MOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art | The Plan
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MOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art

Farshid Moussavi

The origins of architecture have been located by theorists in the archetypal cave and tent. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland has few obvious cave-like qualities; as budget limitations prohibited the construction of underground space, the entire building is above grade. The new structure is however tent-like with eye-catching segmental facades cladding an interior of which the passerby is offered only occasional, tantalizing glimpses. It is the exterior skin of this compact, unorthodox form that defines or communicates the host institution to the urban realm. The rational resolution of geometries and the smooth integration of building components is matched by an attention to finish, to the reflectivity of surfaces that animate the tautly wrapped volume. The neighborhood re-presents itself.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) does not have a permanent collection; thus the building need not include the extensive storage zones common to most art museums. Its purpose is to host temporary exhibitions or installations and to engage a wide public in cultural discourse. Whereas several recent art venues - the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, for instance - have utilized raw post-industrial space to provocative effect, MOCA Cleveland is a blatantly new object, a fearless invention and insertion into the urban grid. It’s a spatial sign, potentially a propelling element (to use Aldo Rossi’s terminology), that mixes several modernist tropes in the evolution of this urban quarter of museum, university, medical and residential buildings.

MOCA’s outer membrane screens a re-imagining of another kind of archetypal space: the “white cube” so brilliantly analyzed by Brian O’Doherty in the 1970s in “Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space”. Without a need for storage, MOCA’s divides into public functions (galleries, café, store) and functions normally dubbed “back of...

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