Text description provided by the architects. The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis is located in a neighborhood of empty lots, burned out churches and lone townhouses that mark a lost twentieth-century urban ideal. The original grasslands of the region have reemerged in the form of manicured lawns that course between the lone remnants of elegant town homes, creating a new form of urban frontier.
The new architecture for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis creates a “site” for art and the potential work of artists, work that can take any form or medium. A building of anticipation, the museum is intended to be “acted upon” with art on any plane or surface.
It is a catalyst for new experience, an instrument to be played by artists and curators. In creating this new domain for art, the architecture reinforces both the ghost of the ideal city streets and the present landscape.
The museum is formed by two opposing walls of concrete, which intertwine and cantilever over this new urban prairie. The lower walls bound the museum and establish the realm for art, observation, and education, creating large interconnecting galleries. These serpentine walls touch the sidewalk and fold inwards, inviting the public to enter and providing views completely through the building from the street intersection outside. The upper walls span above the galleries, intersecting and dividing the volumes below while providing rooms for administration and education. The ceilings float between these upper boundaries at varying heights, modulating the proportion and light of the galleries. The two realms of space and structure converge and diverge, spinning the perception of enclosure and transparency in multiple directions.
This building is a simultaneous act of enclosure and invitation, allowing the landscape to flow through the entire site, while tenuously capturing and containing rooms for art. The museum is not a privileged domain, but an open field that concentrates the forces of the city in preparation for later occupation by the artists.