The Tampa Museum of Art, a “neutral box” with striking architecture
Sometimes architects design buildings that, intentionally or not, look like something else – Lord Norman Foster’s cucumber-shaped office tower in London, for example. His nickname is “The Gherkin”.
Other times the buildings are meant to look like nothing in particular. The Tampa Museum of Art is one such building.
“It doesn’t symbolize or express anything,” architect Stanley Saitowitz said at the grand opening of the $26.6 million, 66,000 square foot building in February 2010. It’s a box neutral, “a scaffolding, to be completed by its content.”
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He described it as “a hyphen between the ground and the sky”.
The building’s appearance as a silver monolith perched on a hill above the Hillsborough River is interrupted only by a single notch at the entrance and two large cubic shapes removed from the west and south facades which create viewing platforms. There are few windows.
During the day, the appearance of the building changes over time, thanks to its cladding: two layers of perforated aluminum panels spaced a few centimeters apart and slightly off-centre. There are 900,000 circular holes, each 3 inches in diameter.
Clouds and sunlight play on the gray aluminum. At night, LEDs in the walls provide a light show.
“I didn’t want the facade to have any particular image or meaning,” said Saitowitz, of Natoma Architects in San Francisco. “The idea of the two layers of perforated sheet metal, staggered to create moiré patterns, was to offer a kind of living and changing facade.
“So it’s almost like watching water flowing. The clouds reflect and create another layer of patterns on top of the moire. So he was trying to create something that works like nature but is a machine.
Adding to the drama is a plaza that is sheltered by a 40-foot-wide cantilevered overhang. Views south over the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park take in what remains of Kiley Garden and the Tampa skyline.
The building, also known as the Cornelia Corbett Center, has 14,000 square feet of galleries. It was built as part of a waterfront revitalization program in the area around the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
“The museum is a hovering presence, which hovers above the park. It’s in the landscape, but also part of the landscape,” Saitowitz said.
“Florida Buildings I Love” is Harold Bubil’s tribute to the Sunshine State’s built environment. This story was originally published Ap, 2017.