Experiencing the Museum
The conference addressed the following themes :
Art and public/museum in the city/in the world
Museum architecture and its relationship with the art
Museum of the 21st century/future
Below appears an abstract of the subjects discussed:
1. Art and public/ museum in the city/ in the world
To continue to remain viable, museums have to be more and more open to transmitting the work of contemporary artists to the larger public. Instead of functioning as temples or mausoleums, they have to be lively and living spaces, truly accessible to our contemporary world.
Q: What are some of the new ways an architect can make his building have more engagement with the public, to have more reflexive interactions with the artists and public to encourage dialogue, and be inviting and open to a wider cross section of civil society?
Museum's roles in the city have increased such that today's museums are functioning as the new meeting place in a city for people and ideas. The museum provides educational programs directed to those who have more leisure time, directs the younger generation towards culture and art activities, helps to create work and volunteer opportunities in the third sector, and strengthens the public-private partnership. Museums are often dynamic cornerstones of today's urban regeneration and friendly-city aims.
The Centre Pompidou is a model par excellence: it’s a museum that maximizes the high quality of art and culture for a large public. Another example is the Tate Modern in London.
Q: How can the architectural design of a museum facilitate its role as the new agora, urban piazza, or town square? How can a building devoted to the arts and culture better serve various disciplines towards various publics?
The idea of an art museum that can bring together art and culture from specific different geographies and eras, now has to be developed in a way that creates a dynamic relationship for a local public that is more and more diverse, coming from different backgrounds, horizons and cultures.
2. Museum architecture and its relationship with the art
NY's Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959 marked the first steps towards architectural tourism, catapulting architecture into the mainstream and making architects celebrities in their own right. This phenomenon as we know, became obvious in Bilbao where Gehry firmly proposes his philosophy that the architecture must be art in itself. Critics and time have showed that these art museum designs have upstaged what is exhibited within, detracting from the public, and the possibility to fully appreciate and understand the art.
Q: Can you elaborate on how your designs for the Pole Muséal of Lausanne and the Kunstmuseum extension in Basel can help its visitors to understand and apprecriate the art which will be installed within your creations?
The white cube, for example, emerged as an art space to show conceptual and minimal art, is now often used as a model for museum everywhere, but is not always the most appropriate way to show all types of art.
3. Museum of the 21st century/ futureWith time, architect's roles have become more narrow as all professions become more specialized. Where once an architect was responsible for total building, from urban planning of the site to the design of details such as the door handles, today there are specialist consultants and professionals, such as scenographers, light specialists, interior designers, etc. that the architect must share his design with. Today, given his narrowing scope as well as increased constraints of regulations, budgets, and technology, the architect's task seems to be more about synthesizing all the many facets involved in architecture rather than being an innovator.
Q: How can the architects of the future be impactful, relevant and innovative with such a narrow scope and indeed is it important for architects to be avant garde in the 21st century? In what realms should an architect be thinking to innovate?
Thomas Krens, former director of the Guggenheim, used to say that a successful museum needs at least "five rides"- great architecture, a great permanent collection, strong temporary exhibits, shopping, and good food. However, we all know that the museum of the 21st century has to offer more, providing a wide range of programs and services.
Museum architecture is an essential part of today’s modern city’s practice and the conference was a spirited discussion of museum architecture, its relationship to the public, its relationship and duty to the art it houses inside, and thoughts for the museum of the future.