The World’s Most Beautiful New Museums
Forget the blocky, strictly functional institutions of the past. Today’s museums and cultural centers are often as visually appealing as the work they display—sometimes even more so. A select few experts have cautioned against the “distraction” of striking architecture, which can ostensibly compete with visual arts and other kinds of exhibits. But the trend is unstoppable. Around the world, famous architects are being tapped to design highly sculptural structures that immediately become landmarks. They often imbue their surroundings with a new identity, and can even transform an entire city, as was the case of Bilbao’s 1997 Guggenheim Museum. Take a look at the new generation of show-stopping buildings.
Cité du Vin, Bordeaux
Scheduled to open before summer, the much-anticipated Cité du Vin, a state-of-the-art center dedicated to viticulture (the science of winemaking), will transform the landscape of historic Bordeaux with its curvaceous, futuristic look. This imposing building overlooking the Garonne River appears to flow up into the sky, like wine swirling up the rim of a glass. Paris-based architecture firm XTU wrapped the structure in a golden skin made of perforated glass and custom-printed aluminum. Inside, visitors will discover art exhibits, multimedia installations and tasting rooms, as well as an eight-floor observatory with unparalleled views of the world’s most famous vineyards.
Museum of Tomorrow, Rio de Janeiro
Built on a pier in Rio de Janeiro’s old port, the new Museu do Amanhã juts up diagonally on both ends, as if embarking on an aerial mission. For his design, neo-futuristic Catalonian architect Santiago Calatrava found inspiration in the varied bromeliad plants seen locally. For example, a series of solar panels installed on the roof resemble the spiny rinds of pineapples. In line with the museum’s mission to raise awareness about climate change and other pressing environmental issues, the building attempts to set new standards of sustainability: it collects water from the Guanabara Bay for air-conditioning purposes and was constructed using only recyclable materials.
Faena Forum, Miami
Rem Koolhaas’s vanguardist architecture firm OMA designed the upcoming Faena Forum, an arts center divided into two volumes, a cylinder and a cube, both with irregularly shaped windows that form attractive visual patterns. The 43,000-square-foot building, which was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, will be the cultural centerpiece of real estate developer Alan Faena’s sprawling new district in Miami Beach. Expect to see innovative performances in music and dance, as well as multidisciplinary installations and exhibits.
Speed Art Museum, Louisville
Kentucky’s Speed Art Museum reopened in March after a major overhaul that includes renovations to its existing neoclassical structure and two newly constructed buildings designed by Los Angeles firm wHY Architecture: a 62,000-square-foot North Pavillion, which houses modern and contemporary art, and a South Pavilion containing a theatre and a sculpture garden. The museum’s modern new face is the North Pavilion, a stack of three cantilevered rectangular volumes; it features an ultra-sleek exterior of fritted glass and corrugated metal panels.
SFMOMA, San Francisco
San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art is about to unveil a 10-story addition that doubles its size (the original building, designed by Mario Botta, is from 1995). Conceived by international architecture firm Snøhetta, the new structure has a distinctive façade made of unevenly grooved polymer panels punctuated by bands of horizontal windows. Its form contrasts with Botta's postmodern, evenly shaped geometries. With three times more gallery space, the updated museum is expected to display an astounding compilation of nearly 2,000 objects, including nearly 300 major new artworks from the celebrated Doris and Donald Fisher Collection. There will also be an outdoor sculpture park and a horizontal garden with thousands of plants.
Audain Art Museum, British Columbia
Canadian architect John Patkau described the new Audain Art Museum, designed by his firm, Patkau Architects, as being “quietly inserted into a void within the forest.” Indeed, the low-slung structure appears to be levitating among the towering spruce trees of Whistler. With an angled metal exterior and narrow elongated windows, it could almost be mistaken for a spaceship when viewed from afar. The museum displays an impressive collection of First Nations art donated by local philanthropist Michael Audain and his wife, Yoshiko Karasawa.
Shanghai Natural History Museum, Shanghai
One of the largest museums of natural sciences in China, established in 1956, moved to a spectacular new home last year designed by Chicago-based architecture firm Perkins+Will. The building is shaped like a nautilus shell, one of the finest examples of a logarithmic spiral found in nature, and it seems to grow out of the gardens at Jing'an Sculpture Park. Natural elements are depicted throughout the exterior, including a “cell wall” on the north façade that represents the cellular structure of plants and animals and casts cell-shaped shadows inside the exhibition areas. Another facade suggests canyon walls eroded by rivers.
The Broad, Los Angeles
Located in downtown Los Angeles, The Broad was one of the most talked about recent openings in the art world, and not just because of its extensive and highly valuable collection of postwar and contemporary art (financed by Eli Broad). The building itself, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, features an innovative “veil-and-vault” concept that caught everyone’s eye. It has a porous white exterior with a honeycomb pattern, which is considered the “veil.” Inside this diaphanous case is an opaque mass that hovers midway in the structure; its rounded underside shapes the lobby area, and its flat top surface is the floor of the third-level galleries. This “vault” holds portions of the collection that are not on display.
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
Paris’ Bois de Boulogne, an idyllic 200-acre park created in the 1800’s, hides one of the most modern buildings in the city. The Foundation Louis Vuitton, which opened just over a year ago, is a center for international contemporary art commissioned by the fashion brand’s cultural foundation. It was designed by Frank Ghery, who based his drawings on traditional glass garden buildings. But the end result veers far away from tradition. The structure’s twirling, almost cloud-like form is provided by twelve curving sails made of thousand of glass panels. Many have called it a tour de force for one of the world’s most famous architects.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
When it opened a year ago, some critics described the new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art as “clunky” or “awkward.” But in the end, almost everyone was won over by the asymmetrical white structure designed by Italian Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. Much like its surroundings in the Meatpacking District—an area of warehouses, railway lines and loft buildings—the museum isn’t classically beautiful and yet it’s filled with unique features: a dramatically cantilevered entrance sheltering an outdoor plaza, stacked terraces overlooking Manhattan, and vast column-free galleries framed by walls of windows.
Centro Botín, Santander
Spain’s powerful Botín family, longtime bankers and philanthropists, hired Renzo Piano to build a new space for art and culture in their home city of Santander. The U-shaped Centro Botín, which opens later this year on the seafront, will reflect both the sky and the water with its glazed white exterior clad in rounded ceramic tiles. The two separate wings, joined by an elevated walkway, appear to float over the Santander Bay. With 30,000 square feet of exhibition space, an auditorium and open-air amphitheater, this ultra-modern complex is poised to invigorate the cultural scene in this elegant but often overlooked Cantabrian city.