From the ‘Louvre’ to the ‘Louvered’

Monday 12 Nov 2012

Zaha Hadid’s Broad Art Museum opens

Echoing and extending the many circulatory and visual connections that define its surrounding topography, the Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), forms itself by extending and folding these connections through a series of pleats, producing a structure that changes as visitors pass through it, creating great curiosity yet never fully revealing its content. That is how ZHA describes the new Broad Museum which opened Saturday on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

For Hadid, the Broad is one in a series of completed museum projects and her second building in the United States, the first one being the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, Ohio, a building that bears the distinction of raising that museum’s profile whilst attracting nearly 20,000 additional visitors to its ranks its second year of operation. Indeed Hadid’s museums are proving to be of equal or greater interest than the artworks that they house. And for the Broad, which is located off the beaten path, having the ability to bring them is good thing.

East Lansing, whilst a lovely college town is just that. Unless you are connected with the university there is little reason to go there. And getting there is a bit of a hike as there are no direct flights in. Without a strong building, the Broad could wind up being a local attraction. But with Hadid’s expressive and iconic building, it now has a chance of becoming a regional arts destination. Few architects, Gehry and Hadid among them, have proven to have the ability to transform entire towns and villages into pilgrimages through their architecture. It is predicted that the newly minted facility will bring in between 125,000 and 150,000 visitors a year and pump $5.7m in to the local economy. Not bad for a 46,000 sq ft gallery on a college campus.

So what to make of this curious container for art? Grounded by Hurricane Sandy, I was not able to attend the press preview so a full review of the building will follow shortly. But for now we provide you a glimpse of the museum in the images that follow. Like many ZHA buildings, the Broad Art Museum is hard to pin down and I suspect Hadid likes it that way. Looking like an abstracted shark with its mouth wide open ready to devour, the BAM, with its trapezoidal galleries and metal louvered exteriors, stands in contradistinction to its Collegiate Gothic neighbors.

Like much of modern architecture, it is a building designed to be open to multiple readings, a tabula rasa, if you will, ready to receive the imprint of its surroundings, its visitors, and time. Buildings like the Broad, which are designed to be quixotic and elusive, are by definition buildings that generate great interest in themselves and spark the curiosity of those who go to see them. Let’s hope the Broad rises to the occasion.

The Broad Art Museum opened 10 November 2012 in East Lansing, Michigan. In addition to galleries, the building houses an education wing, a works on paper study center, shop and cafe.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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