Achromatic Museum Architecture

Architecture is expressing a quality of light. It should also allow you to appreciate nature that’s around you. White is all colors. It’s everywhere. Everywhere you look. Whiteness, in a sense, reflects nature, it refracts light, it makes you more aware of the colors of nature because of the whiteness of the buildings” - Richard Meier, Architect on the use of white in architecture.

We explore the use of white, the absence of colour, in the architecture of museums around the world.

Louvre, Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, was designed by architect Jean Nouvel in stark contrast to the flashy sky scrapers for which the Emirates are known. The low-rise white dome is designed to represent rays of sunlight passing through date palm fronds in an oasis. The museum's motto is ‘See Humanity in a new light’ and was built in an effort to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western art.

Contemporary Class Editor, Katie Silcox, takes a photo of The Louvre, Abu Dhabi

Contemporary Class Editor, Katie Silcox, takes a photo of The Louvre, Abu Dhabi

Heydar Aliyav Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku is a city with a rich history that is looking towards the future. Leading the way on it's modern journey is the Heyday Aliyav Centre. The building was designed by globally renowned starchitect, the late Zaha Hadid; its curved white structure was designed to be both eye-catching and (as the centre itself attests to), to 'symbolise a bright future'. This architectural marvel was built without using even one straight line - an accomplishment in its own right. Inside, the museum houses galleries and exhibitions showcasing local artists and culture, as well as internationally renowned names. 

The Heyday Alive Centre, Baku. Image credit: Abdelmale Bensetti

The Heyday Alive Centre, Baku. Image credit: Abdelmale Bensetti

THE GETTY CENTER

Designed by Richard Meier, the Getty Center includes the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Research Institute, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Harold M. Williams Auditorium and more than 86 acres of landscaped gardens and terraces to explore. Meier is well known for his abstract, often white, buildings opening quote of this article. His aesthetic is largely influenced by the likes of Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn and other pioneers of modernism, somewhat minimalist architecture. Meier choose white stone for this project to expresses qualities the Getty Center celebrates: permanence, solidity, simplicity, warmth, and craftsmanship.

The Getty Centre, LA

The Getty Centre, LA

Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy

Fondazione Prada is an institution dedicated to contemporary art and culture. Co-chaired by Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli, the foundation is located in a former gin distillery, dating from 1910 in the Largo Isarco industrial complex on the southern edge of Milan. The old factory buildings and warehouses were upgraded with new finishes and fenestration, while the additional structures were designed to suggest a similar industrial character, despite being built using modern materials and techniques.

Fondazione Prada, Milan. Image credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel

Fondazione Prada, Milan. Image credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel

Museo Internacional del Barroco, Mexico

Baroque - though founded in Europe, encouraged by the Catholic Church, and popularised by artists such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio - left an indelible mark on the colonial city of Puebla, Mexico. As a result, the city of Puebla commissioned The International Museum of Baroque Art (MIB) by acclaimed Japanese architect, Toyo Ito, in 2016 in the hope of attracting international audiences to the city. MIB’s dramatic sculptural design is theatrical, reflects movement and emphasises light. These are three pillars of the traditional art form expressed architecturally with a modern approach. From afar, the white facade appears as delicate as paper but up close, the museum walls are made of 14-inch-thick cast concrete. It occupies a prominent UNESCO world heritage site and was designed to be cultural meeting centre for Mexico and it’s international ambitions.

Museo Internacional Barroco, Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza, Mexico Leo Manjarrez.jpg

The Broad Contemporary Art Gallery, LA, USA

The passion for art of billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist, Eli Broad, is well known. When his ever expanding art collection grew beyond the walls of his LA home he launched The Broad Foundation, loaning his art to fund the advancement of entrepreneurship, education, science, and the arts for public good. After taking an active role in the art and cultural landscape of LA, Broad put both his money and his name to The Broad, a museum of contemporary art housing a collection of 2000 artworks encased by a striking white, latticed fibreglass and concrete structure. He now cites LA as a ‘cultural capital of the world’.

The Broad, Los Angeles. Image credit: Verne Ho

The Broad, Los Angeles. Image credit: Verne Ho

The Guggenheim, NYC, USA

Home to a dramatic collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim is one of New York’s most iconic landmarks. The innovative architecture was designed by world renowned Frank Lloyd Wright who made no attempt to hide his disdain at Guggenheim’s choice to build in New York City. It is thought that this informs the organic curves of the museum which act in complete contrast to Manhattan’s strict city grid. The museum was designed to house Guggenheim’s private collection by forward thinking artists including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Piet Mondrian, and the gallery continues to embrace new art and new ideas. Wright’s continuous spiral ramp shuns traditional room by room gallery format in favour of uninterrupted viewing. Opened in 1959, The Guggenheim NYC still fulfills its brief of being ‘unlike any other museum in the world’.

The Guggenheim, New York. Image credit: Charlotte Butcher

The Guggenheim, New York. Image credit: Charlotte Butcher

Bauhaus Archive Museum, Berlin, Germany 

The Staatliches Bauhaus, commonly known as ‘The Bauhaus’, is a German art school known as the birthplace of Modernism. Bauhaus design practices utilise the true nature of materials and live by ‘form follows function’ principles. Such principles are brought to life by the exterior of The Bauhaus Archive Museum of Design, Berlin; the roof, conceptualised by Walter Gropius, was indeed functionally designed to bring indirect natural light to the interior. Founded as a collection of archival material from the school, today visitors can explore works by world famous artists of the movement in the exhibition space. The school was only operational for 14 years, from 1919 to 1933. 2019 commemorates it’s centenary year, a real celebration for Germany and minimalist design fanatics alike.

The Bauhaus Archive Museum of Design, Berlin. Image credit: Mr Wen Chen

The Bauhaus Archive Museum of Design, Berlin. Image credit: Mr Wen Chen

Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) Lisbon, PORTUGAL

The geometrically designed MAAT brings together contemporary art, architecture and technology on the banks of the Tagus River, Lisbon. White in design, the exterior’s 15,000, three-dimensional ceramic tiles, representing traditional Portuguese craftsmanship, reflect the river and result in aesthetic changes from dusk ‘til dawn.

Museum of Architecture, Art and Technonlogy, MAAT, Lisbon. Image credit: Antoine Bussy

Museum of Architecture, Art and Technonlogy, MAAT, Lisbon. Image credit: Antoine Bussy

By Bethany Silcox

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