Location: Oxford, Ohio
Architect : SOM
Design Team: Richard Lenke, Walter A. Netsch, Donald Ohlson, Craig W. Hartman
Project Year: 1979
Photographs: SOM | © Abby Sadin
From the architect. Known for their academic and institutional works that begin to integrate the academia with the outside world, SOM designed the Miami University Art Museum in Oxford, Ohio as an academic facility, as well as an art venue for the public to experience. Situated on Miami University’s campus, the art museum enhances the universities cultural influence on the surrounding area by making Miami University the artistic and cultural center of Oxford.
Completed in 1979, Walter Netsch and his team at SOM designed the museum as a responsive sculpture that appears to emerge from the elevated terrain and the surrounding wooded landscape.
As part of universities requests, the museum was to be able to accommodate all types of art, and not just in a flexible space that adapts to the frequent gallery changes, but to hold all types of art simultaneously without one work or space overshadowing the next.
Netsch and his team decided to design the museum as a series of volumes or sequences that would flow into one another seamlessly without any spatial interruption.
In addition to the request for an open plan and fluid spaces, the university insisted that the landscape be an integral part of the design that may not physically affect the building, but is contextually aligned with the museum.
The result is a single story building that is essentially an open volume that has no true divisions of space so that the gallery spaces, storage, and research areas are all integrated into one organizational system.
The art museum is designed as a series of skewed trapezoidal volumes that change in scale according to programmatic function in relationship to the entrance and the auditorium.
The volumetric sequence grows in scale along a central partial height wall toward the main gallery that looks out over the surrounding context.
Since there are no true, fixed internal divisions, visitors are guided through the space through the central partial height wall that connects all of the museums main programmatic elements.
One feature of the building that remains fixed yet changes the atmospheric qualities inside the museum are the northern clerestories in the three larger galleries that rise from a flat roof, providing a wash of natural light without exposing artwork to direct sunlight.
The sloped clerestory roofs are supported by exposed white-painted wooden trusses which support supplemental moveable indoor lighting.
Even though, the museum is primarily part of the universities art school and open only to the students, the media center and auditorium of the museum are open to the surrounding community. This duality of service for the academic and the community is negotiated through the approach the building where the reflecting pond begins the transition into the most transparent parts of the project, the media center, where the students and the residents of the community can come together.