Construction is progressing on the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, the London architect's first United States project.

Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland

Rendering of Farshid Moussavi's Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.

Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
According to the designer, painted ceilings and perimeter walls will give the galleries a sense of boundless space.

Farshid Moussavi's new home for the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) is nearing completion in the city's emerging Uptown district. The 34,000-square-foot, four-story building anchors a key intersection in an area that's part of University Circle, a cultural hub with institutions such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and Case Western Reserve University. Moussavi, who was a founding partner of Foreign Office Architects (FOA) with Alejandro Zaera-Polo until the firm (and the partners' marriage) dissolved in 2011, has designed the museum as an angled and faceted block wrapped in black, mirrored stainless steel. The building will be completed in August and the museum will open in early October.

London-based Moussavi and Westlake Reed Leskosky, the Cleveland-based executive architect, pushed the steel-frame building to the corner of the triangular site to increase its visibility and create space for a plaza designed by James Corner Field Operations. Inside, they painted the perimeter walls and ceiling a deep blue, which will create "the sense of an endless, boundary-less space" quite different from the white rooms found in most museums and galleries today, says Moussavi

The faceted form and mirrored-steel cladding, says Moussavi, will help "dissolve the building's volume into surfaces and reduce its apparent weight." The building shifts from a six-sided floor plate at street level to a rectangular plan on the top floor where the main gallery will enjoy daylight entering from above. "The form changes with each side," says the architect, "so to fully comprehend it, you need to move all around it." As a result, she says, the museum will have an almost cinematic character.

The project will be Moussavi's first in the United States and her first museum.

MOCA, which was founded in 1968 in a storefront, has rented a second-story space from the Cleveland Play House since 1990. Jill Snyder, MOCA's executive director, says the museum asked Moussavi for an iconic building that embraces cutting-edge technology, is environmentally friendly, and works with its context. The building, which has geo-thermal wells for heating and cooling, is expected to achieve at least a Silver LEED rating.

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