Inspirational Spaces (Project 1b A)… Space 1

Space 1.

Actual Assignment followed by Blog version.

Project:  High Museum of Art

Architect:  Richard Meier

City:  Atlanta, USA

Completed:  1983

Exterior View during the day, the façade is clad with white enamelled steel.

Site Plan, North is the top of the page, the shading around the building displays the sun pointing from a South-easterly direction.

Sun Path Diagram for Atlanta, USA.

Evening View, the glowing light from within indicates where the windows and glass façades of the building are.

The High Museum of Art was designed by Richard Meier who won the Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize the year after the museum was completed.  The judging panel wrote ‘we honour Richard Meier for his single-minded pursuit of new directions in contemporary architecture.  In his search for clarity and his experiments in balancing light, forms, and space, he has created works that are personal, vigorous, original’ (Hyatt Foundation 2011, The Pritzker Architecture Prize, visited 9 April 2011, <;).

Meier’s design of the High Art Museum of Art is a strong testament to these words.  From a variety of photographs and video taken inside the building, one is instantly taken with the intimate spaces created using light and form within an otherwise large area.  Since 1983 the High Museum of Art has experienced several extensions and refurbishments; Scogin and Elam in 1997 and Renzo Piano in 2005.

Meier designed the museum to clearly direct visitors through the spaces by the use of column direction, wall openings and windows.  Artworks are designed to be seen at differing distances and multiple viewpoints encouraging exploration of spaces and the various exhibitions.

‘At all points visitors are exposed to diverse scales of organization, ranging from the multistory atrium to the intimate display alcove; the arrangement of space suggests alternative groupings for the objects on display and invites alternative comparative perspectives and frames; co-presence itself is choreographed to vary between the formal and processional (on the ramp), to the casual gathering (on the exhibition galleries) and the momentary intersection of gazes (in the main peripheral galleries); architectural intentions are marked by the disposition of the otherwise regular grid of columns: the columns find themselves situated in a variety of spatial contexts as if the embody the spatial circumstances addressed to the visitor’ (Zamani, P and Peponis, J 2007, ‘Radical Discontinuity or Variations on a Theme?: The Recent History of the High Museum of Art’, Proceedings, 6th International Space Syntax Symposium, Istanbul 2007).

The huge windows that cover the south-east façade of the museum (visible in the ‘Evening View’) creates a strong connection with nature for visitors.  These windows follow the ramped path through the gallery and are a constant link with natural daylight.  Here Meier intentionally created a respite for the High Museum of Art visitor, the constant stimulation of art and the interior requires the natural and the outside.  But the visitor’s link to exterior is not limited to sunlight, the movement of trees, people coming and leaving, the time of day and the weather are all important elements of the window escape.

Interior view, Sunlight penetrates the glass wall façade into the gallery space.

The following are photos of the interior atrium, the natural sunlight appears in the space via the roof light creating a beautiful light and shadow play withtin the atrium.

The central atrium, a favourite attraction for most visitors, is enhanced by a roof light (indicated in yellow in the ‘Site Plan’).  The light that enters this atrium creates unique artworks on the tall, white walls of the atrium because of the shadows created by the radially grided panel construction of the ceiling, and the grid structure supporting the glass roof light above.  One can see that Meier thought intricately about the way these shadows would fall by his inclusion of the white panels along one side of the atrium that create the suggestion of oversized canvases each playing a different part in the same series – much like the artists’ works the museum is there to present.

Like differing line or stroke widths, the differing sizes of the ceiling panels and the glass roof light structure create a more complex shadow which constantly changes depending on the sun.  The circling movement of visitors around the edges of the atrium once again encourages a variety of perspectives of these shadows.  In one sense these shadows act like a giant clock informing visitors of the time, there constant movement contrasts the stillness and quiet inside the museum and the artworks on display.  So much time is spent in an art gallery, one is often exhausted and displaced when leaving partly because of the mental energy required when surrounded by so many stimulants, but also because of the time spent inside without an exterior, natural connection.  Daylight and its connection to the natural Circadian Rhythms of humans is such important part of daily experience, therefore the inclusion of natural daylight and the constant views of nature in the High Art Museum must affect visitors and discourage some of the exhaustion and sense of displacement usually felt in a gallery.

Here is a visual walkthrough of the High Museum of Art so you can see the affect of the natural light on the space.  This is particularly evident when the camera adjusts from being pointed at particularly bright areas of natural light penetration (hot spots).

Seeing a moving translation of the natural light in the space is a great way to relate to the ambience and experience of the light in a building I have never personally visited.

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