The Digital Art Museum is my attempt to design a museum that houses media art spanning roughly the last 30 years, and doing it in a logical progression that is sympathetic to the patrons. The D.A.M. is also a chance to put a number of the dualities I’ve written about in this blog to practical use. I’ve also come up with a couple new dualities in the process.
This museum arises from my general frustration with the flow of a museum as one is experiencing art. I can’t remember how many times I’ve walked through a museum and felt lost, confused, and had to backtrack several times to find something new. This can be a positive thing if your objective is to get lost, but I find myself being more frustrated than excited by it. The museum in general is poorly planned in terms of flow. The only museum that comes to my mind that solves these problems is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim in Manhattan.
Another problem I’ve found in museums is the way that sound utilizing Media art is integrated with the other strictly visual arts. Media art pieces like this are very isolating and alienating to the museumgoer. A patron walking around the sculptures and paintings at their own pace is suddenly expected to go into a dark room and immerse themselves in a piece that has a different pace than the art around it. People find this sudden extreme shift in the artist’s expectations to be jarring and unpleasant. They rebel against the work. They shuffle in, see a video that looks like it takes commitment, and walk right out. I firmly believe that a gradual transition from the purely visual art towards the more immersive media arts will allow patrons to ease into the more demanding work and accept it more readily: It’s a transition from light to dark, as well as freedom and constraint.
The building achieves this goal most persuasively with the use of a fritted glass facade. At the entrance and lobby the glass is almost completely transparent. There is a small frit that does nothing more than to frame the outside world. This frit is made up of little squares: the glass wall is itself pixilated! As one progresses further into the museum, at the location of the fine art gallery, the frit gradually becomes thicker, to provide shading for the paintings, but to still allow a relationship with the outside world. As one moves farther into the space the frits gradually become larger and larger. At the midpoint of the building the frit is at 50% and looks like a small checkerboard pattern. A little beyond this is the digital art gallery. This houses the digital art that does not have sound. It is a mostly dark space, the frit is heavy, and outside light shines only through tiny spots in the windows. In the very back of the museum there are the immersive media art galleries that require soundproofing and
no daylight . Here the glass is almost totally opaque, in a reverse of the transparent lobby.
Once the museum patron has progressed gradually from light to dark, their expectations of how to approach the art adapt gradually. This makes the various manifestations of art easier to accept. As the person reaches the apex with the media theatres, they loop around to the other side and gradually work back towards less committal artwork (and more daylight). Ones eyes are allowed to dilate in a non-jarring fashion. The initial concern people may have is that the various arts are given a hierarchy with the immersive media art being at the top, but because the system works on a loop and not a termination, all art is given equal credence. One goes from light to dark, and then from dark to light, ending up in the lobby again.
The architecture of the space is fundamentally meant to take a backseat to the artwork it houses. It is a blank canvas to be filled by the work. It does not compete with the art or steal ones attention away. Clarity of plan and structure allow a patron to immediately understand the space and not be tricked by it. I believe architecture should be understood quickly so one can breath easier in the space. The columns are on a 20 foot by 30 foot grid and do not deviate from that framework. The windows and panels on the facade measure 5 feet wide by 8 feet high, which is close to the golden section. This 5X8 grid is used everywhere in elevation, including the concrete panels in the annex. In plan the system is on a 5 foot by 5-foot grid. The ceiling and roof panels follow this grid. The roof system is a sandwich. The ceiling panels are hung under the sloped glass skylight roof. The roof is held up by a long truss system. The sloped skylight roof is concealed on the top by roof panels similar to the ceiling panels. These roof panels also can accommodate solar panels or “greenroof” patches. Both panel systems have room for projectors to shine light or image onto them. The roof plane becomes a canvas for pixel art. I would propose that the museum hires various media artists to create works of art for this roof.
This post is just an introduction to the Digital Art Museum. The next post will explore several dualities found in the DAM. And the post after that will talk about the building in terms of context and environment.