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07.16.2010
FOA Facet-nates in Cleveland
Firm to make American debut with new Museum of Contemporary Art
The museum occupies the apex of a triangular lot in Cleveland's emerging Uptown district.
Courtesy Foreign Office Architects

Today, the Cleveland Planning Commission approved, with commendation, a design by Foreign Office Architects for a new home for the Museum of Contemporary Art. The design for the 34,000-square-foot museum calls for a dark, faceted facade pulled to the point of a wedge-shaped lot in the University Circle area near Case Western Reserve University.

The $26.3 million museum will give MOCA a street presence for the first time in its 40 years of existence. It is also FOA’s first museum and first project in the U.S. Though still intimate in scale, the new building will increase the museum’s space by 40 percent.

glazed portions of the facade look onto an urban plaza to be designed by Field Operations.

The design calls for a building with a hexagonal base that becomes a square at the building’s roofline. The building has six facets, some sloping and others flat, creating a subtle but sculptural presence. Through a combination of tinted glazing and mirror-finished stainless-steel cladding, the building will look darkly monolithic during the day, but animated at night when light shines through the glazed portions of the facade.

visitors ascend toward the upper galleries through a dramatic open stair.
 

Three facets, including one that is transparent, will face a broad public plaza, which will be programmed with events. “We’re part of an emerging district, called Uptown, that’s being developed through a private developer and the University,” said Jill Snyder, executive director of MOCA. Field Operations is designing the landscapes and public spaces throughout the district, including the plaza, the design of which will be presented for review at the end of August.

Inside the building’s atrium, a monumental staircase, containing both an open stair and a fully enclosed fire stair, draw the eye up to the building’s four levels, which include a double-height event space, shop, cafe, educational and staff facilities, and galleries. “I think it’s clear that museums, especially non-collecting museums, are best as blank buildings,” FOA principal Farshid Moussavi told AN. “We want to use the social and administrative spaces as a way to break through what would otherwise be an opaque building. We want to animate the section.”

A lightweight roof system allows the upper-level gallery to remain a completely column-free space.

The largest gallery is located at the top level, a 6,000-square-foot, column-free space covered by a lightweight roof and divided by movable walls. “We’re developing a system that will be a combination of beams and cables to relieve the top floor of columns,” Moussavi said. “Really the gallery is the very point of the project.” A lounge with views of the city and a room for film and video art are also placed on the top floor. The museum plans to break ground late this fall.

Alan G. Brake