Architect: RSP Architects
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Project Year: 2010
Project Area: 190,000SqFt
Client: Musical Instrument Museum
Design Team: RSP Architects with Rich Varda, FAIA
General Contractor: Ryan Construction
Engineer: Meyer, Borgman and Johnson
Photography: Bill Timmerman
The new $150 million, 190,000 sf Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), designed by RSP Architects opened in April 2010 on a 22-acre site in north Phoenix. Designed by RSP Architects with Richard Varda, FAIA, MIM was completed in 39 months. The modern massing and mix of simple forms recalls the mountainous desert landscape. The solid volumes of the galleries and theater form a wall against the harsh desert climate, penetrated by courtyards that invite patrons to enter the museum and partake in a wide spectrum of musical performances. The central circulation space, which cuts north-south through the solid masses of the museum, acts as the primary organizing element. It gracefully connects the theater, galleries and courtyards. The intentional simplicity contrasts with the vast complexity of the musical instruments contained within the galleries.
MIM’s structure of reinforced concrete with exterior materials of Indian teak sandstone and stucco creates a distinctive architecture that evokes the topography of the Southwest. Sustainable features include an exterior sunscreen wall application for the stone, fly ash in the concrete, 25,000 sf of photovoltaic solar panels on the second-story roof areas, a chemical-free chilled water system and a grey water irrigation system. The museum’s location in a desert climate necessitated extensive xeriscaping and sophisticated mechanical systems to maintain stringent temperature and humidity levels for the instruments.
The two-story museum structure includes 75,000 square feet of gallery space, with a 450-foot-long flowing river-like corridor called “El Rio” that creates the spine of the museum, links the central atrium to the interior galleries, and offers changing views of the space. Wall finishes in Venetian plaster create patterns that evoke geological striations of the Arizona cliffs and canyons and allude to the rhythms of musical composition. Diffused daylight illuminates the galleries and public spaces through a ribbon of windows and skylights in an abstract pattern much like piano keys. With a dynamic spiral staircase, featuring a unique floor mosaic map of the world created with multi- colored stones from around the world and topped with an oculus skylight, connects the two floors of galleries.
The world map concept was developed by RSP Architects, as part of the overall stair design. The original ideas focused on how the floor could add to the visitor experience. The circular stair form suggests a compass or world map. As the design developed, the idea of repeating the gallery world map came forward. This is the same map used throughout the galleries that depicts the various geographic regions used to display the instruments.
MIM’s has approximately 3,000 of their 12,000 instruments and objects collection on display in galleries that focus on five global regions. There is also a special Artist Gallery that features noteworthy instruments played by many of the world’s leading musicians.
The second floor is devoted to MIM’s extensive core collections, arranged in five Geo-Galleries that feature soft maple wood flooring and cherry wood doorway portals, hinting at the transition between geographical regions as guests pass through the galleries.
The 300-seat state-of-the-art music performance theater is integral to the MIM visitor experience. It was designed expressly for the acoustic performances to showcase exotic instruments from around the world. The theater includes audio, visual, recording and production capabilities as well as high definition projection capabilities to capture, broadcast, and/or reproduce content for distribution. In addition to acoustic performances, the theater is designed to support dance, choral and amplified and spoken word presentations.
MIM enriches the world community by collecting, preserving, and making accessible high-quality musical instruments, images, and music from every country in the world. The museum celebrates the world’s diverse musical cultures and fosters global understanding by offering visitors an incomparable interactive experience in a welcome and fun environment with dynamic programming and exceptional musical performances.