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Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland Releases Design by Foreign Office Architects for Innovative New Building


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Project is cornerstone of city’s emerging Uptown district

The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) unveiled the design for its new facility. The $26.3 million project will be the first major building in the United States—and the first museum—for the internationally acclaimed firm Foreign Office Architects (FOA), London. MOCA anticipates breaking ground in fall/winter 2010.

The nearly 34, 000-square-foot, four-story structure will be forty-four percent larger than the Museum’s current facility, and will provide MOCA with street presence for the first time in its forty-plus-year history. Located at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road, it is a flagship project of Cleveland’s emerging Uptown district.

FOA’s design
—devised for both environmental and fiscal sustainability—is at once technically inventive, visually stunning, and highly practical. It responds ingeniously to its triangular site by creating a building with a hexagonal base that rises to a square roof. From the exterior, the structure will appear as an inventive massing of six geometric facets, some flat, others sloping at various angles, all coming together to create a powerful abstract form.

Clad primarily in mirror-finish black Rimex stainless steel, the facade will reflect its urban surroundings. Window glazing will be tinted to assimilate with the reflective skin, so the building will read as a unified volume during the day, while at night interior lights will create a dynamic pattern on the dark surface.

Three of the building’s six facets, one clad in transparent glass, will flank a public plaza. From here, visitors and passersby may look through the transparent section, site of the Museum entrance, into the ground floor. Once inside, they will find themselves in an atrium from which they can visually grasp the dynamic shape and structure of the interior. This space will lead to the Museum’s lobby, cafe, and shop, and to a double-height multi-purpose room. From here, visitors may take the staircase—itself a monumental sculptural object—or an elevator to the upper floors.

As a non-collecting institution MOCA did not need to accommodate collection galleries, and FOA was free to design the main exhibition space for maximum flexibility. This has been achieved by placing the main 6, 000-square-foot gallery on the top floor, where it will be structurally unencumbered. This level will also contain a gallery for new-media work and a lounge with a view of the city. The second and third floors combine exhibition and programming space with "back of house" and administrative functions.

In addition to FOA, the design team for the new Museum includes executive architects Westlake Reed Leskosky, headquartered in Cleveland and designers of cultural buildings throughout the United States.

The Uptown district, an eight-acre urban-revitalization project, has been undertaken by Case Western Reserve University, developer MRN, Ltd., and other institutions in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. The district will be anchored by the new MOCA and the expanded Cleveland Institute of Art (designed by Burt, Hill with MVRDV), and will also provide new commercial space and residential units to be designed by Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects Inc. Designer of the district’s public realm is James Corner, principal of the landscape architecture and urban design firm Field Operations.

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