For its new virtual museum, Adobe wanted more than a website designer: It wanted a forward-thinking architect who could make the space feel "physical." It turned to Filippo Innocenti, co-founder of Spin+ and an associate architect at Zaha Hadid Architects.

Image courtesy Adobe Museum of Digital Media

The Adobe Museum of Digital Media, located at, will present work by leading multimedia artists.

At midnight this evening, software maker Adobe will open the new Adobe Museum of Digital Media, which will present work by leading digital artists.

Like many institutions, the California-based company hired a forward-thinking architect to design a facility that would immediately put the museum on the map. The difference, in this case, is that Adobe never had any intention of actually building a structure. From the outset, the brief was to create a virtual container for art, unencumbered by real-world constraints. The free museum, located at, will be open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition to recruiting the London-based digital production company Unit9 to build the website, Adobe selected Filippo Innocenti, co-founder of the UK-based architecture firm Spin+ and an associate architect at Zaha Hadid Architects, to shape the virtual building. “They were looking for a real architect to do real architecture,” says Innocenti.

Initially, Innocenti felt a great sense of freedom because the brief had few requirements. “It was really freeform, even in terms of functional programming,” he notes. Unburdened from concerns such as engineering constraints, budgets, and even natural forces, Innocenti began toying with extreme spaces devoid of gravity. But he soon realized that a highly abstract space by not be recognized by visitors as a building. “In the end,” he says, “that’s not what Adobe was asking for.”

Still, even though it’s virtual, the architecture is hardly conventional. The visitor first encounters a podium structure resembling a nest of swirled ribbons, which holds the main exhibition spaces and an auditorium for web meetings. Rising from the podium are three sinuous towers filled with archival material. The entire museum is reconfigurable, so galleries can be adapted to each artist’s vision, and the archives can grow. While the full scope of programming is still being determined, the archives are expected to contain material from past exhibitions, interviews, videos, and possibly essays on digital media.

For Adobe, the decision to hire an architect was simple. “We could have done just a website,” says Ann Lewnes, senior vice president of global marketing at Adobe, “but we felt that to really make the concept special we needed a physical, virtual space that really pushed the envelope.” The opening exhibition will feature work by video artist Tony Oursler; upcoming shows include work by video and photography artist Mariko Mori and the graphic designer and computer scientistJohn Maeda.

For Innocenti, the freedom provided by the project was an unusual learning experience. “Of course, you’re free from structure and from gravity,” he says. “But the whole point of architecture is to put something in order—to find an organizational criteria to give order to a functional program. If you don’t have any constraints, then it becomes really complicated.”