An exhibition at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art highlights a new trend in museum design—away from Bilbao-esque icons and toward a more democratic model in which architects, often working in teams, create dispersed structures that defer to the surrounding landscape, as well as to the visitors’ journey. White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes opens tomorrow, September 22, and runs through January 13, 2013. It will then travel to the Yale School of Architecture Gallery, where it will be on view from February 14 to May 4, 2013.
The inspiration for the exhibition emerged from a lecture that Raymund Ryan, the museum’s architecture curator, was preparing to give at Ireland’s Lismore Castle about four years ago, on the intersection of art and landscape. The six sites Ryan chose to highlight in his lecture are now represented in the show, with commissioned photographs of each by regular RECORD contributor Iwan Baan, as well as models and drawings: Raketenstation Insel Hombroich, near Neuss, Germany; Benesse Art Site in Naoshima, Japan; Inhotim, near Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Jardín Botánico in Culiacán, Mexico; Grand Traiano Art Complex in Grottaferrata, Italy; and Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park.
Raymund noticed that in each case, different scales of architectural interventions appeared on the same site. “It’s not like a Beaux Arts museum, where you start at point A and go to point Z,” he says. At the Raketenstation Insel Hombroich, near Cologne—agricultural land purchased by an art collector businessman in the 1980s—once visitors buy tickets, there are no guards, directionals, or explanatory texts. They are free to wander the property, which includes a partly preserved, 32-acre former NATO rocket-launching base. “As a visitor make your own progression, you decide what you like,” says Ryan.
These distinct projects share other similarities, too, serving to revitalize or preserve locations that have been scarred environmentally or are historically charged. Most are also the products of more than one architect’s work, championing collaboration over ego. At the Benesse Art Site, scattered across several islands in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, Tadao Ando, SANAA, and Ryo Abe, among others, have designed interventions.
For Ryan, all of the sites represent a new model of museum-building and experience, one not reliant on brand or even completion or permanence. “There are lots of other places that have tried to do Bilbao, and you end up with white elephants,” says Ryan. While each site benefits from what Ryan calls a “Maecenas” figure, who played or plays a role in funding complicated, if understated projects, he believes they can still be a model for less well-funded institutions. “I hope it gets some legs,“ he says.