Rising on the campus of the University of California at Davis is a new museum of art designed by associated architects SO IL, an innovative emerging practice based in Brooklyn, New York, and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, a nationally known firm based in San Francisco, Seattle and Pennsylvania. The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art
opens on Sunday, November 13, 2016.
By further empowering a dynamic educational experience at this research university, the Manetti Shrem Museum points the way to the university of the 21st century, said Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. The arts are an important part of this public research university because with the arts, we discover ourselves. I look forward to seeing the new ways of thinking that will emerge from having the museum within walking distance of our major centers of research.
The Manetti Shrem Museum is a contemporary art museum whose roots go back to the 1960s, when a group of originals, including Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Arneson and William T. Wiley, were among the first to be hired at the Department of Art at UC Davis. Now recognized as catalysts of fresh and often irreverent ways of seeing the world, but then critiqued as representing `defiant provincialism, this first generation of UC Davis artists pioneered an interdisciplinary approach to art making that over the years has produced scores of influential figures, beginning with Bruce Nauman and Deborah Butterfield.
Sixty years ago, the department of art at UC Davis emerged on the scene as an incubator for new talent. Founding chair Richard L. Nelson hired untested artists in whom he saw potential. He excelled in bringing together diverse talents to foster debate and explore divergent ideas, says Rachel Teagle, founding director, Manetti Shrem Museum. We are following his example. Once again, UC Davis is supporting new talent, in this case SO IL, backed by Bohlin Cywinski Jacksons breadth of experience.
The new museum at UC Davis is named in honor of Jan Shrem, the founder of Clos Pegase winery in the Napa Valley, and his wife, arts patron Maria Manetti Shrem.
An Architecture Designed to Evolve
Set amid sweeping views of the flat plains and farmland of Californias Central Valley, within close sight of the horizontal blur of I-80, the Manetti Shrem Museum is quintessentially of its place and time: an integration of the indoors and outdoors that is horizontal, light-filled, porous, and flexible. The design proposes a museum for the future:
neither isolated nor exclusive, but open and permeable; not a static shrine, but a constantly evolving public event, in the words of Florian Idenburg, founding partner of SO IL.
A 50,000 square-foot Grand Canopy of perforated aluminum triangular beams, supported by 40 steel columns, is the signature design gesture and an engineering challenge. Taking cues from agricultural vernacular buildings of the Central Valley, as well as the lush trees of the arboretum on campus, the permeable roof serves as a modulator and projector of light and shade and sets the stage for gatherings on the UC Davis campus. The canopy tops most of the 75,000 square-foot museum site, which comprises a hardscape entry plaza; separate pavilions for galleries, art making, and operations; a courtyard; and a glass-enclosed lobby opening out onto each of these spaces and to views beyond. The plan invites moments of encounter and wonder and provides opportunities for informal learning. Two outdoor projection walls, free Wi-Fi access and study areas for students will help fulfill the museums commitment to 24/7 use.
The qualities of openness and porosity are expressed in ways large and small, from the materiality of the perforated aluminum canopy to the strategic orientation and insertion of smooth, clear, curved glass walls. The open lobby contracts or extends with the push of a button controlling a glass garage door, while a metal-mesh, 17 ft. tall ceiling in the primary gallery allows visitors to sense the pitch of the canopy at 30 feet, giving a hint of the space between gallery ceiling and roof filled with duct work, wiring and other back-of-house requirements.
The sight of quilted farmlands and rows and rows of crops surrounding the museum inspired the geometry of the Grand Canopy and the exterior cladding of pre-cast corrugated concrete. A textured use of materials -- aluminum, concrete, clear glass, wood and white walls -- responds subtly to the soft light of the Central Valley. The orientation and spacing of the canopys aluminum infill beams, more than 900 in all, create a rich tapestry of light and shadow.
Sustainability Factors Large
The design of the Manetti Shrem Museum reflects the architects understanding that sustainability begins with fundamental choices, finding a new way to live with our environment. The flexibility of the interior/exterior spaces will add years to the buildings utility. Key elements, like the beams of the Grand Canopy, have been designed to take into account the variations of light at different times of day and during changing seasons. The museum will be energy efficient in operations as well, with an all-LED lighting system for its galleries and other features that reflect UC Davis commitment to sustainability.
Bringing Davis Back to Davis
The Manetti Shrem Museum is now in the midst of an ambitious acquisitions initiative designed to return to UC Davis its artistic legacy, which is only now beginning to receive a consistent, close reading by art historians. As a uniquely situated archive and repository of works by UC Davis artists from the 60s to the 90s, the museum is positioned to make an original contribution to the field.
Many gifts reflect deep personal attachments to the campus. Among the key acquisitions to date are Robert Arnesons towering bronze sculpture, I Have My Eyes on Me Endlessly (1992) and Roy De Forests large-scale painting, Painter of the Rain Forest (1992), a gift shared between the Manetti Shrem Museum and the Oakland Museum of California.
The inaugural exhibition, opening November 13, 2016, will unveil many gifts to the collection and feature major public and private loans in order to examine the role of UC Davis as the progenitor of some of the most important art to emerge from the West Coast in the late 20th century. Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley, Arneson, De Forest, Ruth Horsting, Manuel Neri and Roland Petersen are among those who will be represented.
Education Out Front
The design of the Manetti Shrem Museum signals that education is at the core of the institutions vision: as one enters the museum, among the first spaces to be encountered are large, open rooms for classrooms and indoor and outdoor workshops. The goal is for UC Davis students across the curriculum, not just those studying art or art history, to utilize the building. Student groups will be able to sign up through the universitys central booking to use a classroom or lounge and a collections room with vitrines and flat files will accommodate classes and seminars.
More than a third of the undergraduate body of UC Davis are students who are the first in their family to attend college. As well as educating one of the most racially and ethnically diverse student bodies in the country, UC Davis is also one of the most comprehensive research universities in the world, leading globally in agricultural and environmental sciences and veterinary medicine.