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Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland Releases Design for New Building
Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, view of loading dock, facing Mayfield Road. Rendering by Foreign Office Architects.
CLEVELAND, OH.- The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) today released the design for its new facility, following its presentation and approval at a meeting of the City Planning Commission. The project is designed by the internationally acclaimed firm Foreign Office Architects (FOA), London. The Museum anticipates that it will break ground for the $26.3 million project in fall/winter 2010.

The nearly 34,000-square-foot, four-story structure is FOA’s first major building in the United States and its first museum. It will provide MOCA with street presence for the first time in its forty-plus-year history, and will enable it to present a diversity of innovative exhibitions and programs, while appealing to both current and new audiences. At the same time, it will give the city of Cleveland and its cultural community a signature building for contemporary art and ideas.

Located at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road, the new MOCA is a flagship project of Cleveland’s emerging Uptown district, a major urban revitalization project undertaken by Case Western Reserve University; developer MRN, Ltd.; and other institutions in the University Circle neighborhood. The Museum will serve as a catalyst for creativity and growth in the area—which is home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of cultural, educational, and medical institutions—with greatly expanded educational and public programs, as well as imaginative collaborations with neighboring organizations and cultural partners.

MOCA Director Jill Snyder says, “The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland is elated that the design for its new building has been approved by the City Planning Commission. This represents an endorsement of FOA’s inspired building-design and a recognition of the critical importance of MOCA to the cultural life of the city. FOA’s design for our building is the perfect expression of our program—one that will not only enable us to operate at the highest level, but that will also be beautiful, intriguing, and sensitive to our urban surroundings and community. The Museum’s ability to realize this project during a period of economic instability is a clear testament to the vision and dedication of MOCA’s Board leadership and community funders.”

Farshid Moussavi, principal of FOA, adds, “As FOA’s first museum and first U.S. commission, this is an especially meaningful and inspirational project for us. Museums today are not just homes for art, but serve multiple functions and host a variety of activities. Our design for MOCA Cleveland aims to provide visitors with a museum that is a dynamic public space in which to experience contemporary art in its infinite manifestations.”

In addition to Foreign Office Architects, the design team for the new Museum includes executive architects Westlake Reed Leskosky, headquartered in Cleveland and designers of more than fifty cultural buildings throughout the United States.

Building Design
The new MOCA, which will be forty-four percent larger than the Museum’s current, leased facility, will demonstrate that a museum expansion need not be large in scale to be ambitious in all respects. Devised for both environmental and fiscal sustainability, the design for the four-story building is at once technically inventive, visually stunning, and highly practical.

FOA has responded ingeniously to the project’s roughly triangular site by designing a building with a hexagonal base that, with imperceptible changes in the shape of each story, rises to a square roof. Viewed from the exterior, the building will appear as an inventive massing of six geometric facets, some flat, others sloping at various angles, all coming together to create a powerful abstract form.

Clad primarily in mirror-finish black Rimex stainless steel, the façade of the new MOCA will reflect its urban surroundings, changing in appearance with differences in light and weather. Window glazing will be tinted to assimilate with the reflective skin so that during the day the building will read as a unified volume, while at night interior lights will create a dynamic pattern on the dark surface.

Three of the building’s six facets, one of them clad in transparent glass, will flank a public plaza. This will provide a public gathering place and also serve as MOCA’s “front yard,” and will be the setting for seasonal programming. From here, visitors and passersby may look through the transparent facet, site of the Museum entrance, into the ground floor, a space intended for socializing and for civic and cultural events.

While the building’s dark exterior will offer almost no hint of the interior massing and structure, the experience inside will be notably transparent. Upon entering MOCA, visitors will find themselves in an atrium from which they may visually grasp the dynamic shape and structure of the building as it rises. This space will lead in turn to the Museum’s lobby, café, and shop, and to a double-height multipurpose room that will house public programs and other events. From here, visitors may take the Museum’s staircase—itself a monumental sculptural object or an elevator to the upper floors.

Because MOCA is a non-collecting institution—one of the few such contemporary art museums in the country—its new building does not need to accommodate collection galleries. In order to achieve maximum flexibility for the museum’s diverse exhibitions, the main gallery has been sited at the top of the building. There it will be structurally unencumbered, needing only to hold the lightweight roof, the underside of which will be fully visible from the gallery. Moveable walls will enable the 6,000-square-foot space to be divided into a variety of configurations. This floor will also contain a gallery designed specifically for new-media work and a lounge with a view of the city, where visitors can relax, reflect on what they have seen, and read about the exhibitions.

Ms. Snyder notes, “As Cleveland’s only museum of contemporary art, MOCA is committed to presenting exhibitions that break new ground, showing the work of emerging artists from across the globe as well as from our own region. Flexibility is key to a program that, like ours, embraces aesthetic, conceptual, and cultural diversity, and displays works in a great variety of mediums and genres. We are thrilled with the gallery space planned for the new Museum.”

While the main exhibition gallery is on the top floor, all four floors of the Museum contain space for either exhibitions or public programs, with the second and third floors combining public and “back of house” functions. The second floor, for example, will house both exhibition workshops and a 1,500-square-foot public gallery, to be used for more intimately scaled exhibitions; consonant with the openness that is characteristic of the building’s interior, visitors approaching this gallery by stair will also be able to glimpse the workshops. The third floor, home to MOCA’s administrative offices, will also include spaces for classes, lectures, and other educational programs.

In keeping with the ways in which contemporary visitors engage with art, the new building will have wi-fi throughout, enabling the use of wireless devices for on demand learning. MOCA anticipates that the building will receive LEED silver accreditation.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland | Jill Snyder | City Planning Commission |


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