In a surprise move Terence Riley, AIA, resigned as director of the Miami Art Museum (MAM) on October 26, just days after unveiling the final design for the museum’s new home, designed by Herzog & de Meuron.
The new Miami Art Museum at Museum Park
Image courtesy Miami Art Museum
Terence Riley, AIA, resigned as director of the MAM just days after unveiling the final design for the museum's new home, by Herzog & de Meuron.
Riley, who took the helm at MAM in March 2006 after 14 years as the chief curator of the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, said he will return to his practice, Keenen/Riley Architects, based in New York. Riley plans to remain in Miami and open an office there, where he will work on projects such as a museum in Spain and a resort in Mexico.

He said the timing was right to leave MAM, noting that “a number of important things” had happened in recent weeks. Most notably, Herzog & de Meuron had finished the schematic designs for the museum’s new home, and the project had cleared its “last major governmental hurdle,” he said, referring to a special permit needed to construct a building in a park or on a waterfront.

With groundbreaking for the 120,000-square-foot, $220 million project scheduled for this spring, and an opening planned for 2013, Riley says he realized he had two choices: “I could either step down now, or stay another five years.” He adds: “I would never contemplate leaving if this project was somehow not in perfect shape.”

Herzog & de Meuron’s scheme features a three-story structure sandwiched between an elevated outdoor platform and a canopy, which extends beyond the museum walls to create a large terrace around the building’s perimeter. As part of a planned 29-acre Museum Park on Biscayne Bay, the design also brings the vegetation of the surrounding grounds into the terrace, where tropical plants will be integrated into columns, helping regulate the microclimate. Moreover, floor slabs will be cooled via a geothermal system. The project is designed to achieve LEED Silver.

In a statement, MAM chairman Aaron Podhurst thanked Riley “for placing the institution on a solid footing as it moves towards establishing its new home.” Podhurst also announced that the museum would form a search committee to find a new director.

Riley, who will continue to work with the museum as a consultant until June 30, 2010, says that his departure creates an opportunity for the museum to bring in someone better suited to improving the museum’s collection. “MAM has been criticized about the size and quality of its collection, sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly,” he says. “And it’s the thing that I have been least qualified to do. So, there’s an opportunity here. It could not simply be a great building, but much more, a great museum.”