Last week, Bustler reported on the winners of the international competition for the new Munch Area in Oslo’s waterfront neighborhood BjÃ¸rvika. The proposal “Yin Yang” by New York-based architecture firm REX won the second prize in this competition (together with the proposal â€œGirls on the Bridgeâ€ by Christ & Gantenbein, Switzerland and Lie Ã˜yen Arkitekter, Norway).
Here’s a closer look at REX’s concept for “Yin Yang”:
MUNCH MUSEUM AND STENERSEN MUSEUM COLLECTIONS
CLIENT HAV Eiendom, Oslo Kommune
PROGRAM Art museum housing the Munch and Stenersen Collections, self-produced exhibitions, and travelling exhibitions
AREA 16,585 mÂ² (178,520 sf)
PROJECT COST NA
STATUS Limited competition, second prize, 2009
KEY PERSONNEL Lee Altman, Haviland Argo, Gabrielle Brainard, Keith Burns, Alex Diez, Jeffrey Franklin, Javier Haddad, David Menicovich, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Jacob Reidel
CONSULTANTS JosÃ© Miguel Iribas, Lord, Magnusson Klemencic, Transsolar
Oslo recently celebrated the opening of its world-acclaimed Opera House, an important step in the cityâ€™s commitment to developing BjÃ¸rvika and to unifying Osloâ€™s eastern and western centres. With four more significant projects under development within the districtâ€”Oslo Central Station, the Barcode, the Deichman Axis and the Munch Areaâ€”Oslo must be wary of overwhelming BjÃ¸rvika with too many strong visual landmarks. Such a constellation would undermine the Operaâ€™s iconographic power, and dilute the identity of the city as a whole.
To best complement the Opera, the Munch Museum should forge a new kind of iconographyâ€”one based on innovative building performance, not signature formâ€”to command a significant place within Osloâ€™s mental landscape. Where the Opera is strong, REXâ€™s â€œYin Yangâ€ proposal for the new Munch Museum is strategic, establishing itself as a worthy counterpart by radically addressing two cardinal challenges facing contemporary museum design.
Challenge 1: The new Munch Museum demands its galleries to be extremely flexible. They must accommodate all types of artistic idioms, to grow or shrink in accord with the number and size of temporary exhibitions, to be intimate or majestic, sky-lit or blacked out, permeable or soundproof. Contemporary museum flexibility is typically conceived as generic white boxesâ€”a blank slateâ€”in which any exhibition format can be constructed. In practice however, as artistic media grow more diverse and museum operational budgets become more limited, a blank slate becomes constrictive: museums can not afford to endlessly transform their generic galleries. The result is not freedom, but imprisonment within a white box.
Strategy 1: By embracing a new form of gallery flexibility, REXâ€™s proposal for the new Munch Museum avoids this trap. Yin Yang offers complete flexibilityâ€”without increasing operational costsâ€”by providing built-in tools. The galleries are arranged into an array of eight, distinct typologies, each with its own proportions, materiality, lighting, circulation and form of flexibility. While a museum with a single gallery type requires great expense to transform itself, the arrayâ€™s range of galleries guarantees curatorial freedom regardless of budgetary constraints. It can accommodate a spectrum of curatorial visions and can be reconfigured, both with no future additional cost.
Challenge 2: The new Munch Museum requires a flexible circulation sequence capable of individually or simultaneously presenting the museumâ€™s own collections, self-produced exhibitions and travelling exhibitions. The classic museum procession is a lobby that begins and ends a linear loop of galleries. This compulsory circulation causes major curatorial and operational problems for the institutions it organizes: they must use all their galleries at once and cannot easily subdivide their space for simultaneous shows. Institutions with this sequence have to continuously â€œfeed the beast,â€ exhibiting blockbuster after blockbuster, and must support staffs capable of managing shows this size.
Strategy 2: The REX proposal for the new Munch Museum wraps all un-ticketed spaces into a public â€œringâ€ around the galleries. Rather than imposing a fixed procession on curators and patrons, this organization provides independent access to each gallery, or a procession through any plausible combination or permutation of galleries. The public ringâ€”including shops, lecture hall, auditorium, cafÃ©, restaurant, education spaces and sponsors loungesâ€”doubles as the main circulation for the galleries, fostering new, dynamic relationships between the two and increasing area efficiency.
By creating a flexible array of distinct gallery types and surrounding them with a ring of public circulation, Yin Yang asserts a unique, performance-driven presence in BjÃ¸rvika while still deferring to the new Operaâ€™s iconographic power.
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