Anchoring the new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts campus in Cedar City, Utah, Brooks + Scarpa’s Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) has opened to the public. The L.A.-based architects drew from the surrounding sandstone canyons of Mount Zion National Park for inspiration when designing the dramatically dipped roof and arched overhangs for the 28,000-thousand square-foot institution.

Shaped like a canyon cutaway section, SUMA’s roof naturally funnels rain and snow out of the openings and into hidden wells, where the runoff returns to the aquifer below. The museum’s facade is also clad in ridged, undulating panels that recall the texture of a sheer cliff face, while the smooth, sheltering underside is similar to rock that’s been worn away by erosion.

View of the museum’s underside at night (Courtesy Brooks + Scarpa)

Cantilevering out up to 120 feet on the west side of the building, the roof creates 6,000 square feet of lit public event space that eases the transition between the indoor and outdoor areas. Besides fostering outdoor social interaction, these extensions shade the interior of the museum and allowed large windows to be installed without exposing any of the artwork to direct sunlight. Because of this solar shading, the museum uses 30 percent less electricity than a comparably sized building.

Inside, the museum is using what Brooks + Scarpa has called a “trigeneration” process that integrates heating, cooling, and electricity into a single system. Through the use of radiant heating and a ground-level air supply, the system acts as a natural heat pump that diffuses hot and cold air throughout the building as needed.

Speaking to Interior Design, Lawrence Scarpa described how his studio approached the project from a context-first standpoint.

“I had never been to Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park before being hired to design the Southern Utah Museum of Art in Cedar City, and the slot canyons were pretty stunning,” said Scarpa.

“The way you get in and out of the parks, in fact, is through the canyons, and they reminded me of my design process. A bit like water that seeks its own path, eroding the stone, I start with a general idea, not really knowing where it’s going to take me,” he added.

The winner of an AIA LA 2017 Citation Award, SUMA will host contemporary and modern visual art from across southern Utah and the surrounding Colorado Plateau. By integrating performance spaces, classrooms and hands-on conservation training for MFA students and faculty at Southern Utah University, the museum will also become a powerful tool for the local community.

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