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?”

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.

Continue reading “Guinness Storehouse Tour”

V&A to salvage wreckage for Venice Architecture Biennale

A fragment of the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate salvaged from the demolition site by London’s V&A museum is to be transported to Italy and displayed at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.

The V&A acquired a three-storey section of the estate last year in addition to the fragment it will take to Venice when demolition work on the brutalist social housing estate began. Continue reading “V&A to salvage wreckage for Venice Architecture Biennale”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture

If there is one new museum to see, it’s this one. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is by far the most impressive piece of architecture and culture in North America because it is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. Continue reading “The National Museum of African American History and Culture”

Guggenheim: Art, Design and Architecture

Several months ago, I finally got to experience the Guggenheim in New York City. It was definitely on my bucket lists of architectural structures. After studying its architecture and interior design in school and seeing this epic building in person, all the small details and stories about came rushing back to me. What really surprised me was that I got vertigo. I was having such a hard time finding my level because of the constant slant. I also went up the elevator straight to the top and worked my way down (the way it was designed to show artwork) and then realized half-way that I was supposed to work my way up from the bottom. Continue reading “Guggenheim: Art, Design and Architecture”

On Partial View by Laura Owen

On my recent trip to New York, I visited the newly designed Whitney Museum. Not really knowing how the collections were organized, I went to the top and decided to work my way down. There was a family in the elevator with me and they also had the same plan. I told them, I was going to do the same. Then, surprisingly, they asked me if I had seen another exhibit in New York that was getting rave reviews. I didn’t want to blow my cover that I was a visiting Canadian, and said, not yet. Continue reading “On Partial View by Laura Owen”

Danish National Maritime Museum by BIG Architects

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For 100 years, the town of Helsingør was one of the greatest shipyards of the Danish ship building nation. It covered the whole area between the town to the historic Kronborg Castle. After the industrial era ended, the town redefined itself with an ambitious project: Cultural harbor Kronborg.

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Within this revitalization, sits the Danish National Maritime Museum designed by BIG Architects. The building carves itself into the 60 year old dock walls to create a place that is unique in history and spatial context.

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Like a subterranean museum in a dry dock, the galleries are placed below ground and are arranged in a continuous loop around the walls – making the dock the centerpiece of the exhibition. An open, outdoor area where visitors experience the scale of ship building.

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A series of three double-level bridges span the dry dock, serving both as an urban connection, as well as providing visitors with short-cuts to different sections of the museum. The harbor bridge closes off the dock while serving as harbor promenade; the museum’s auditorium serves as a bridge connecting the adjacent Culture Yard with the Kronborg Castle; and the sloping zig-zag bridge navigates visitors to the main entrance.

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All floors connect exhibition spaces with the auditorium, classroom, offices, café and the dock floor within the museum which slopes gently creating exciting and sculptural spaces.

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This bridge unites the old and new as the visitors descend into the museum space overlooking the majestic surroundings above and below ground. The long and noble history of the Danish Maritime unfolds in a continuous motion within and around the dock, 7 meters (23 ft.) below the ground.

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Photos by Rasmus Hjortshoj and Luca Santiago Mora

The Andy Warhol Temporary Museum

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The Temporary Andy Warhol Museum designed by LIKEarchitects is a cultural space within a commercial space. It was designed to host the exhibition “Andy Warhol—Icons | Psaier Artworks and the Factory,” which was open between April 11 and July 11 at the Colombo Shopping Mall in Lisbon and included a total of 32 original works by the American artist.

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The museological space avoids the idea of having neutral white exhibition spaces and relates to the exhibited artworks through the creation of a strong visual context that uses the artist’s imaginary.

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Metal paint cans serve to recreate an environment that is both pop and industrial. The expository structure, set in the central plaza of the mall, features an abstract exterior that is extremely appealing and assumes an iconographic character with clear links to Pop Art.

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The interior was designed as an enclosed introspective space, entirely defined by continuous walls, benefiting from a transparent cover in plastic screen. This cover has the dual function of allowing light to enter from the exterior and assuring the visual relationship between the two confronting spaces (museum/shopping mall).

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A fluid succession of four exhibition rooms, thematically organized, results in a new pathway that challenges the organic symmetry and rationality of the shopping mall’s main square.

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Like Warhol’s artwork, the museum reflects consumer society, but in a literal way through the raw aluminum of cylindrical cans.

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Having received more than 100,000 visitors, the Temporary Andy Warhol Museum sought to contribute to the dissemination and promotion of art, free and accessible to all visitors.

Iconic Architecture by Andre Chiote

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Architect and illustrator André Chiote has created a series of graphics that aims to outline the distinctive qualities of buildings while paying homage to the iconic architectural museums around the world.

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