Best New-Building Blueprint

Forum for Contemporary Art

Most spaces for contemporary art were not designed for that purpose. Contemporary art resides in old industrial zones -- Pittsburgh's Mattress Factory is a good example -- where wide, vast empty spaces in which workers once toiled to produce a boom economy are now the empty lofts that provide shelter to art concepts. Certainly the Forum for Contemporary Art could have latched onto another abandoned shoe factory and set up house for the wide array of international artists it exhibits, but, being ambitious (a thorny word in this town), the Forum decided to build a new structure, designed specifically for the unimaginable -- the art that is to come in this new century. After a process that involved some international architecture stars' coming to town and giving public lectures, the Forum selected Brad Cloepfil out of Portland, Ore. (one of those places where ambition is not such a hard concept to grasp), to make a new building in which to house the new. With the Tadao Ando concrete monument next door (the home of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts) functioning as a kind of architectural elephant on the site, Cloepfil's design is airy where Ando's is solid, transparent where Ando's is opaque. Cloepfil has designed a space for art that is neither an enclave of culture (which is historically what museums have been) nor a decorative box in which artifacts are stored (which, with Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and Richard Meier's Getty Museum in LA, is what museums are becoming). With the Forum building meeting the streetscape, with windows dissolving the concept of inside and outside, with exhibition spaces that invite the viewer as into a field, Cloepfil's project will become a unique architectural presence on the St. Louis scene -- one that might inspire other bold marks to be made on the city, with imagination and ambition beyond the initials HOK.
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