In Progress: Cleveland Museum / Farshid Moussavi

In Progress: Cleveland Museum / Farshid Moussavi
MOCA / Farshid Moussavi. © Dan Michaels/Westlake Reed Leskosky

Nearly two years ago, we introduced Farshid Moussavi’s first major US building – a sleek geometrical design for Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art. With its strong formal moves, the museum intends to aid the city’s urban-revitalization efforts by shaping an iconic cultural destination alongside its neighboring concentration of museums, such as the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. MOCA Executive Director Jill Snyder says, “We believe MOCA is contributing a great building to Cleveland, one that will stimulate critical thinking and animate social exchange. MOCA is expanding its scope and activities on all fronts, supported by new architecture that allows for flexibility, unconventionality, and technological capacity in the presentation of contemporary art.” The 34,000 sqf building is nearing completion, and a public opening will be celebrated in early October with the inaugural exhibition, Inside Out and from the Ground Up, featuring an in-depth look at how international artists engage with architecture and spatial ideas.

More about the project, including facade photos, after the break. 

Moussavi, formerly with Foreign Office Architects and now principal of Farshid Moussavi Architecture, explained, “Our design for MOCA Cleveland aims to provide an ideal environment for artists and visitors and to foster creativity and variety in exhibitions and programs.”

MOCA / Farshid Moussavi. © Dan Michaels/Westlake Reed Leskosky

The museum takes its shape from a hexagonal base which ends as a square top, and the faceted volume is clad in a mirror-finish black Rimex stainless steel.  As construction progresses on the façade, Moussavi’s intentions of allowing the urban environment to be reflected in the building’s wrapper is coming to fruition.  And, because MOCA is a non-collecting institution, Moussavi’s design can capitalize on the notion of flexibility, as the building does not need to support permanent collection galleries.  Snyder added, “This building’s design is a perfect expression of the museum’s philosophy and programs. Flexibility is key to a program like ours that embraces aesthetic, conceptual and cultural diversity, and displays works in a great variety of media and genres.”

Organized by David Norr, Chief Curator at MOCA Cleveland, the inaugural exhibition will have particular resonance in MOCA’s new building, as the architecture creates striking effects through transparency, openness, and scale. “The artists in our inaugural exhibition prompt us to consider how we physically and psychologically relate to the built world – layered with all of its cues and miscues. A common thread in the exhibition is vision and the body:  being immersed in or excluded from spaces; the tenuous boundary between inside and outside, self and other; and the disorientating effects of shifting perspectives.”

MOCA / Farshid Moussavi. © Dan Michaels/Westlake Reed Leskosky

Within the exhibition, three artists (Katharina Grosse, Henrique Oliveira and Barry Underwood) have questioned the logic of Moussavi’s creation through deliberate additions, subtractions or alterations to the architecture, to strengthen the viewers’ connection and awareness to their spatial surroundings.  For instance, Underwood’s addition will include a series of photographs documenting the building’s construction process with temporary light installations; Grosse will create a three-story tall massively scaled painting in to cover the MOCA’s elevator shaft; and Oliveira will create a cave-like environment made from materials gathered from the streets of São Paulo, suggesting organic growth or parasitic invasion.

MOCA / Farshid Moussavi. © Dan Michaels/Westlake Reed Leskosky

We look forward to seeing the completed building later this summer, and hope that all in the Cleveland area will be able to enjoy the inaugural exhibition tied so harmoniously with the museum’s architecture.

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Cite: Karen Cilento. "In Progress: Cleveland Museum / Farshid Moussavi" 21 May 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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