I finally got to see the expansion model of the Cincinnati Art Museum that’s proposed by Neutelings Riedijk Architects, and I have a few questions. If anyone has seen it, or has read about it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
First, is a new tower the right strategy for the site? One of the charming features of Mt. Adams is its massing of small structures on the hillside. Why not a mass of smaller connected forms that build on each other? I understand the want of visual monumentality for such a project and such a client, but is the “ivory tower high above the freeway” the best statement for the CAM to make? I think it may run the risk of seeming elitist, in a town that’s not necessarily geared toward the arts in the first place.
Presumably, the proposed sculpture garden would tie the CAM’s campus into its park setting but, right now, it seems very disjointed to me; I can’t understand how the old and new pieces would translate into a coherent visitor experience. A permanent site for large sculptures is exciting, though I’m imagining something along the lines of the DeCordova Sculpture Park, and the scale and setting of this plaza will actually be nothing like that.
Intent in contemporary architecture isn’t always obvious, so a certain degree of obviousness [The Ascent ascending, for instance] can actually be a good thing. But a tulip? I know this model is a sketch, not a commitment, but why present the public with such a seemingly arbitrary form? Coming from a Dutch firm, this almost seems like a joke, and I can’t help but be reminded of another Dutch firm and the jokes embedded in its work. Or, Claes Oldenburg.
This is certainly an exciting time for the CAM as it envisions the possibilities for its future. It’s exciting, too, for those of us who care about such matters. I’d love to hear thoughts from others who have seen the model and thought about the context of this project.
The photo above is via Sara Pierce’s blog. For more details of the plan read her New Cincinnati Art Museum Plan: I Have to Ask, What ARE They Thinking? and So, What Did Aaron Say about the Art Museum Expansion/Renovation?