The Museum Is Not Enough

 


Who says Instagram isn’t a marketing machine? On one of my many endless scrolls, the book The Museum Is Not Enough popped up on my feed from the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). The title was so intriguing. If the museum is not enough, then what would make it sufficient? This completely played into my ongoing quest into how we can modernize this aging institution in the digital era. Needless to say, I contacted the CCA and had the book delivered to my doorstep, asap.

In recent years, the museum as an institution has been going through an identity crisis. Questions surrounding its programming offer, as well as the audience it is servicing have been at the helm of discussion. Are they here to engage, educate and create experiences? Are they here to serve artists, academics and the greater community? The answer is yes to all. Yet, the only real institution that has been able to do this consistently is the shopping mall, which is also in need of reinvention in the age of the digital economy.

So where does this leave an architecture museum and its future when historically its content can only be represented through models, sketches, drawings, and photography, since showcasing its real subject matter is quite difficult? The Museum Is Not Enough beings to tackle this question by looking inward and outward.

The book is a collection of reflections on architecture, contemporary social concerns, institutions, and the public. Founded by Phyllis Lambert, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) is an international research institution and museum premised on the belief that architecture is a public concern. Building on years of thematic investigations the book puts forward the CCA’s own positions on the matter through nine volumes:

No. 1 Hello, this is me
No. 2 I look for grey areas
No. 3 I see content in display
No. 4 And I keep revisiting archives
No. 5 This is me, online
No. 6  Education worries me
No. 7 And I’m wary of the present
No. 8 So I need a plan
No. 9 Or I could reinvent myself 

The structure of the book consists of a mix of interviews, essays, and imagery from the CCA archive. But the most unique aspect of the book is the narrative voice of the CCA written in the first person singular. This personification of the institution could suggest a subtle role reversal from a place that houses items, to a person that presents and contemplates them. “What I am for is questioning what is going on around me – and uncaring alternatives,” is one of the many questions presented by this pensive centre.

In an interview with curator, writer, and educator, Maria Lind, an art institution is about mediation and access. For Lind, mediation is about putting art as the central subject. She explains that “mediation is an activity that facilitates contact between artworks and people, and those people are people working in the institution in question, the artist, and the visitors – groups or individuals, young or old, initiated or not yet initiated.”  When questioned about knowledge and the institution’s responsibility in this role, Lind approaches it in a more neutral expression that it’s more about access than education. “Access doesn’t prescribe that somebody should learn something, but it provides. I think that the institution should provide the possibility of access, and with living human beings.” This new agency for a museum as a facilitator is an interesting concept and is further supported by Bernd Scherer, director of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Scherer sees the institution more than facilitating the object and people but inviting people into the overall process. “If the role of cultural institutions is not only to criticize, but also to provide a forum on how to address these power asymmetries, we have to ask ourselves, How can we create spaces that are no longer still just the object of these processes, but where other people can develop agency in these processes?” 

Well, if you must know, twelve curators, editors, and writers bet on 36 exhibitions from the last five years that help identify how architecture can be relevant in this future context. Themes of rethinking of boundaries, viewer centered relationships, creation, oppositional, non-didactic, non-hierarchical, renegotiating relationships, unheard voices, inclusivity, and precision all help to map out and aid in the transformation of contemporary architecture. 

Yet, after all this contemplation, discussion, interviews, and investigations, the CCA says it best in its own words, “I’m not sure I’m ready to be something else yet, but I’m trying to think that way.” Fear is a common human trait that even can be felt by the top institutions in the world. Like the famous Michael Korda states: “If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will believe in you?”

St. Isaac’s Cathedral

If you ever visit St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the most dominant building piercing the city’s skyline is the gold dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, it is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint.

Continue reading “St. Isaac’s Cathedral”

Guinness Storehouse Tour

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One of the must-see things to do when you are in Dublin is visiting the Guinness Museum. It was one of the best museum experiences I have ever done. Unlike most traditional museums which present a collection of artifacts, the Storehouse takes you through the brewing process of how this famous beer is made. The layout, the graphic design, the sensory elements, the overall presentation etc. really make this museum exemplary in terms of cohesive and immersive storytelling.

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V&A Dundee by Kengo Kuma

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When I was thinking of traveling to Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow were at the top of my list. But when I heard of the opening of a new V&A museum in Dundee, designed by Kengo Kuma really solidified my decision to go there.

It’s quite a distance from Edinburgh, a couple of hours at least. On your way to Dundee you can see rolling hills and the occasional herd of sheep passing you by. The most majestic part of the journey is traveling across the river and seeing this jagged little site at the edge of the water.

Continue reading “V&A Dundee by Kengo Kuma”

Kelvingrove Art Gallery

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The Kelvingrove Art Gallery is one of the most recognizable buildings in Glasgow. Designed by John W. Simpson and E.J. Milner Allen in 1901, it was originally titled the Palace of Fine Arts. As a designer walking through the space, I’m the type of person who is looking at the context and not necessarily the content. I’m looking at how things are presented not necessarily the thing on display. As I entered the wing with all the busts, for me it’s not the sculptures that compel me closer, its the way they engage the viewer with the full spectrum of space. Busts hanging from the ceiling draws me more in than a bust of Queen Victoria. Continue reading “Kelvingrove Art Gallery”

Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

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You gotta love a museum with a sense of humour. In the front of the entrance stands an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington sculpted by Carlo Marochetti. The statue has a traffic cone on its head. The cone has come to represent the city’s light-hearted attitude to authority in most tourist books. Continue reading “Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)”

Riverside Museum by Zaha Hadid Architects

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Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland. I took a day and traveled to Glasgow where you can find some of the biggest hitters in architecture all within a kilometer of each other. The Clyde Auditorium (Armadillo) and SSE Hyrdo both designed by Foster and Partners, are right next to one of the best looking museums in all of Europe – The Museum of Transport / The Riverside Museum design by the one and only Zaha Hadid. Continue reading “Riverside Museum by Zaha Hadid Architects”

IDS has a new vision shifting its focus from consumers to professionals

“We are brokers of dialogue,” Director of Conference Programming, Ian Chodikoff mentions as he explains the shift in IDS’ (Interior Design Show 2019) current vision. The expanded programming of “bringing people together to experience the power of design” speaks to the new opportunities the show is trying to foster among the industry. Continue reading “IDS has a new vision shifting its focus from consumers to professionals”

Oculus at the World Trade Center by Santiago Calatrava

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On a recent trip to New York City, the one building I wanted to see was the Oculus at the World Trade Center designed by the legendary Santiago Calatrava. In his signature style, the white ribbed structure allows for light to come into the space where deep below the surface lie two levels of shopping and a subterranean rail station. Continue reading “Oculus at the World Trade Center by Santiago Calatrava”

Fun House by Snarkitecture is more like a Mad House

Sharing an Uber is always interesting when you tell them where you are going and they call the site a ‘parking lot.’ This is what I experienced on my last trip to Washington, DC.

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to visit the National Building Museum to see Snarkitecture’s Fun House which is the Museum’s imaginative Summer Block Party series of temporary structures inside its historic Great Hall. Continue reading “Fun House by Snarkitecture is more like a Mad House”