A $16 million renovation project at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is hoping to entice new audiences into the venue.
The trigger for the project is reportedly a recent NEA study. This highlighted that over 70 percent of museum visitors are looking for a direct and engaged social experience. What they don’t want is ‘a monastic journey through a temple of culture’.
Also, many are thought to be put off by the MCA’s imposing and severe façade, designed by Josef Paul Kleihues in 1996.
MCA director, Madeleine Grynsztejn, said the renovation would transform the museum from a ‘treasure box’ to a ‘toolbox’. This would ensure a more interactive, welcoming environment.
Currently underway, the project will create 12,000 square feet of freely accessible cultural and social venues.
According to Architectural Record, the renovation plan comprises three key elements. Firstly, a new ground floor restaurant has been designed by Los Angeles firm, Johnston Marklee. This will be dominated by an immersive art installation by British painter, Chris Ofili. Secondly, Mexico City–based architects Pedro y Juana are creating a flexible art and social space called “the commons’. Lastly, the third floor will house new education and meeting spaces.
Johnston Marklee principal, Sharon Johnston, described the new commons area as a cross between a white-box gallery and a hangout space. Programming is set to include workshops, performances, and artist-in-residence studios.
Although some remain doubtful that the renovation will do enough to offset the starkness of the building, Johnston insists it will add ‘levity and lightness’.
Main image rendering courtesy Pedro y Juana. Museum façade courtesy MCA/Peter McCullough