At the same time, it will give the city of Cleveland and its cultural community a signature building for contemporary art and ideas.

Located at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road, the new MOCA is a flagship project of Cleveland’s emerging Uptown district, a major urban-revitalization project undertaken by Case Western Reserve University; developer MRN, Ltd.; and other institutions in the University Circle neighborhood. The Museum will serve as a catalyst for creativity and growth in the area—which is home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of cultural, educational, and medical institutions—with greatly expanded educational and public programs, as well as imaginative collaborations with neighboring organizations and cultural partners.

The Museum for Contemporary Art Cleveland is elated that the design for its new building has been approved by the City Planning Commission. This represents an endorsement of FOA’s inspired building design and a recognition of the critical importance of MOCA to the cultural life of the city. FOA’s design for our building is the perfect expression of our program—one that will not only enable it to operate at the highest level, but that will also be beautiful, intriguing, and sensitive to its urban surroundings and community. The Museum’s ability to realize this project during a period of economic instability is a clear testament to the vision and dedication of MOCA’s Board leadership and community funders.

MOCA Director Jill Snyder

As FOA’s first museum and first U.S. commission, this is an especially meaningful and inspirational project for us. Museums today are not just homes for art, but also serve multiple functions and host a variety of activities. Our design for MOCA Cleveland aims to provide visitors with a museum which is a dynamic public space in which to experience contemporary art in its infinite manifestations.

Farshid Moussavi, principal of FOA

In addition to Foreign Office Architects, the design team for the new Museum includes executive architects Westlake Reed Leskosky, headquartered in Cleveland and designers of more than fifty cultural buildings throughout the United States.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, render courtesy FOA

Building Design

The new MOCA, which will be forty-four percent larger than the Museum’s current, leased facility, will demonstrate that a museum expansion need not be large in scale to be ambitious in all respects. Devised for both environmental and fiscal sustainability, the design for the four-story building is at once technically inventive, visually stunning, and highly practical.

FOA has responded ingeniously to the project’s roughly triangular site by designing a building with a hexagonal base that, with imperceptible changes in the shape of each story, rises to a square roof. Viewed from the exterior, the building will appear as an inventive massing of six geometric facets, some flat, others sloping at various angles, all coming together to create a powerful abstract form.

Clad primarily in mirror-finish black Rimex stainless steel, the façade of the new MOCA will reflect its urban surroundings, changing in appearance with differences in light and weather. Window glazing will be tinted to assimilate with the reflective skin so that during the day the building will read as a unified volume, while at night interior lights will create a dynamic pattern on the dark surface.

Three of the building’s six facets, one of them clad in transparent glass, will flank a public plaza. This will provide a public gathering place and also serve as MOCA’s “front yard,” and will be the site of seasonal programming. From here, visitors and passersby may look through the transparent facet, site of the Museum entrance, into the ground floor, a space intended for socializing and for civic and cultural events.

While the building’s dark exterior will offer almost no hint of the interior massing and structure, the experience inside will be notably transparent. Upon entering MOCA, visitors will find themselves in an atrium from which they may visually grasp the dynamic shape and structure of the building as it rises. This space will lead in turn to the Museum’s lobby, café, and shop, and to a double-height multi-purpose room that will house public programs and other events. From here, visitors may take the Museum’s staircase—itself a monumental sculptural object—or an elevator to the upper floors.

Because MOCA is a non-collecting institution—one of the few such contemporary art museums in the country—its new building does not need to accommodate collection galleries, and the architect was free to design the exhibition space for maximum flexibility. This has been achieved by placing the main gallery at the top of the building. There it will be structurally unencumbered, needing only to hold the lightweight roof, the underside of which will be fully visible from the gallery. The 6,000-square-foot space may be divided into a variety of configurations in order to encompass the broad range of MOCA’s exhibitions and related programs. This floor will also contain a gallery designed specifically for new-media work and a lounge with a view of the city, where visitors can relax, reflect on what they have seen, and read about the exhibitions.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, render courtesy FOA

Ms. Snyder notes,

As Cleveland’s only museum of contemporary art, MOCA is committed to presenting exhibitions that break new ground, showing the work of emerging artists from across the globe as well as from our own region. Flexibility is key to a program that, like ours, embraces aesthetic, conceptual, and cultural diversity, and displays works in a great variety of mediums and genres. We are thrilled with the gallery space planned for the new Museum.

While the main exhibition gallery is on the top floor, all four floors of the Museum contain space for either exhibitions or public programs, with the second and third floors combining public and “back of house” functions. The second floor, for example, will house both exhibition workshops and a 1,500-square-foot public gallery, to be used for more intimately scaled exhibitions; consonant with the openness that is characteristic of the building’s interior, visitors approaching this gallery will also be able to glimpse the workshops. The third floor, home to MOCA’s administrative offices, will also include spaces for classes, lectures, and other educational programs.

In keeping with the ways in which contemporary visitors engage with art, the new building will have wi-fi throughout, enabling the use of wireless devices for on-demand learning. MOCA anticipates that the building will receive LEED silver accreditation.

+ Project credits / data

Project: The Museum of Contemporary Art
Location: Cleveland, USA
Architect: Foreign Office Architects (FOA)

+ About Foreign Office Architects

Founded in London in 1993, Foreign Office Architects (FOA) has emerged as one of the most innovative and creative design firms working today, integrating architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture in a wide range of projects internationally. The project that established the practice’s reputation was the Yokohama Port Terminal in Japan, an imaginative hybrid of non-Cartesian industrial infrastructure and versatile social functionality, which architects and critics have called one of the most influential works of architecture of the last decade. Since then, FOA has amassed a diverse portfolio of built works around the world, ranging from transportation facilities to social housing projects.

Over the years, FOA has won several prestigious competitions and commissions, including the BBC Music Box, for the network’s White City complex, in London; and it was selected as part of the United Architects team to submit a design for the World Trade Center, New York, in the aftermath of the September 11 attack. In 2002, the practice was selected to represent Great Britain at the 8th Venice Architecture Biennale.

Other completed projects for FOA include the John Lewis Department Store and Cineplex in Leicester, England; Carabanchel Social Housing in Madrid, Spain; the South-East Coastal Park, Barcelona, Spain; the Meydan Retail Complex and Multiplex, in Istanbul; the Spanish Pavilion at the 2005 International Expo in Aichi, Japan; La Rioja Technology Transfer Centre, in Logroño, Spain; and the master plan and infrastructure for the London 2012 Olympic Park.

+ About Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland

Founded in 1968, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, a leading force in the cultural life of Northeast Ohio, is recognized nationally and internationally for its vital and creative exhibitions and public programs. These strive to challenge, inspire, and teach a wide range of audiences.

As one of the few non-collecting contemporary art museums in the United States, MOCA enjoys the curatorial freedom of an alternative space while upholding the standards of a collecting museum. Through eight-to-ten exhibitions a year, all accompanied by public and education programs, and many by scholarly catalogues, the Museum brings the work and ideas of a diversity of national and international artists to its audiences. MOCA’s critically acclaimed exhibitions have included Yoshitomo Nara (2004), Sam Taylor-Wood (2008), and All Digital (2006), among many others.

From 1968 to 1990, MOCA rented modest quarters in University Circle, and from 1990 to the present it has rented second-story space from the Cleveland Play House, where it has been virtually invisible to passersby. Today, as it prepares to begin work on its new building, MOCA looks forward to welcoming both established and new audiences to its exciting new space in University Circle.

For additional information: www.mocacleveland.org

+ About Uptown Initiative

Established in 2008 by Case Western Reserve University, in cooperation with neighboring University Circle institutions and the developer MRN Ltd., Cleveland’s emerging Uptown district will add an urban center to University Circle and the surrounding neighborhoods. The eight-acre district is anchored by the new MOCA and the expansion of the Cleveland Institute of Art (Burt, Hill with MVRDV), and will also provide new commercial space and residential units, to be designed by Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects Inc. The public realm of the Uptown district will be designed by James Corner, principal of the New York-based landscape architecture and urban design firm Field Operations.

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Category: Architecture, Culture

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