Evolution of the Bilbao Effect

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evolution of the bilbao effect win mixter | 2011-2012 Critics Raveevarn Choksombatchai (CED) Roddy Creedon (CED) Lawrence Rinder (BAM/PFA)










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A generation has passed since the conceptualization and construction of the now ubiquitous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Designed by Frank Gehry in the early 1990’s, the museum is widely considered to be the best and most important architectural example of the last two decades. (Tyrnauer, 1) At this juncture, it is time for reflection and reconsideration of the Guggenheim’s role as an iconic monument, as a mechanism for gentrification, and as a new beacon of legitimacy for monumentality in museum architecture. Analytically, one key question must be addressed to gauge its impact: has the Guggenheim really served its intended purpose, not only as a taste maker or symbol of Spanish culture, but as a tool for urban renewal and restoring economic vitality? During the same period, my own interests have also fundamentally changed. My earliest memories of museum patronage were largely influenced by my mother, an artist herself. I recall standing for what seemed like hours outside of the Chicago Art Institute, an impetuous eight year-old waiting for the 1995 career retrospective exhibition of the work of Claude Monet. Looking up at his iconic series of haystacks, I couldn’t have been more bored. The museum was crowded, the summer heat was oppressive even in its air conditioned galleries, and above all, the museum represented ideas that I didn’t understand. In the past sixteen years, my own mind has undergone a series of fundamental changes, not only with regard to my attitude about art and architecture, but also my understanding of the museum as a culture proliferator and regional icon. Now, after two years of architectural education, I have also come to understand some of the underpinnings of new, usually quite expensive museum projects from around the world. Museums as an architectural typology are an interesting combination of both public and private elements. Furthermore, they are increasingly vital part of numerous plans for economic instigation, for the revitalization of bygone urban (often industrial) centers that would otherwise continue to be rendered useless as the world passes them by. I fundamentally agree with many critics’ suppositions that an authentic museum is contingent on a confluence of ideal factors. In this light, I hypothesize that the “Bilbao Effect” cannot be bolstered by a singular project; rather, it must be part of a larger set of tools for change. What I aim 2

to prove in my study of the evolved, contemporary museum typology is that like the museums themselves, success on an urban scale is a result of an enormous mix of social, political and economic factors larger than a single signature building. I intend to examine the circumstances surrounding new museum architecture, and how its necessity is no longer defined by its collection but by its regional and international perception. The last twenty years have seen the meteoric rise in the number of new museum projects. Museum projects have also become the new archetype of an international architect’s portfolio. In this new age of international exchange and image-conscious architecture, museum projects aspire to be more than exhibition space, to be urban catalysts and regenerators. In this thesis, I will undertake an analysis of museum architecture over the last twenty years, tracing its paradigm shift from an uncomplicated exhibition typology to its contemporary role as a stimulus for the reorganization of a city’s urban fabric. As a disclaimer: I do recognize that this strategy has existed for longer than the boon of museum construction over the past two decades; however, in the interest of presenting a cohesive and attainable body of research, I feel that a thorough inquiry of examples over the last two decades will provide a rich enough perspective on the overall trajectory of the typology. Furthermore, by limiting my focus to the last twenty years, I anticipate that the search for journal articles, web reviews and all other types of media will be more readily available to provide a better understanding of the successes and failures of the museum from the perspective of a patron to an evaluation of its performance as a mechanism for urban transformation. I will investigate the impact of museum architecture at two separate levels, considering both local urban changes and global image transformations with equal weight as direct results of monumentality. The underlying aim is to ascertain how far the impact of this “Bilbao Effect” has reached, how important the role of the museum is, and where it succeeds and why. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has been open for fourteen years. With an increasing number of museums set to open without a permanent collection and with lofty expectations for their immediate impact (Centre Pompidou-Metz, Milwaukee Art Museum etc.), the next two to five years will be a test of the

Bilbao Effect’s legitimacy. The actual design component of this thesis proposal will be premised on my findings regarding the effect of monumental museum architecture and its specific capacity as a catalyst of urban change. I have three primary goals to root the design proposal in the realm of a viable proposition that will rely on my research and analysis: 1. To identify a site in the bay area that would be suitable for my exploration of these themes in a local context (in other words, a site that I could design a large scale intervention that would likely lack a permanent collection). The idea is also to pursue a new type of museum paradigm that could take these ideas beyond what the currently are. I have selected the Oakland Museum of California as a collection to build on, suitable not only because of its own legacy as a new architectural paradigm at the time of its construction, but its variegated program and exhibition potential. 2. To identify the critical factors that dictate successes and failures in both new and restorative examples (eg. Tate Modern), and to use these as a way to narrow my focus and design strategies within an urban context. I want my design to speak realistically to its surroundings and to provide a firm basis for transformation. 3. To identify the benefits and drawbacks of different storage technologies and solutions so as to ascertain a more comprehensive view of a vitally comprehensive museum typology- one that operates effectively on all levels from artifact conservation and management all the way to its urban presence. This will require a series of case-study analyses that evaluate the critical aspects of each and the general differences that define their operation, their collection and their role in the local community. At the end of the day, while my focus will apply dual lenses of international reception and local implications, my primary motivation is to understand the lasting effects of monumentality on a community scale. How does the architecture speak to the needs of the community? How does it ignore them? Is the impact primarily cultural, economic, iconic? My own proposition should be a viable, functional, structural architecture, but perhaps one that takes into account more considerations of public use and support rather than financial, zoning or likewise constraints. 3


singular statement


reinvention attraction

*good space for artifact

*paradigm shift cultural capital


public interest



BILBAO economic resurgence institution

cultural capitol

local art space

satellite urban renewal collection

*storage of collection URBAN EFFECTS


MONUMENTALITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY *factors omitted / ill-considered


*good space for art

people to museum

art second to form

people to art

collection to storage





This week’s readings trace the evolution of ‘taste’ across borders (both regionally in Europe and

imperially worldwide) and meanings from the mid nineteenth century to post World War Two. The idea of the commodification of an object has a direct correlation to the valuation of said object; as Marx put it, “value transforms every product of labor into a social hieroglyphic.”(Marx, 6) This is clearly evident in the evolution of the art object and the art museum itself; the relationship between the two has symbiotically elevated the monetary and cultural significance of the other. As we read a few weeks ago, the simple act of putting a piece of art in a museum tells the public not only that it is valid in a cultural context, but that it also has a certain monetary value assigned to it.

This interaction between the consumer and the cyclical nature of the market economy was initially

exasperated by governmental efforts to intervene in the cycle of production. England was at the heart of the industrial revolution, but since the turn of the 19th century had fallen well behind France with regard to the quality of the commodity produced. The Museum of Ornamental art was a centerpiece of Parliament’s first attempts to wrangle the widespread “poor taste” that plagued England, a definition seemingly founded on notions of improper proportion in representations of nature on household furniture and cutlery. The museum was so jarring to the public that it lead to a widespread identity crisis and a fire storm of complaint from major industrial producers across England.

The government’s decision to interfere in the ‘taste’ of the common can be interpreted as a precursor

to the type of cultural consumption that is ubiquitous in modern society. Instead of the government as the decision-making body, in today’s world it is a mix of the curation and commodification of artwork that defines culture. To that end, museum culture has come a long way since the opening of the Louvre to the public in the late 18th century. In many ways the original Victoria & Albert museum was an equally revolutionary institution; though not an art museum, the V&A evolved from simple gallery to purveyor of culture almost immediately because of its ‘chamber of horrors.’ The concept that a higher body, somehow removed from the public, could assign a definitive evaluation of good or bad taste was a brand new concept in the mid 1800’s; in my mind, it is now commonplace. Though in contemporary society it has become accepted as the norm, in the 1850’s it was startling, upsetting, and often embarrassing to the masses.

The idea of showcasing the disparity between the taboo and the acceptable was carried even further

with the world exhibitions following the Crystal Palace showing of 1851. Each had a decidedly more imperial flair than the last. Much like the V&A, the ‘exhibition’ as a showcase of commodity and industry had also assumed 6

a newly valuable role a tastemaker and a means for the proliferation of staunch pro-Imperial ideology across Europe. The idea that “empire, industry, art and design” could be seen “as united accouterments of a powerful, centralized imperial state”(Greenhalgh, 56) carried strong visual referents throughout the exhibitions. Even the 1925 Paris Exposition, which consisted primarily of a collection of art and artifact, had strong overtones of Colonialism, as three types of colonial art were on display from both British and French imperial colonies. This marked another benchmark in the unstoppable march towards globalization and the commodification of human labor. These exhibitions also took the idea of the ‘chamber of horrors’ to the next level; from not-so-humble beginnings originated with the lavish Crystal Palace, the regional-global expo’s undercurrents had quickly transitioned from a “complacent pride in empire to a propagandistic defense of it.”(Greenhalgh, 58) It is interesting to think of this in light of a current cultural context; while the idea of an imperial nation has since collapsed and evolved into the variegated democratic and socialistic practices that we see today, nations are still keen to represent themselves in a very particular (often historically ignorant) manner. Thinking of the recent Shanghai World Expo, countries from around the world still took the opportunity to make a statement about the culture of taste that exists in contemporary society; instead of showing off colonial territory to one another, now countries are keen to boast about technological advances (UK Pavilion) and environmental consciousness (Danish pavilion).

My burning questions stem from a desire to know even more about the cycle and culture of

consumption purveyed by museum and exhibition spaces today; is there some way of quantitatively evaluating the extend of the impact that museum collections and special exhibitions have on society at large? What themes and ideas translate well between different nations? How are specific venues (museums vs. exhibitions, for example) conducive or prohibitive to this proliferation of ideas? How has the commodification of art changed the public attitude towards it? What about emerging, contemporary forms of art? What about street art? Can it be commodified, and what is the significance that said type of commodification would carry with it?

Yasuko, Suga. “Designing the Morality of Consumption: “Chamber of Horrors” at the Museum of Ornamental Art, 1852-53.” Design Issues, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Autumn, 2004), p. 49.


MoMA, SFMoMA and the Abandonment of the “Torpedo Concept” The Museums of Modern Art

This photo montage (facing page) is a visualization of the quote from Richard Koshalek, former director of MoCA in Los Angeles. In many senses, the quote carries strong implications about the nature of museum heritage and the proper course of existence that a museum should ideally experience. The understanding that a museum is governed not only by cultural factors, but political and economic factors as well, is crucial to understand the lifespan of a given institution. Increasingly, museum additions and expansions are attempting to carry museums beyond their originally intended purpose; two undeniable instances are the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In the case of MoMA, it was an institution that began with a small building (somewhere in the realm of 56,000 square feet) designed by Philip L. Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone. As historian Victoria Newhouse points out, the subsequent four expansions (1951- Grace Rainey Rogers Memorial, Annex; 1964- East and Garden Wings; 1984- Museum Tower Wing; 2005- A Museum for the 21st Century) are continuously plotting a trajectory every further removed from the mission initially stated by the museum’s first director, Alfred Barr Jr. His notion of the cyclical nature of artwork recalled the imagery of a “torpedo moving through time, its nose the ever advancing present, its tail the ever receding past.”(Newhouse, 148) Barr Jr. and Koshalek make similar points about the nature of the lifespan of the museum; to them, it should always attempt to be of the moment, representative of the confluence of factors that it relied on to become an institution and ever-aware of its own limitations and capacities as a cultural institution. The idea that a museum needs to expand to accommodate its collection, its new acquisitions and the expectations established by its cultural impact and omnipresence belies this aim. I am personally inclined to believe that the museum expansion is a direct ploy by the institution to maintain relevance and to further its own agenda within a societal framework. The sheer magnitude (both monetarily and exhibition capacity-wise) of these expansions is speaks to the shift in the museum’s role during the past seventy years; from an inauspicious beginning on the late 1930’s to a societal standard in today’s 8

world, MoMA’s stock continues to rise in the art world and in the cultural constructs that exist in our society. MoMA represents more than artwork; it represents the idea that the tastes and aesthetics celebrated by few become those embraced by the masses. MoMA’s position as a tastemaker and taste definer is a lucrative one; not only does it impact the local art scene of New York, but it also reigns as a arts and cultural leader throughout the United States. Its international reputation is also undisputed; its collection includes works by some of the most identifiable artists from recent history and showcases the most commercially appealing traveling exhibitions from around the world. The representative nature of SFMoMA is on an entirely different scale than that of MoMA. For many reasons it is less influential; its collection is not as robust, its financial backers are not as deep-pocketed, and its architecture is less modern and more religious in execution. I debate Koshalek’s words quite significantly in the case of SFMoMA and have represented these ideas with the photomontage at right. Its current position is defined much in the same way as other institutions, reliant on a confluence of social, political and economic factors (represented by three San Francisco landmarks). I don’t intend to compare New York and San Francisco, on many levels that type of comparison is both impossible and impractical. SFMoMA has recently announced its plans for expansion and has even gone so far as to release early renderings of the project (designed by Norwegian and US based firm Snohetta). I see the expansion as a gesture towards its various interests on a citywide scale; it aims to further its influence on a cultural and economic scale; the new wing would eclipse the gallery space and potential originally wrought by Botta’s design and would significantly alter the flow of gallery circulation within. The current museum is already highly popular; the expansion will undoubtedly only add to the cultural clout of the institution for better or worse. In San Francisco, the deYoung is touted for its architecture and not for its art. What is unclear is whether the expansion of SFMoMA will add to its counterpoint reputation as a true cultural institution or if its primary intention is a true monumentality.



The Milwaukee Art Museum, 2001 Santiago Calatrava | $108,000,000 Addition to 1958 Eero Saarinen building

The 2001 completion of the Quadracci Pavilion of the Milwaukee Art Museum was heralded as the “design of the year” by Time magazine, an iconic wingspread on the shores of Lake Michigan by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The new museum extension, which was added to a 1950’s building designed by Eero Saarinen, has become an icon for the city, an industrial Midwestern town that lacks the vibrant arts heritage that is possessed by its neighbor to the south, Chicago.

The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) has a personal resonance as a symbolic architecture, as I grew up in Milwaukee and can vividly recall the critical reception surrounding its completion in the earliest part of the new millennium. In many ways the MAM takes the iconic vision of Bilbao even a step further, as the defining signature move of the building is the massive brise-soleil that is opened and closed daily; it serves little function beyond a spectacular kinetic gesture that implies movement and energy within the building itself. The existing cultural dynamic of Milwaukee is at a crossroads- while to many it is still seen as merely a blue collar Midwestern town, a poor man’s Chicago, the city sees itself as a magnate for music and artistic expression, especially along the lake front, which holds large annual music festivals (Summerfest), Italian, Polish, Irish and a slew of other culture-specific celebrations throughout the summer and winter months. The museum has added another iconic point of departure for this cultural experience. The building itself has become a recognizable and repeated symbol for the city at large, with visitors welcomed with a shot of the wingspread in all of its glory. Wisconsin was the birthplace of America’s most heralded native architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and this recent expression of architectural iconography seems to want to recapture some of his legacy and former glory. Recently revisiting the museum, I am still struck by the museum’s positive reception in the public eye. The city of Milwaukee has now premised its entire image around this one icon on the lake

front, welcoming you to the city with recognizable renderings of the museum with its ‘wings’ (giant moving brise-soleil) both open and closed. Milwaukee’s reputation as a working-class, beer-producing (and consuming) city have been upstaged by a desire to be seen as more contemporary. The lake front itself has undergone a dramatic redevelopment in the years book-ending the Calatrava project, and a view of the museum is now considered a selling point for some of the high-rise lake front apartment and condominium buildings that have once again become chic. The primary driving force for the museum remains its publicly accessible open space within, namely the atrium underneath the kinetic Burke brisesoleil. This signature space is not only a hallmark for the impressive structural forms of an egotistical Calatrava, but is a space that allows the public, all of it, access to art and culture free of charge. This kind of space is necessary for a successful project, even if it is dumbed down on occasion by tapings of “American Idol.”

‘Welcome to Milwaukee’ sign, Mitchell International Airport. photo by author.

a taping of American Idol in the main atrium of the museum.



WHEN THE BILBAO EFFECT FAILS 1. INTRODUCTION Museums are inherently spaces of cultural consumption. In the last twenty years, the number of new museum projects has absolutely exploded, thanks in large part to the dynamic precedent set by Frank Gehry’s design for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The commoditization of art and artifact has come to play second fiddle to the concept of the cultural tourist; more than ever, museums are being used as tools of urban regeneration and economic stimulus for cities across the globe. This paper seeks to establish an analytical framework as a means to evaluate the success or failure of monumental museum buildings constructed with the primary intentions of drawing international interest as well as cultivating urban renewal. Specifically, the paper will draw a direct contrast between the first established example of this new paradigm for museum architecture, the ubiquitous and iconic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and an example of an across the board failure to launch, the National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield, England. The paper aims to identify why the project was unable to duplicate the success found in Bilbao, to ew. subsequently articulate the main factors that can be attributed to these failures, and to begin to speculate as to how future museum projects with comparable ambitions can position themselves to succeed. The National Center for Popular Music (NCPM) was touted as a highly visible project, a new large-scale civic institution that would serve dual functions as a catalyst and as a symbol for the city. The NCPM was envisioned not only as a museum of music harking to Sheffield’s long association with household names in rock (Jarvis Cocker and Pulp, Def Leppard, Arctic Monkeys), but as a magnet for new forms of commercial productivity in a part of town in dire need of new vitality and communal character[1]. Unable to even approach the overzealous attendance estimates of 400,000 visitors [2] and a £30 million annual spend [3] in its first year, the Centre’s ultimate goal of identity rehabilitation and renewal for the former industrial city at-large was categorically a failure. Intended to replicate the much-heralded “Bilbao effect,” the museum was constructed largely with funds from the National Lottery as part of Britain’s Millennium projects, forging a mutual effort between local city council and said national body to stimulate growth in the city after its incredible fall from prominence following a period of hyper-de-industrialization in the early 1980’s (60% of 12

The National Centre for Popular Music, Sheffield, England industrial labor force was lost in less than 30 years). [4] Rather than write off the failure of the museum as simply a victim of unrealistic expectations, this paper seeks to delve further into the particular reasons why the museum was not a hit with the public. Specifically, this paper posits that a confluence of conflicting budgetary agendas, an undesirable urban situation in a hard to access former industrial zone, and unimaginative and inadequately sequenced exhibition spaces equally contributed to its downfall and closure some fifteen months after it was opened in March 1999. 2. BILBAO: A PIONEERING EXAMPLE Before discussing the developments in Sheffield, it is first important to understand the circumstances surrounding the origins and implications of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. When the Guggenheim sought to establish a branch beyond its iconic Frank Lloyd Wright designed building in New York City, the institution was gambling on its staid, long-standing reputation as the highest body of American culture and artistic appreciation. Nevertheless, it was a calculated risk for the sake of the institution and the city it chose to transplant itself, Bilbao, which (like Sheffield) had suffered from a rapid period of de-industrialization. Between 1979 and 1985 alone, Bilbao had lost almost 25% of its industrial jobs in the greater metropolitan area [5], a period of uncertainty following the rapid change brought about by the globalization of industrial manufacturing in the early 1980’s. In Bilbao, globalization concurrently shook the core economic force of the city, its image (cultural and otherwise) and its locus on the financial map of Spain. Plagued with further troubles from the Basque separatist group ETA and a bleak and dreary climate, Bilbao sought to revitalize its former industrial quarter and riverfront a decade later in the mid 1990’s as a tertiary tourism destination removed from Spain’s forefront cultural capitals, Madrid and Barcelona. Even in 1996, just a year before the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (GMB) opened, leisure tourism accounted for a mere 8% of the total movement through the country; by contrast, 60% of visitors came to Bilbao for professional reasons [6]. It is important to point out that the GMB was by no means an isolated investment by the Basque government. As Beatriz Plaza summarizes, “…the plan also include[d] a transportation hub designed by architects Michael Wilford and James Stirling, a new airport by architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, and a vast waterfront development…designed by Cesar Pelli.” [7] However, the GMB was the centerpiece in the city’s ambitious master plan to reinvigorate the dormant vitality that had blown out of the region some ten years earlier. Even more specifically, the primary goal of the Guggenheim’s new outpost was to capture the interest of domestic and foreign tourism alike. The government’s desire to invest in and reorganize its cultural policy bolstered support for the Guggenheim foundation, a deeply American entity that would operate out of its own foundation but within a “building financed by the Basque administration.” [8] Plaza’s delimitation of other factors suggests that indeed the Guggenheim’s 13

presence triggered an immediately successful jolt in the tourism industry of Bilbao, with an average monthly patronage of 98,035 in its first three years of operation, generating an additional average monthly inflow of 17,156 visitors to the Basque region at-large with an overall growth of nearly 44% [9]. Based on this and other findings [10], one can conclude that the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has been a tremendous quantitative success as far as recreating a new identity for the former industrial town, for helping to quell violence attributed to terrorism [11], and for stimulating economic growth and urban regeneration at an unprecedented rate and scale (particularly in the tourism sector). The museum itself experienced a boon in corporate sponsorship following its incredibly successful first two years, growing from 61 sponsors at its opening in 1997 to 134 in 1999 [14]. Staying power has been another remarkable feat of the now universal architectural icon, with attendance rates leveling of at a “cruising speed of around one million visitors a year,” according to the Guggenheim’s current director, Juan Ignacio Vidarte [13]. Despite these successes, qualitatively some uncertainties have arisen regarding the museum’s impact on Bilbao’s native culture. The area surrounding the Guggenheim has indeed been revamped, though locals have been pushed to the periphery as commercially zoned property values have skyrocketed [14]; instead of local culture at the forefront, space has been made for high-end retail boutiques and local outposts of expensive international hotel chains. Citywide ripples have also been felt: Bilbao’s real estate now ranks behind only Madrid and Barcelona as the third-most expensive in all of Spain; between 1997 and 2002, housing prices jumped by a whopping 104% [15] (Lorenzo Vicario expounds on further socio-spatial mal-effects of the GMB in his essay on gentrification in Bilbao). As Alfonso Martínez Cearra, the General Manager of the Bilbao Metropoli-30 (in charge of Bilbao’s revitalization), was quoted, “Our local culture still hasn’t integrated with the Guggenheim…this is still an industrial city.” 3. SHEFFIELD & THE ADVENT OF A CULTURAL INDUSTRIES QUARTER There are several immediately recognizable parallels to be drawn between Sheffield and Bilbao, most notably their simultaneous and catastrophic industrial collapse. The town of Sheffield is situated some 170 miles Northwest of London, a sleepy and soot-laden footprint of the former bounty of the town’s once booming steel industry.[17] Between 1978 and 1981 alone, some 50,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing, with another 20,000 lost in the sixteen years that followed.[18] According to a study done by Colin Crouch and Martin Hill Scott, attempts by the city council to subsidize and then restructure the 14

steel industry itself were unsuccessful and subsequently abandoned by the early 1980s; further unsuccessful strategies included the encouragement of small-to-medium size businesses, followed by a “highly hybrid form of governance of the local economy.”[19] The emergence and proliferation of government planned and financed projects to revitalize the declining industry soon moved away from preserving the intrinsic nature of a largely working class urban center to a more progressive aim at developing other cultural production and cultural consumption-oriented potentials of the city. One major plan was Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter (CIQ), designed to be a destination within the city limits and developed alongside other high profile sectors (such as ‘the E-Campus’ and ‘Heart of the City’) in an attempt to modernize the city.[20] This particular focus of the city’s master plan lead to projects like the National Centre for Popular Music, and affirmed the city’s dedication to establishing a new identity founded on cultural pursuits in lieu of the former heavy manufacturing sector. A shift in production focus from industrial to cultural was “proving to be a sector of vitality at a time of transition.” [21] The plan for the CIQ outlined in a 1998 study of music policy in Sheffield reveals that it was conceived of over a span of 15 years (1983-1998) in four distinct parts: local, regional, national and international focus. [22] Sheffield’s CIQ of today remains located between the city centre and the city’s main railway station, still straddling a blurry boundary between a derelict quarter mile expanse ravaged by industry and a conservative cultural-production center; according to Crouch, “the planners believed that it would be more credible and cost-effective to promote a dedicated area rather than a city-wide campaign that would lack focus.” [23] Discussed in detail in section five, these and other motivations by Sheffield’s Arts Council directly contributed to the siting of the NCPM at the heart of the CIQ instead of near the more consumption-oriented city centre. The evolution of the CIQ was also paralleled by a relocation of priorities within the local government. The very year that the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao first opened its doors, in Sheffield, “…the closure of the Arts Department of the City Council occurred in 1997 and was replaced by a Museums Trust. Significantly municipal perceptions of the most suitable infrastructure in which to accommodate the new creative industries had moved from ‘arts’ to ‘museums.’” [24] However, the general population has been slow to follow suit. Despite the fact that the town has seen a steady growth in Public Health and Education employment opportunities [25], Sheffield’s steel production today remains a strong presence throughout the town and the region. As of 2005, 12% of the city’s population more than 550,000 inhabitants are still employed by the manufacturing industry, with steel production accounting for 66% of those jobs.[26] Compounding these realities was another problem generated by the establishment of the Museums Trust; the overall responsibility for the CIQ was not governed by any public body in spite of the fact that almost all of its major projects depended on public funds to operate.[27] Public perception of the industrialization of music was never a core 15

consideration of the Council that put together and executed the scheme for the NCPM; perhaps a more cohesively parallel consideration of public input alongside the planning goals of the Sheffield City Council would have yielded a more effective result. Ten years after the failure of the NCPM, future plans to cultivate the CIQ have been trumped by further city planning attempts to localize the population around consumptive centers. See Figure 2 for a mapping taken from the Sheffield City Report of 2007, which cites seven major active areas of importance, against which the CIQ of yesteryear is not even referenced. 4. THE NATIONAL CENTRE FOR POPULAR MUSIC: AIMS AND INTENT With a desire to perpetuate the tenuous growth of the Cultural Industries Quarter, in the early 1990’s the Sheffield City Council still sought a signature public attraction to draw both national attention and local interest in its nascent cultural scene. A plan to create a highly visible destination for Sheffield’s historically strong music scene was already in the works as a key component of urban regeneration by the time the 1995 international architectural competition to design the NCPM was held. Some 95 firms competed for the commission to design what had evolved to a new £15 million venture. Beating out several top firms (including British ‘starchitect’ David Chipperfield), Nigel Coates of Branson and Coates won the commission to design the centre on a square plot situated between the city’s central transportation hub and railway station and the old city center.[28] The NCPM was intended as a keystone development of the CIQ and as a mechanism for the continued revival of cultural production and consumption strategies proposed in Sheffield. According to the four-phase schedule projected for the CIQ, stage three’s national focus was based on attracting visitors to the area by means of the construction and development of the NCPM, and stage four’s international focus comprised of, “making a serious international impact in terms of profile, image, tourism, employment and the local economy…especially through the NCPM.”[29] At the time of the project’s inception there was little precedent to substantiate the claim that a protracted analysis of the city’s music scene could lead to a successful institution, even with a self-proclaimed “new building type.”[30] Despite early enthusiasm in the scheme and optimistic predictions of a healthy annual patronage, the NCPM was forced to close for the first time just six months after its opening in March 1999. Notwithstanding a short-lived retooling after further investments amounting to several million pounds, it closed for good just fifteen months after its initial opening in June of 2000. Looking critically at the project from its conceptual phase to its rapid demise, three primary failure factors can be identified: 1) The competing aims and intentions behind securing National Lottery funding – much of the planning and scope of the project was determined as 16

a result of the Centre’s 1995 business plan prepared by consulting group Coopers and Lybrand.[31] 2) The location of the NCPM – another move initiated by the Sheffield City Council that was aimed at invigorating the CIQ despite the site’s lack of complementary consumption-oriented infrastructure. 3) The collection of the NCPM – based around user perception, interpretation and participation via untested technologies, the collection lacked any true rotation of artifacts or local connection that would have perpetuated repeat visits. 5. FUNDING AS A FAILURE FACTOR: SCRUTINIZING THE MILLENNIUM PROJECTS & NATIONAL LOTTERY FUND DISTRIBUTION The consultation given by Coopers and Lybrand offered short-sighted suggestions and estimated figures that were aimed at securing funding as opposed to establishing longevity for the institution.[32] Creating a “new building type” for a museum in a town that had no precedent on which to draw nor an established market for music outside of the conventional concert hall or bar scene also calls into question the explicit aims behind the NCPM. A 2004 article from the UK Guardian raised further questions about the lack of focus and direction inherent in the Millennium projects as a collective. Stephen Dorrell (the secretary for national heritage at the time) commented, “I inherited a system that said the lottery had to be used for capital funding only…the lottery project put too much emphasis on building. There were a number of institutions that would have been able to deliver a better service if their funding had been increased, but we were forced to create new institutions instead.”[33] His statement reveals the tenuous nature of this new source of public funding in the mid 1990’s: external pressures to disperse some of its wealth outside of the main capitol of London and an unrelenting focus on new building projects meant the council was searching for exactly the type of promises made by the project report submitted by Coopers and Lybrand: high estimates for attendance, a new urban center for a town struggling to find new direction, and a budding Cultural Quarter that would serve as a prime example for other cities across the nation. Thus, lofty ambitions and aspirations for a national centre must have seemed particularly attractive to the funding body at the time, further reinforced by said unrealistic projections of attendance figures and what was thought to be guaranteed consumption. Expanding on these insights, David Puttnam, an advisor who sat on the first Arts Council lottery fund, spoke of the NCPM and other early projects: “There was also too much box- ticking: if all the right boxes had been ticked, you were virtually obliged to make the award. We didn’t have enough discretion. That’s how the disasters happened: with the pop music museum in Sheffield, I argued that there should be a 50-50 partnership with the industry, but we ended up having to pay 75% of the cost. We didn’t have the flexibility to make these judgments.”[34] These observations are also compounded by the Centre’s own reluctance to identify as a museum, another ill-fated tactic used by the Centre to cultivate a more accessible image. [35] The ambition to create a facility for education oriented experiences was a core aim of the project, though the need to be commercially successful in order to satisfy corporate sponsors potentially overshadowed the more locally attuned regenerative aspirations of the NCPM as a true draw for visitors to Sheffield.[36] This aspect of the direction and overall aim of the Centre reveals some 17

of the ambivalence and poor planning that undercut many of the projected regenerative attributes of the project. Sheffield’s rich history of rock music was an attractive foil to the Centre’s plan to grasp onto an existing cultural framework that is deeply rooted in the character of its citizens; though as historian and longtime Sheffield resident Stephen Mallinder wrote, “A city with a diverse ethnicity, compounded by industry to produce a strong working class bias, Sheffield’s inclusivity has produced complex cultural production and patterns of consumption.”[37] Moreover, at the time of the NCPM’s construction, the Arts Council in London was in charge of several major capital developments in Sheffield [38], a proximity disconnect that ultimately divorced local interests in Sheffield from those of the national government. By means of the dual nature of the project as a regenerator and as a means to attain national funds, the procedure of funding applications managed by the National Lottery was questionable from the start, a problem logistically exacerbated by the distance between the two cities. Furthermore, the ambiguous nature of the Centre’s collection and its uncertain role in the larger context of its selected site allowed the NCPM from the get-go to be marred by a series of glaring overestimations interpreted by the City council.[39] 6. LOCATION AS A FAILURE FACTOR

The location of the NCPM can be seen as another primary factor in its failure to attract visitors and to gain a foothold in Sheffield’s larger cultural fabric. Looking to Bilbao for comparison, at a macro scale Sheffield lacked some of the more cosmopolitan [40] infrastructure of its Spanish counterpart, including an international airport, a subway system, a dearth of publicly accessible open space, or a waterfront location that would have been more accommodating to extended visitor experiences in the area. These conditions are further aggravated by the fact that the CIQ is more a place of cultural production than of consumption, underlining a staunch schism in urban planning and economic interests that had subsumed discussion of its potential for social vitality.[41] It is important to recall the primary motivations behind the decision to locate the NCPM at the heart of the CIQ instead of closer to the economic center of the city. As Journalist Linda Moss describes, it is a site that is: “...sufficiently far from anything else that visitors cannot easily combine their visit with any other activity…they must therefore be certain that the attraction alone will merit the considerable effort of getting there…an attraction of only 2-2.5 hours [the estimated visit length of the NCPM] needs to be supported by other activities in the immediate surroundings, preferable on foot, and without needing to cross multi-lane highways in concrete underpasses. This is why…the politically motivated locations of the lottery projects have contributed to their downfall.”[42] The aims of the Sheffield City Council and the National Lottery in this case resulted in a miscalculated effect of the Centre’s ability to pull interest into an area already inhibited by limited pedestrian access. While the Centre’s location near the city’s train station may have been 18

understood as a potential asset to visitors from beyond Sheffield’s city limits, the site was further isolated by a deficiency in visitor parking (the new building also lacked a parking structure of its own). Sheffield’s local transportation infrastructure also does not include a metro system, which would have allowed for more directed circulation conducive to the site and connection to a wider net throughout the city. As Moss notes, without a comprehensive program on site that would hold visitor’s attention for a significant period, the NCPM would have had to rely on exterior factors, adjacencies and existing CIQ consumptive patterns to be successful as a draw; increasingly evident is the fact that, on its own, the NCPM held little cultural clout because of its vague origins and initial strategies. Moss’s article also highlights the rise of Sheffield’s Devonshire Green area as a potentially damning blow to a project like the NCPM, as it subverted popular interest in the CIQ and once again refocused the center of innovatory art markets to the city center. This was reinforced by the highly interventionist nature of projects undertaken in the CIQ, which ultimately deterred the casual but incremental growth of small, private businesses in the Quarter that was experienced elsewhere about town.[43] Another negative location factor was the fact that surrounding efforts at revitalization within the CIQ tended to revolve around the occupation and rehabilitation of existing industrial warehouse spaces rather than turning to new construction. As the report summarizing the competition stage of the project points out, “[the area] includes film and recording studios, exhibition spaces, clubs and cinemas, all in converted buildings…it was to be a new building type…where people [could] see how music is performed and recorded.”[44] While the NCPM was obviously intended as a major attraction for the Quarter’s continued quiet growth, and despite its stainless steel cladding that serves as an obvious homage to the town’s industrial character, the building’s aggressively bloated form subverted any potential for iconography or monumentality to be embraced, whether locally or internationally. Ultimately, DJ Winton Hazell offered a succinct appraisal: “you’ve got no reason to go [to the CIQ] unless you’re called to a boring meeting or to have an office there.”[45] 7. EXHIBITION SPACE AND COLLECTION AS A FAILURE FACTOR In its first incarnation, the NCPM banked heavily on its ability to embody the spirit of the town’s musical legacy, second only to the city’s 19

aforementioned reputation as the steel capital of the UK. The exhibits depended on an untested interpretive museum experience devoid of any true artifacts with which patrons could contextualize the Centre as a uniquely Sheffield institution. From the outset, it seems as if the collection was a tertiary consideration, ranked in importance behind the need for a monumental construction and the desire of the City Council to secure their slice of the National Lottery pie with a major project. Eerily prophetic was a statement made by the review council that decided on the Branson Coates design regarding perceived potential disadvantages of the design: “Criticism focused on three main concerns: first, the relatively small exhibition area provided and the consequent lack of flexibility; second, the public exposure of ground-floor office rooms…third, the uncertain nature of the surrounding public space.”[46] In fact, in a counter-intuitive move by the Arts Council, it was suggested to the architects that exhibition space should actually be reduced on the Centre’s interior in order to make room for larger crowds in reaction to the wild estimates of visitor attendance from the project report. The collection was unsuccessful in three important ways: first, it had little to do with the music and bands of Sheffield (though it did have a primary focus on national music heroes such as Elton John)[47], second, it relied too strongly on experimental and untested methods of communicating information, and third, it sought to institutionalize music, something few fans or potential patrons saw as an appealing manifestation of popular music. While the City Council had identified music as a prime industry to exploit, it paradoxically missed a great opportunity to tell the story of Sheffield’s own prominence in the context of Britain’s national music scene. As journalist Martin Lilleker offered: “What was glaringly missing was the lack of any celebration of Sheffield, a city with a long history of producing innovative music. The final exhibition, and the most popular, was of Sheffield’s history, from the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties with photographs, Sheffield records, fanzines and various other bits of nostalgia.”[48] Lilleker’s observation that even a partial exhibition space devoted to the history of the place (Sheffield) and some of the major international stars that were borne out of its own thriving music culture could have been a proper draw to the museum, not only as a place to learn about and play music, but as a visceral presentation of the pride that Sheffield resident’s have for their long standing tradition of Rock and Pop music. Recalling the NCPM’s business plan and its self-proclaimed desire to become a new building type, the attempt at cultivating exciting exhibition material within a relatively small architectural space with new experiential media was misguided. The sequencing of the exhibits seems to have been another primary factor that deterred interest in the centre as a whole. As one visitor commented, “the first [drum] is a succession of rooms presenting “The Pop Experience” with a cacophony of different sound bites competing for your attention…there’s no text, and no context. Nothing in this star-spangled womb room matters. The artists all leave their best-known sound bites behind them, but their competing voices eventually cancel each other out.”[49] The architectural space here seems to be the primary agent at fault; though highly apropos for a sonic exhibit, unique musical experiences demand niche spaces conducive to their independent experience and can easily lose their significance (and their appeal) when played in close, unmitigated proximity to one another. Cosmo Landesman further expounds on the impracticalities inherent in the exhibition’s overall design, saying, “The NCPM is being promoted as an 20

‘education and arts centre’ devoted to popular music. But in reality it just mixes the buttonpushing, learning-can-be-fun experience of the Science Museum with the trivia treasures of the Hard-Rock café.”[50] His statements rang true with the majority of the Centre’s patrons, who could agree on one thing: “…[the] virtual encyclopedia is nice to browse through on your home computer but you’re not going to get much reading done when there is a line of 500 pushing behind you.”[51] Once again, the allocation of funds to the project lacked a structure that would have allowed it to remain open despite its underwhelming critical and popular reception. What was short-sighted from the outset is the fact that from the beginning the NCPM as an institution lacked any funding or budget to engage a curatorial staff or to build any semblance of a collection of artifacts, and instead was forced to rely on untried, superficial exercises in button-pushing, musicplaying and remixing sound bites with all too prescriptive outcomes.[52] A small fraction of the Lottery’s £15 million grant (only £1.5 million) was allocated for acquisition of a permanent collection, and zero money was set aside for operational costs and payroll for the museum staff; in fact, just thirteen weeks after the museum opened in March 1999, the museum had to fire 9 of its staff of 79 to alleviate some of the financial burden that had been borne of this miscalculation.[53] This lack of funding was further exacerbated by the demands of the Sheffield City Council, who would provide no additional funding for subsequent support, insisting naively that the centre could sustain itself on its own admission revenue.[54] A final point concerning the exhibitions cites an intrinsic problem relative to the initial aims of the Centre. While Sheffield’s City Council had recognized the local music scene (and its importance relative to the national music scene) was a vital and potentially marketable cultural industry for the city, they had overlooked the potential problems with creating an academic or institutional means of representing what was at the core of the city itself. Many observers and critics of Sheffield and the NCPM have formalized their apprehensions concerning the matter of institutionalizing music, none more eloquently than Mallinder: “…subsequent failure of the city’s talismanic National Centre for Popular Music signifies the inherent problems of institutionalizing popular cultural forms and resistance of sound to be anchored and contained. The city’s sonic narrative became contained in its distinctive patterns of cultural production and consumption that ultimately resisted attempts at compartmentalization and representation through what became known colloquially as ‘the museum of popular music.’”[55] 21

8. CONCLUSIONS Notwithstanding the failure of the National Centre for Popular Music in 2000, the city of Sheffield has continued to cautiously grow and remain optimistic about its cultural future. Even the building itself has found new life following the closure of the museum, which was acquired in 2003 by Hallam University (at a fraction of the building’s original cost) to become the new student union (affectionately known as “The Hubs”).[56] The divergent end goals of obtaining national funding for the project, its unappealing and inaccessible location, and its subpar, ambiguous collection amounted to a total failure of the Centre as a draw for both local identity and national interest. The plan for the Cultural Industries Quarter itself has been largely abandoned in favor of even newer plans for revitalization of the city, still deeply steeped in its own legacy of industrial steel manufacturing. The so-called ‘Bilbao Effect’ in its own right can be seen as a double-edged sword, with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao bringing both economic bounty and socio-spatial exclusion to Bilbao. Success for new monumental museum construction is obviously not guaranteed, though for cities looking to duplicate the fiscal feat of Bilbao, three pieces of advice seem paramount to success. 1) A clear vision and well-considered master plan outlining the role of the museum in the urban fabric of the city, complete with realistic and carefully calculated estimates of visitor attendance. 2) The selection of a highly accessible, highly visible site in the midst of like-minded spaces of consumption (cultural or otherwise). 3) Finally, the establishment of an exciting permanent collection and / or the promise of blockbuster international exhibitions. Within these guidelines, a new framework for regeneration seems plausible, though not entirely unpredictable. 22

1 Brown, “Music Policy in Sheffield,” p.6 2 L. Moss, “Sheffield’s cultural industries quarter 20 years on,” p.218 3 Brown, Adam, “Music Policy in Sheffield,” p.6 4 Crouch, Changing Governance of Local Economies, p.180 5 Plaza, “Cultural Artifacts,” p. 266 6 Ibid, 267 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid, p. 268 10 I could quote at length the various statistics reaffirming the GMB’s successful draw, though I found the given figures to be the most enlightening with regard to immediate success. 11 Plaza, “Cultural Artifacts,” p.266 12 Ibid, p.268 13 Lee, “Bilbao: 10 Years Later,” p. 3 14 Plaza, “Cultural Artifacts,” p. 266 15 Vicario, “Another ‘Guggenheim Effect?” p.156 16 Plaza, “Cultural Artifacts,” p. 265 17 (fun fact: stainless steel was invented here in 1913 by local inventor Harold Brearly). 18 Crouch, Colin and Martin Scott Hill, Changing Governance, p.180 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid, page 191. 21 Mallinder, “Sheffield is Not Sexy,” p. 308 22 Brown, “Music Policy in Sheffield,” p.4 23 Crouch, Colin and Martin Scott Hill, Changing Governance, p. 193 24 Mallinder, “Sheffield is Not Sexy,” p. 310 25 Winkler, “Sheffield City Report,” p. 35 26 Brown, “Music Policy in Sheffield,” p. 8 27 Moss, L., “Sheffield’s cultural industries quarter 20 years on,” p. 217 28 Jones, “Reflections on the competition for the National Centre for Popular Music,” p. 17 29 Brown, “Music Policy in Sheffield,” p. 4 30 Jones, “Reflections on the competition for the National Centre for Popular Music,” p. 5 31 Kam, “Success from Failure,” p. 174 32 Ibid. 33 Moss, S. “Luck and Brass,” p. 2 34 Ibid, p. 4 35 Citation needed. 36 Moss, L., “Constructing White Elephants,” p.1 37 Mallinder, “Sheffield is not sexy,” p. 296 38 Moss, L., “Sheffield’s cultural industries quarter 20 years on,” p.216 39 Jones, “Reflections on the competition for the National Centre for Popular Music,” p. 18 40 Term used by Mallinder, “Sheffield is not sexy,” p. 315 41 Moss, Linda, White elephants, p.1 42 Ibid. 43 Moss, Linda, p. 217 44 Arq. Vol 1. p.17 45 Mallinder, “Sheffield is not sexy,” p. 314 46 Jones, “Reflections on the competition for the National Centre for Popular Music,” p. 21 47 http://imomus.com/thought110799.html 48 Mallinder, “Sheffield is not sexy,” p. 320 49 http://imomus.com/thought110799.html 50 Mallinder, “Sheffield is not sexy,” p. 331 51 Ibid, p. 329 52 Moss, L., “Constructing White Elephants,” p. 1 53 Kam, “Success in Failure,” p. 179 54 Ibid, p. 181 55 Mallinder, “Sheffield is not sexy,” p. 294 56 Ibid, p. 311

WHEN THE BILBAO EFFECT FAILS - BIBLIOGRAPHY Brabazon, Tara and Stephen Mallinder, “Popping the museum: the cases of Sheffield and Preston,” Museum and Society 4:2 (2006): 96-112. Brown, Adam. “Music Policy in Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool.” PhD diss., Manchester Institute for Popular Culture, Metropolitan University and Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool, 1998. Brown, Adam and Justin O’Connor et. al. “Local music policies within a global music industry: cultural quarter ins Manchester and Sheffield.” Geoforum 31:4 (2000): 437-451. Cowell, Alan, “Travel Advisory: Britain Rethinks Costly Millennium Projects.” The New York Times, October 1, 2000. Accessed October 18, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/01/travel/travel-advisory-correspondent-sreport-britain-rethinks-costly-millennium.html?scp=1&sq=britain%20rethinks%20costly&st=cse Crouch, Colin and Martin Scott Hill. Changing Governance of Local Economies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Dabinett, Gordon, “Creative Sheffield: Creating value and changing values?” Local Economy 19:4 (2004): 414-419. Holmes, Kirsten and Yasminah Beebeejaun, “City centre masterplanning and cultural spaces: A case study of Sheffield,” Journal of Retail and Leisure Property 6:1 (2007): 29-46. Hudson, Ray, “Regions and place: music, identity and place,” Progress in Human Geography 30:5 (2006): 626-634. Jones, Peter Blundell, “Reflections on the competition for the National Centre for Popular Music, Sheffield,” Arq 1 (1996): 16-27. Kam, Jacqueline, “Success in Failure: The National Centre for Popular Music,” Prometheus 22:2 (2007): 169-187. Lee, Denny, “Bilbao: Ten Years Later,” The New York Times, September 23, 2007. Accessed October 22, 2011. http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/09/23/travel/23bilbao.html?pagewanted=all Mallinder, Stephen, “Sheffield is Not Sexy,” Nebula 4:3 (2007): 292-321. Moss, Linda, “Constructing White Elephants,” Parallel, 16:1 (2005): accessed November 7, 2011. http://www. journal.60parallel.org/en/journal/2005/7/90 Moss, Linda, “Sheffield’s cultural industries quarter 20 years on: What can be learned from a pioneering example?” International Journal of Cultural Policy 8:2 (2002): 211-219. Moss, Stephen. “Luck and Brass.” The Guardian, November 4, 2004. Accessed November 7, 2011. http://www. guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2004/nov/04/art.artsfunding Plaza, Beatriz, “Evaluating the Influence of a Large Cultural Artifact in the Attraction of Tourism: the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Case,” Urban Affairs Review 36:2 (2000): 264-274. Street, John, “Local Differences? Popular Music and the Local State.” Popular Music 12:1 (1993): 43-55. “Travel Advisory: Pop Music Palace for England.” The New York Times, February 28, 1999. Accessed October 25, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/28/travel/travel-advisory-pop-music-palace-for-england.html Vicario, Lorenzo. “Another ‘Guggenheim Effect’? Central city projects and gentrification in Bilbao.” In Gentrification in a Global Context, edited by Rowland Atkinson and Gary Bridge, 151-167. London: Routeledge, 2005. Winkler, Astrid. Sheffield City Report. CASE report 45. London School of Economics and Political Science, London. 23


An important lesson to take from the Center for Popular Music is that form, visibility, accessibility, adaptability and technology must all be incorporated with careful consideration to put the museum in its best position to succeed. While this project could be considered fundamentally flawed because I myself am not a big-shot architect, I will still endeavor to propose a form and function that would speak to the conditions of the site, city and need for urban renewal along the waterfront of one of Oakland’s most valuable natural features, Lake Merritt. All in all, there are a number of ways to approach the project. The project will need to address certain terms of museum culture in the 21st century, including a direct response to monumentality its function as a beacon of visibility, the need for adaptation of the Bilbao model of signature architecture and high-class urban regeneration, and most importantly, the actual needs of the city weighed over the needs of the international arts community. My response is neither to monumentality for its own sake nor the international accolade that comes with it. Rather, I propose that museums across the globe should take a careful look at themselves and the institutions they are currently running. This self-examination is likely to yield three crucial problems that the museum as a conceptual entity faces: 1. Massively inefficient, inaccessible, and/or inadequate storage facilities. 2. As an offshoot, a collection that may be vast, varied and highly valued (culturally and/or monetarily), but inaccessible to the public. 3. A form that is unresponsive to the collection the institution is currently putting on display. 4. A lack of interaction between the museum and its immediate surroundings, whether socially, environmentally or ideologically. 5. Curation as a tacit control of the experiencing of artifacts implemented by the institution. Recent articles have discussed at length the need for a collection to have a direct and easily identifiable connection between the artifact on display and those who experience it in person. This is definitely possible at the Oakland Museum because the collection itself primarily consists of Californiaproduced art and artifact. Furthermore, the museum could become a mirror of the community and the culture of the place, rather than simply as a tool 24

for much broader agendas of the state and of the country. Temporal registration of the surrounding environment is one way to ensure a continuously changing and adapting formal logic and to tap into the shifting status of Oakland and its citizens. Ultimately, I will be using the Oakland Museum of California as a case study for this need for evolution of the Bilbao Effect. I will dive headfirst into the depths of their 2,000,000 artifact collection and propose a new way of storing, curating and cataloging the entire collection. Many of the artifacts will deteriorate naturally over time notably difficult to maintain are old paintings that were exposed to too much ambient daylight over the years, myriad Native American artifacts, and wooden objects, which are commonly susceptible to moisture and pest damage even in the securest storage location. My solution will propose new ways of using and displaying the artifacts, in conjunction with existing open storage facility that the museum already possesses. The approach portion will continue with a few components that I hope will push the logic forward that museums are currently at an important juncture in history. As their collections continue to expand and to rot, as their facilities become cramped or inadequate, and as their role as culture makers for the city evolve and expand, important actions will need to be taken in order to achieve the goals of the original Bilbao effect. I will take a few measures to ensure the relevance of this thesis. First and foremost will be a series of conversations with John Burke, the Chief Conservationist who manages the conservation of artifacts and collection at the Oakland Museum. Second, I will conduct site visits to the existing facility and its storage in hopes of understanding its urban context and its overall function for the museum. Third, I will engage the currently contentious debate over the role of street art and its place (or lack of place) at the museum. How can the fundamental goals of putting art on the street and the museum’s concern with staying relevant be reconciled with a singular institution? Is this even possible? This exercise is designed to engage many of my interests in museums not only as spatial propositions for cities, but as a way to mediate contemporary art practice with the static nature of display and evolution of museums as entities.

The current OMCA: different product, same box




THIS IS THE NEW MUSEUM, part living entity, part natural element, part technological innovation. The new museum will carry the city and its citizens forward by showcasing the city as its most coveted artifact.



* THE BEST DRAWING I MADE ALL YEAR. * not actually architecture



1. Conservation and curation i. The OMCA website states that there are 1.9 million artifacts in the collection. How many are in storage at a given time vs. how many are on display? ii. How many works are you typically working on repairing at a given time? -Are there specific works that need more attention than others? Eg. outdoor sculptures vs. indoor installations? iii. Is there a master list of works in the collection that need to be restored or repaired? iv. Typically how long is a given work stored for? Is there any specific cycle of rotation or ‘standard’ exhibitions that are rotated on a regular basis? v. Does the fact that the museum is largely made of thermally conductive concrete present issues in the presentation and maintenance of the works? What other challenges are you faced with when mounting an exhibition? vi. How many artifacts are currently on loan to other museums? Are any distributed to schools or other like-minded organizations? How many items on display at the OMCA are borrowed from other institutions? 2. Storage i. How many artifacts are stored onsite? What about at satellite locations? Where are these satellites and how often are artifacts exchanged between facilities? ii. What is the most unique item currently in storage? What special considerations do you have to take for this work? ii. How is the museum collection catalogued? Date acquired? Alphabetically? By year produced? Categorically between art, history & science?


iii. Do you have a database that could give a museum patron access to every item? iv. How closely do you work with an exhibition curator towards the exhibition of a specific collection? v. How many of the artifacts would you say fit into each of the three major disciplines represented in the museum – art, science and history? vi. How much digital storage do you utilize? Are there any plans to make this digital catalogue available online? vii. I noticed that the OMCA has a collection of California Natural Sounds, and many are available online via links from your website. I’m assuming the catalogue is much richer than what is shown- what decisions to you have to make as to how much material to make available for free vs. how much to restrict? viii. In the same vein, when you acquire a collection like sound recordings or other more experiential media, do you immediately digitize the artifacts? In your opinion, how important is it to experience items like this in person vs. online? 3. Acquisition of collection i. The majority of the museum’s collection was originally acquired during the merger of three distinct institutions: the Oakland Public Museum, Oakland Art Gallery, and the Snow Museum of Natural History. How is this legacy documented or annotated relative to the comprehensive collection today? ii. As collections are donated to the museum by specific artists, are there typically special requests or instructions as to how to display the work? I specifically am thinking of the recent dual exhibition of photographs of the Oakland Fire

Kinetic Sculpture in the Oakland Museum’s garden, which is open to the public free of charge. Photos by Author, October, 2011.

aftermath by Richard Misrach, and how he desired the exhibition to be shown concurrently at both museums. Are there plans for similar collaborations in the future? iii. The collections and mission of the museum are specifically geared toward works collected from the state of California. Do you see any distinct advantages or disadvantages of this focus on the museum as a whole? iv. Do you ever seek out specific artists or pieces to complement existing collections? Is money ever donated specifically for the acquisition of new works for the museum? 4. Future of the OMCA collection i. The website states that “The Museum will be increasingly presenting its collections online in the coming years.” How do you plan to do this? -In some exhibits, an artifact is shown alongside video or photographic documentation of how the work is created. Do you have an archive of this type of footage? Is this something you plan on making available to the public in the future? ii. The Google Art Project has been a fresh way of exploring gallery spaces and the artworks they contain. Does the Oakland Museum have any plans to utilize this type of technology? Are there any other recent technological innovations that would suit the museum’s mission to educate and to proliferate knowledge? iii. According to the online database, 25,845 artifacts, works of art, prints, etc. have already been added. What challenged do you forsee in uploading more of the collections? Are there any works that you wouldn’t upload for a particular reason? iv. How do you see the impact of the newly renovated galleries of the museum?

v. In the same vein, what shortcomings did you see in the original Roche / Dinkeloo design? Have these issues been resolved with the changes made by Mark Cavagnero? vi. The Oakland Standard is the museum’s blog for new media. Obviously the internet and real-time additions and representations of art are becoming increasingly important. What other forms of media do you see as being critical for the museum to take advantage of? vii. The Oakland Standard is also an outlet to commission new works from local artists. Does your department play any role in the cataloguing/ documentation of these installations? If so, in what ways? 5. General questions i. 25% of the estimated yearly attendance of 440,000 are school groups. How important is it to the museum to gear its collections towards this young audience? ii. In your mind are there any other museums in the Bay Area that have successfully combined technology and permanent exhibition space? iii. What about any museums that have successfully navigated the world of online distribution of information about the holdings of the institution?


CONVERSATION WITH JOHN BURKE Chief Conservator of the Oakland Museum of California

The Conservation Department, 52 9th Street, Oakland / Monday, February 6, 2012

My conversation with Chief Conservator of the Oakland Museum of California’s collection (heretofore referred to as OMCA), John Burke, was extremely helpful to enhance the relatively incomplete research I had done to this point. He elaborated on several points of OMCA’s current mode of operation, including the department’s involvement in a grant obtained from the state, the reorganization and consolidation of the foundation that operates the OMCA, and, most importantly, the challenges faced by his department, representative of just a few of the issues that nearly all contemporary museums face. A lack of resources, both in funding and in staffing, and an outdated, inefficient method of cataloguing and combining research and conversation about a given object have stifled many of Burke’s attempts to expand the collection’s presence on the internet. An advantage to many cultural institutions, including sporting venues and concert halls, have benefitted from the immediacy that the internet is capable of streaming live broadcasts to avid spectators around the world has connected people, allowing them to share the experience of these events. This experience has been sorely lacking from beyond the realm of a museum website. The Google Art Project has been taking progressive steps in the right direction, putting their patented street-view technology toward a first-person perspective of the museum’s galleries, navigable by floor plan or by simple directional cues. Furthermore, this technology allows users to zoom-in on ultrahigh resolution images (we’re talking 10 billion pixels) that puts ever-miniscule details unobtainable even in person at the fingertips of a digital user without replacing the feeling one gets from physically being inside of a museum gallery. While this technology is relatively underdeveloped at this point (it was launched last May and has about 20 museums worldwide to choose from, though many are limited to only a handful of galleries), it still has a unique potential to finally bridge the growing divide between the age of information and


the prior age where information was disseminated through institutions like museums. I could envision an interesting opportunity for the Oakland Museum of California to capitalize on this nascent reserach- why not pursue a grant from Google, who clearly has the kind of staffing necessary to photograph and upload information about 1,900,000 artifacts (in less than 20 years) to help catalogue the collection? Google reaps the benefits of the vast collection of the museum and raises its profile automatically; the museum would also be able to pursue its mission of education as well as its commitment to transparency and authenticity when it comes to the behind-the-scenes nature of restoration and conservation of artifacts. During the course of our conversation, Mr. Burke also mentioned a prior plan of the museum’s to host an open-storage type of research facility, with a publicly accessible index of resources (like a library, only for artifacts instead of books). He went on to identify two critical issues that the museum had faced: access and location, and staffing and security. Depleted (or nonexistent) resources in both forms spelled doom for the project, which would have furthered Burke’s ambition to place transparency of the collection and the people who maintain these artifacts. Please email winmixter@gmail.com to let me know if you actually read this. Finally, he indicated how reluctant the administration (or government, or private benefactor, and so on) would be to declare support for an expensive educational program rather than building something permanent and more highprofile with the same funds. This conversation leads me to believe that the museum as a piece of architecture is still relevant and still holds clout, but needs better ways to reflect the community it inhabits. Other Bay Area museums (the de Young, SF MoMA, and the Berkeley Art Museum) are surrounded by wealthy supporting infrastructure, putting the Oakland Museum at a distinct advantage as a local, community museum that commands engagement of the people who surround it.

A restoration project undertaken by the museum staff to restore Fletcher Benton’s “M” sculpture to its original color. Photos courtesy of the Oakland Standard.


STREET ART AND GRAFFITI How can art for the masses be incorporated without fundamentally altering its meaning?

One of the most compelling problems in the city of Oakland is its pervasive vandalism and rampant graffiti throughout the city. Whether or not all of it could be considered art (or even aesthetically pleasing) is a moot point; clearly there is a lack of spaces set aside for the type of public creative expression that Oaklanders crave. While the question of authenticity and conveyance of meaning in this form of art are always being called into question, it is barely a stretch to say that it is less effective when it is removed from its original context, the street, the public realm. By encouraging the creation of street art ON the museum rather than within it, I could simultaneously create a locus for this type of activity and also engage the temporal nature of public art - it is often covered over, layer by layer, by other artists and taggers, an expression of the renewal of its meaning and a way to track the evolution of its significance throughout the course of a day, week, year. In the same vein, by encouraging this expression in the public realm it would be less likely to be self-defeating in the way that the gallery shows of prominent street artists (Banksy is the most obvious example) often are. The monetization of the act would not be the primary goal here; rather, the creation of a public forum for artistic expression would be increased exponentially while theoretically drawing vandalism away from other locations in Oakland. Crimespotting.org is a tool that could also be digitally incorporated as a temporal registration for activity throughout the city at a central site, cataloging reported crime and adding a layer of transparency between the various public institutions of the city. As the facing interview informs, communication and collaboration is not yet common at the Oakland Museum but could be a key to success and potential future engagement. 32

Street art installation at the OMCA

Street art by Alice.

Yarn bombing is another emerging form of street art.

Crimespotting.org shows the location of reported vandalism throughout the city. August 2011 data.


Director, the Oakland Standard

“The Oakland Standard is a series of contemporary art projects produced by the Oakland Museum of California. Ranging from experimental exhibitions to blogs, from workshops to meals, the projects explore innovative ways to engage audiences. Oakland Standard programs nurture inquisitiveness, and support the creativity of artists and the public.”

I discussed with Ms. Archibald the role of the museum in the 21st century, from where she sees the future strengths of an institution like the OMCA and what kind of role street art may play as a potential way to garner the interest of the public. What follows are some highlights and summaries of our conversation. Like Mr. Burke, she preferred to speak without recording the conversation. QUESTIONS 1. How do you approach the coordination of efforts between digital media and the physical museum? 2. Do share any of the current concerns about the “institutionalization” of street art? Obviously the OMCA has recently played host to both yarn bombing and traditional spray graffiti - does the work lose its authenticity if it is taken out of its guerrilla context? Or can its message be relayed more effectively by means of encouraging artists to use a specified canvas (/wall/whatever)? 2B. What special characteristics of the museum’s architecture do you seek to exploit most during an installation? The blank concrete walls beg for decoration and expression - are you able to / do you plan to move beyond the courtyard and circulation space of the museum to more “invasive” or widespread installations across the museumscape? 3. My understanding is that the Oakland Standard functions independently of the museum. What were some of the key factors behind this decision? Do you still maintain communication with the collections conservation department to coordinate exhibitions or is your focus more on new forms of art proliferation? 4. What is your background in? How did you come to work for the museum? 4B. What do you see as the greatest challenges for the museum as we move forward? 5. Anything big planned for the short term (1-2 years) or long term (3-10 years)? 6. What are the real challenges of engaging the Oakland community? Does the overall children’s group focus of the museum’s physical experience motivate you to find new and more adult forms of expression? 7. Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on during your time at OMCA? What about a favorite object in the collection?

SUMMARY A central focus of the Oakland Standard, which itself was made possible as a result of a grant given to the museum by the James Irvine foundation. She stressed the importance of the blog and its ensuing events and endeavors as a conduit for the museum to reach out to a younger audience, somewhere between the middle-aged benefactors and members of the museum and the school-age children who comprise the core of the museum’s patrons. Ms. Archibald discussed the tenuous relationship between this new mode of distribution relative to the hierarchies in place between departments of the museum. Much to my surprise, the departments have little interaction with each other and coordination can be difficult even within the institution itself. Even the blog is completely separate from the museum’s archive of artifacts and is hard to access simultaneously. The Oakland Standard primarily deals with temporary installations and exhibits rather than delving into the permanent collection, a relationship that in my mind could be strengthened and utilized more fully as the program continues. The Oakland Standard also continues to be fueled by smaller nonprofit venues rather than the museum field itself, taking advantage of smaller galleries throughout the city to create a network of engagement. This aspect could definitely be used to the advantage of the museum as a way to reach out to the public in a more localized way than a single institution, and harks to my early conceptualization of the museum as a series of dispersed experiences. Ms. Archibald also emphasized to me the importance of ‘top of the mind awareness’ of the museum, meaning actually knowing the institution exists. She commented that many people who inhabit Oakland don’t even know that the OMCA is there for the public to enjoy; this is where the role of the website is extremely important for the future of the museum as an influence on the culture of the city. A final untapped vein of interest in the inner workings of the museum was another aspect she identified as potentially fruitful, to create a more transparent and accessible atmosphere between conservation and exhibition. 33


During the fall 2011 semester I was concurrently taking a studio with Esherick Visiting Professor Jordi Truco of the Barcelona practice Hybrida. Using generative design techniques outlined by our professor we endeavored to combine material performance with adaptable behavior to create a community greenhouse for Oakland that would be responsive to sunlight exposure and the life cycle of a plant from germinated seedling to fully grown. Ash Low, Anastasia Victor and I envisioned a system of kinetic pieces that would nest and bend with each other to adjust the aperture necessary for the roofing system. The overall design was envisioned as a system of synergy: structure, function and aesthetic all simultaneously considered and interdependent. Our presentation was pink.





The Henry J. Kaiser Oakland Convention Center - Lake Merritt’s 20th Century Tombstone

Positioned squarely in the middle of the block between the Oakland Museum and the Lake Merritt Channel, which connects the body of water to the Oakland Estuary and Inner Harbor, the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center looms like an ominous tombstone of former civic glory. Emblazoned on the lake-facing side of the now vacant and unused building are the words, “AUDITORIUM OF THE CITY OF OAKLAND DEDICATED BY THE CITIZENS TO THE INTELLECTUAL AND INDUSTRIAL PROCESS OF THE PEOPLE ANNO DOMINI MCMXIV” These are a cue to the former centrality and prominence of the venue relative to the city, a far cry from the building that is now at the heart of the Occupy Oakland Movement. Originally constructed in 1914 and seismically upgraded just before the LomaPrieta earthquake in 1989, the building still resonates the promise and optimism of Oakland as a city in the early part of the 20th century. Graffiti is a rampant and persistent problem throughout the city, and the OMCA is no exception (see below for evidence of graffiti on the concrete of the museum). What if the building was used as a canvas for this so-called ‘destructive’ act instead of supposedly deterring such behavior? Would giving a clean slate to artists and hooligans alike be proactive in controlling or localizing this behavior?


This is one potential of the new space that I would like to take on- in the vein of the Bilbao effect, civic architecture should be a response to concerns of the community/locality wherein they are placed. As with the targeting of Basque Separatist terrorism in Bilbao, so in Oakland would I propose that the building could be used as a tool and as a forum to address issues on a community scale. Oakland’s rich port activity and history, as well as its contemporary problems such as graffiti and vandalism should not be overlooked in interpreting a potential solution for the reuse of this site. Recently a target of the occupy movements protests, the site remains a tombstone at the edge of the lake, a vacant reminder of the vacant status of much of the city and the current economic climate. The site is also highly visible from locations throughout the Berkeley and Oakland hills, rendering it an important opportunity to increase the visibility of the cultural capabilities that the area possesses, as well as the potential to create a landmark symbol for the city that would be instantly recognizable. The crux of the thesis with regard to site is how to reconnect the city to the site by subverting the existing 14th street road and using existing pedestrian circulation around the Lake (which is already quite substantial) in a comprehensive and visible manner.

“The objective

was to get a large building where we could have our meetings indoors during winters and to have a good kitchen where we could provide not only for ourselves as a movement but provide for the homeless population who do not have kitchens and do not have food half the time, have spaces for people to gather, have a library, and other social functions that a community space would have.” -Occupy Activist Stephanie Demos, speaking of the Occupy Movement’s desire to take over the Kaiser Convention Center

Top to Bottom: Facade that faces Lake Merritt; arena // atrium space transverse sections showing existing, useable, seismically upgraded truss structures and capabilities for occupation and reuse (courtesy of Ratcliffe Arhcitects); Graffiti on the existing OMCA visible from the convention center.


VISIT TO BAM WITH ASSISTANT TO THE REGISTRAR PAMELA PACK The visit to the on-site storage at the Berkeley Art Museum was intended as a contrast for the Oakland Museum’s storage configuration. Unlike OMCA, the BAM has no conservation department of their own, and instead outsource these tasks to other Bay Area institutions, primarily the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS :

A typical storage system for the museum’s collection of paintings and framed visual media. The critique here is obvious: hanging stacks of paintings obscures a large majority of the collection.

The support systems (above and left) for gallery installations ensure a certain visual quality for the show on display. I propose that works be shown as they exist (excepting works that are in dire need of repair) without homogenizing or curating a collection to the finest minutiae.

Packaging up the collection to move it would be an improvement over allowing artifacts to sit on shelves unbraced and unprotected.


ABOVE: The storage component of the BAM/PFA has become a dire situation; overflow in much of the space has remained disorganized and uncategorized. BELOW: an old gallery space has actually been subsumed by the institution’s need for storage, albeit an ‘open’ one (not technically open to the public). 39

VISIT TO OMCA STORAGE WITH JOHN BURKE, CHIEF CONSERVATIONIST OF THE OAKLAND MUSEUM The collection has already been organized to some extent into a system that could eventually allow for an open strorage configuration. Many artifacts have already been integrated into storage equipment that also provides visual access, including rolling stacks, drawers with locked glass enclosures, vaults and lockers with operable windows, crates, and original army warehouse style shelving. The collection is as vast as one would hope, and the arrangement of artifacts in the warehouse made them visually accessible throughout the space. A mezzanine in the building’s Northwestern corner provided another perspective of the space with additional storage for delicate items needing extra precautions to preserve them. During my visit, the museum registrar and other conservators were examining a woman’s bathing costume from 1917 (a navy blue dress with attached leggings, good luck swimming in that) and discussing whether or not the piece would be suitable for a loan to its requesting institution. The majority of artifacts that John showed me had already been installed into their open-storage displays, including (but definitely not limited to): ethnographic materials, such as Native American artifacts; furniture; sculpture; taxidermy; fossils; bones and skeletons; textiles and clothing; old technology; transportation, including automobiles, wagons and boats. A further two million or so artifacts are stored in a separate, cooler warehouse space outfitted with moveable stacks containing the museum’s collection of photography related material, including prints, negatives, VHS, reel to reel audio and video, and the like. The entirety of the Dorothea Lange archive is also housed here. Some remediation and restoration is done in conjunction with the storage space; the most pertinent example that I recall was a series of Native American woven baskets that were being ‘passively reshaped’, or installed on styrofoam pieces designed to gently reform its original shape, deformed by movement or gravity (or a combination of the two). By and large the collection is stored according to material, an interesting curation method that could be applied to the museum as a whole. John described the process of moving an artifact from storage to exhibition, which was a multi-step endeavor that includes: research of the artifact, registration and conservation of said artifact; interpretation, design and scheduling follow suit. The underlying conclusions that I have been able to draw from these experiences have been that the museum takes very calculated and targeted risks based on extensive research and focus groups, a method that doesn’t necessarily take advantage of the availability of information afforded by contemporary social media and the thorough permeation of the internet and electronic mail into the malleable societal fabric of the now. The museum’s directed approach to engaging different age groups and target audiences can only reach so far; the entirety of the population of the city has to be engaged in order to guarantee success, and this can only be done if the residents recognize that the museum is not a static entity but rather a dynamic one. CONCERNS Mr. Burke voiced a number of concerns regarding a full transition to an open storage configuration. These primary considerations were crucial in shifting the logical course of my thesis from a dispersed web of destinations to a single, central site. They are issues Mr. Burke identified with the current system and are jumping off points for various aspects of the new OMCA design. They are: LIGHT EXPOSURE / ROTATION, TRANSPORTATION AND PLANNING ISSUES ROUGH HANDLING FROM USERS (SLAMMING DRAWERS, ETC.) SUPERVISION OF OPEN STORAGE AND ADEQUATE STAFFING LACK OF CENTRALITY FOR COLLECTION - EASE OF ACCESS FOR PATRONS


The existing OMCA storage space is an old naval warehouse at the intersection of Ford and Lancaster in Oakland.*




This quote from Christine Van Assche, Senior Curator for the new media collection at the Centre George Pompidou, Paris, comes from a response to a query about the need for museums to change in light of the advent of the internet and the availability of information. This raises a whole slew of questions that the museum of the 21st century must face, and quickly if they hope to build on the cultural status that has been granted of such institutions ever since the boon of the starchitect and the hype instigated by the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao some fifteen years ago in 1997. Said questions are provocative insights into the nature of the experience of things, of art and artifact created by an artist or artisan and later assigned value and importance because of the work of curatorial and conservationist professionals alike. The digital age of information is well upon us, the internet, like our universe, an ever-expanding web of interconnected knowledge (and a healthy portion of space-trash). However, this age of information and digital presence of institutions and individuals alike calls into question the fundamental nature of architecture and space, especially on a civic level of public infrastructure that can influence daily life of an average citizen. Architectural solutions to some of the most blaring questions seem apropos of a of presence and physical proximity and literal viewing with one’s own eyes. This thesis addresses the impending need for museum’s to change based on a series of tenuous relationships at the current juncture: 1) the relationship of the public to the museum; 2) the relationship of the artifacts to the surrounding local populous; 3) the relationship of art and artifact to the gallery with regard to meaning and monetary value; 4) the relationship of the institution to the city. The thesis also cautiously treads into other territory that mandates serious attention at the present with regard to museums as institutions. 1. Refocus the monumentality of the museum not on the form of the architecture itself, but on the monumentality of the extents of the collection. 2. Redefine the relationship of the museum to the city. It should not only captivate its citizens attention, but provide a closer insight to the history, art, and science of the place itself. It shouldn’t strive to be something that it isn’t. 3. The museum should not exist as a single, solitary entity, but have a multi-faceted presence that permeates the urban fabric. While I won’t get to explore this aspect of the proposal in as great a depth as the first two components, it is still a tertiary interest that will carry throughout the work. The diagram at right shows cultural, historic, natural, academic, and otherwise engaging sites surrounding Lake Merritt. All of these resources should be woven together to create a stream of flows between them, unleashing the capability of this rich urban environment.




#MUSEUM_PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS The final program for my thesis proposition includes: 1. An open storage solution to allow public access to 50% of the collection. 2. New ways of reflecting temporal transition and the unique geography of the site. 3. A new attitude toward street art and its role in/ on the museum. 4. A proposal as to how the existing museum could be adapted to be more influential. A few important questions arise (that may or may not be addressed directly): Question of reallocation of funds: a building is a tangible product // is there a way to palpably show that money has been used in an influential and beneficial way? What about other agendas for the museum? What supporting programs or organized activities and tangential relationships should be prioritized? The museum had some issues (including water drainage and thermal transfer in the gallery spaces) that needed to be addressed and aroused the renovations that are currently underway; what could be removed though are the enclosures of exterior space that serve no purpose? This thesis seeks to resolve some of the issues that are changing the direction of contemporary museum architecture. The freedom of information that is currently inundating our generation continues to redefine every day life at large; architecturally, the museum’s long-standing (and uncontested) role as major resource for humankind’s collected history is diminishing more and more each day. Locally, the Oakland Museum faces a number of pressing issues common to museum institutions in the information age. These conditions are further exacerbated by aggressive capital campaigns and monumental expansions currently being undertaken at other Bay Area museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Berkeley’s own Berkeley Art Museum. This thesis project pursues answers to questions including: how to evolve the static display paradigm while balancing a continuously aging and expanding collection, how to efficiently show, store and maintain more artifacts from an already vast archive, and how to engage an increasingly disengaged public by adapting static display practices to reflect temporal registration. In reaction to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and evaluating its ambitions against its performance, this project seeks a resolution that is identifiable and influential at both a macro and micro scale. The primary issue that I have identified relative to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’s success is that it has pushed aside the local arts community in favor of high end real estate and retail opportunities. The people of Bilbao have played second string to the larger aspirations of the city and the Guggenheim foundation itself, which sought a signature attraction to the fledgling region after the hyper de-industrialization that followed a boon of production in the early 1980’s. Further expounding on these notions and the bold statement posited by Christine van Assche during a recent talk at the Berkeley Center for New Media, museums need to adapt to the current state of technology and pervasiveness of the internet in order to escape obsolescence. Information is all around us in contemporary society; a significant portion of the population walks around with a computer in his or her pocket, a few taps away from knowledge previously inaccessible to the masses. Why, then, have museums been hesitant to adapt? The state of museum culture itself is at a crossroads. As Nina Simon, museum scholar and author of the blog “Museum 2.0,” puts it, museums are “deliberately unsustainable business models,” meaning that they aim to function and provide services for as long as possible, more often than not without turning a profit, before the funds dry up and another solution must be pursued. Her prognosis for the foreseeable future is not all together bleak, though she cautions museums and their staff to consider two points: 1) what core services they provide that people depend on and need to survive, and 2) services they provide that are unique and make an institution stand out. Ultimately, what needs to evolve is the role of the museum in its relationship to the people of the city (of Oakland). Obsolescence is not an isolated incident either; not only are existing institutions closing and failing, but Bilbao-style projects are already being called into question. The most pressing example is the Zaha Hadid designed MAXXI Museum for Contemporary Art in Rome, Italy, which is currently (as of 5/10/12) facing closure due to poor attendance and problems of reception and location within the city itself. 45

THE BAY AREA’S MUSEUM CLIMATE 2012 raising the stakes for cultural entertainment

The ‘Bilbao Effect’ is an undeniable product

of contemporary society and the various factors that go into forming a museum. Today’s architectural discourse is saturated with competing ideas about temporality; the paradigm shift of the museum typology reflects this trend. Even locally, new museum architecture is gaining high profile attention in the digital realm. In recent weeks, plans for additions to the 225,000 square foot, $480 million expansion of SFMoMA by Snohetta and the $100 million Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive have appeared on popular architecture and design blogs like ArchDaily and Dezeen; the Oakland Museum of CA is also amidst a $62.2 million renovation and expansion. Clearly, the stakes have never been higher, the public scrutiny never more glaring than right now.

Seismic upgrades, expanded exhibition space

and higher profile events are all among the list of factors that have contributed to the restoration campaigns at these major institutions. When the de Young museum was opened in 2005, it was a culminating rebuild after the collapse of the existing institution in the 1989 Loma-Prieta earthquake. The final price tag as rumored near &200,000,000 for Herzog and DeMeuron’s copper-clad behemoth.

The overall demographics of job and racial

distribution of Oakland show a diversely dispersed range of cultures and influences at play within the city. Importantly, the OMCA’s proximity to China Town and the prevalence of employees in the healthcare field could be used as factors to determine the proper staging of primary, secondary and tertiary phases of the museum restoration.


STORAGE OVERFLOW AND THE OPEN ARCHIVE displaying more than 5% of the collection The tripartite nature of the museum’s collection is an interesting opportunity to utilize a wide range of media and exhibition techniques to engage the dynamic natures of these static objects. Traditional museum curatorial practice combined with a distinct cataloguing and implementation of material / textural organization would prove an evolved method of display for a museum searching for its contemporary voice.








































































































employment classification # businesses # employees $ mean payroll $ mean annual shipments received / ratio of $ payroll to # employees % of all Oakland business % of all Oakland employees % of all Oakland payroll avg. % of all Oakland shipments



SOME KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER AS YOU PERUSE THE DESIGN PORTION OF THIS EXERCISE. 1. The Bay Area’s Museum Climate - hundreds of millions poured into cultural institutions and new museums 2. Understanding Oakland’s Problems & Crimespotting - centralize the problem and encourage creativity 3. Street art, graffiti and the museum - put street art ON the museum, not IN it - to preserve authenticity 4. The Kaiser Convention Center - creative reuse and adaptation; urban planning the lake front 5. The Evolution of the Bilbao Effect - consider not only the international arts community, but the local one 6. CVA Quote: Museums must adapt themselves to new forms of distribution to escape obsolescence; the need for the Bilbao effect to address the local history and environment instead of obliterating it

These diagrams are a demonstration of the parametric script that was used to design the overall form of the building. Grasshopper was used to create apertures and topographical transformations at various intervals based on attractor points. Proximity to these points also dictated whether a section of the surface would move up or down. The idea was to create a continuous, useable lawn to reconnect the Western edge of Lake Merritt to the museum.


ABOVE: View of the new storage facility (left) and the existing OMCA (right) from the Alameda County Courthouse on a summer morning. The surface of the museum would be open day and night, free of charge. BELOW: View from existing museum out to the lake on an early summer morning. Patrons could walk from atop the existing museum onto the surface of the new museum via steps created by the same strip tectonic.



Model photographs showing the evolution of the strip. Analogous photos outlined in same color. The decision to make a lamp model was in reaction to the horrendous waste of material inherent in architectural model making. 50

Projection and the cultivation of nested interiors


ABOVE: projections of digital archives could be changed frequently and in response to user interaction. BELOW: artifacts would be displayed embedded in concrete, in crates used for transportation, and in existing file cabinets and drawers to maximize the variety of user experience. Both images show how walls never reach the ceiling to maintain an air of openness and an ability to grasp most of the collection at the same time.


ABOVE: subterranean entrance from the existing Oakland Museum. BELOW: a pass-through would be open from Laney College to the Lake during operating hours.


CONNECTIVITY AND URBAN CANVAS In some sense, the building’s exterior would look like this. I am imagining the initial construction would reuse the demolition materials from gutting the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, creating a paneled system that would be color coded to indicate interior function and a fun visual collage aesthetic that would allow for continuous maintenance and minimal upkeep. The building could look like this, but then, not really - it should be covered in graffiti. There are other skin conditions - including portions of living roof, digital projection screens showing information about vandalism in the city, and space for informal after hours dining at spaces conducive to food cart presence. Tell your own story. Use it how you like, day, night, or in between. Temporal destination, a dynamic and living entity on the salty shores of Lake Merritt.



ABOVE: The strip system allows the front facade to pull apart to allow views from within the re-configured Kaiser Convention Center out to the lake. These walkways, suspended above the ground, would provide access to program boxes within that could be swiveled to create clusters and piecemeal exhibitions. BELOW: Views to the west would provide the true monumental quality of the museum, almost like an octopus reaching out toward the user and the lake with various paths of connection and many opportunities for choice.


ABOVE: The road apertures would provide viewing opportunities through recycled broken glass to glimpse the art and artifact within the museum. BELOW: the exterior surface would be a melange of recycled material; the interior floor would remain concrete though, drawing attention to the seamless inclusion of the urban ground within the museum. This fuses the three distinct entities, Roche / Dinkeloo’s museum, the new addition and storage space, and the sidewalk itself.



The design was primarily conceived in section, as a new way of conceptualizing the relationship of the user to the building. Conventionally, museum projects are designed and sequenced in plan as a way of controlling the visitor’s experience. Even in flexible spaces, exhibitions are designed around Pontus Hueltan’s core concept of museum as a city, which he implemented as the first director for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.


The sectional transfers are made possible by the nature of the building’s construction: in a number of instances what is floor becomes wall becomes cieling; this continuity allows for large, expansive open space within the storage exhibition spaces, but also allows patrons to climb up and over almost every visible surface of the architecture. This also allows for maximum space for graffiti and expression at all times of day.









KEY 1. subterranean OMCA entry 2. publicly accessible atrium 3. vehicular & pedestrian entry N 4. vehicular & pedestrian entry S 5. truss boxes in existing Kaiser Center 6. gallery conservation & restoration station 7. scrim projection gallery spaces 8. exterior concert bleachers and restaurant. 9. sunken lake aperture for underwater observation 10. special / traveling exhibition gallery The plan of the museum is reconfigureable; using the same organizational flows from west to east throughout the site, myriad functional systems are controlled with the same fundamental move. Smaller exhibition pods could be sized according to tracks laid out on the museum’s floor; moveable lightweight scrims slide along embedded floor tracks, providing space for hanging or projecting artifacts. At the same time, enclosed spaces could be easily configured to provide an area for conservators to work directly in the gallery spaces, restoring artifacts as they need attention. This type of transparency of operation is a hallmark of the evolved Bilbao Effect - using the building to show the functionality of the institution rather than obscuring it to become merely a sculptural form in its own right. The form should respond to the needs of the museum, the city and the citizen, each at a different scale, pace, and routine.

N 60





3 7

6 2




SUMMARY The main challenge inherent with adequately summarizing a year-and-a-half long endeavor is that, all throughout the process, I have had no measure of success, no precedent to live up to, no discrete method for self-evaluation that could really tell me whether or not my idea is worthwhile or a load of bull. As I have come to realize time and again, this is the thesis experience, as well as the architecture experience. The work is soul crushing and agonizing at its worst, vaguely rewarding and forward-thinking at its best. It is hard to escape the bubble, to step back and really look at the work in the context of the rest of the world. Regardless of the nature of the beast, in my own conclusions I still find the future of museum architecture quite an interesting entity to consider as we continue to soar as a rocket, ever forward through time. We are arriving at a critical boiling point of worldwide culture as we know it. The world stage for museum architecture is equally tumultuous, a stirring and evocative reminder of the state of the planet. Even at present, many major institutions like the MAXXI Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, designed by Zaha Hadid, are failing because they simply can’t function at a macro- or micro- scale. They can’t retain a consistent patronage from the city they inhabit or from international visitors; they can’t reconcile their aesthetic conditions with the existing architecture of the place; they can’t seem to grapple with their identity as a larger urban move rather than a mere house for art and artifact. By personal measure, the second-best design object I made all semester was a calendar for selfevaluation of progress. After a quick decision in the early runnings to broaden the rating from the tooreductive thumbs up or down to include thumbs left or right, I was able to track my progress and my successes and failures throughout the semester. This is probably the most comprehensive explanation of the influences and motivations behind my work over the course of the semester. I’m not sure I ever coherently gave a comprehensive description of my work and its origins in the 10 minutes we had to present our work at various increments. Despite the overwhelmingly negative tone of the criticism I received over the past six months regarding my design work, I personally felt like I was making progress. The final tally: Of the 113 days I considered to be considered as Spring 2K12, 60 days (53.1% of days) were thumbs up, 36 days (31.9% of days) were thumbs down, and 17 days (15% of days) were thumbs neigh. This summary is, to repeat myself, reductive in many senses, but is fairly indicative of my overall sentiment about my experience at Berkeley in general. More than half of the time I felt assured in my convictions and inspired by the University as a comprehensive sum total of all of its parts (facilities, faculty, location, expense, etc.). About a third of the time I was unsatisfied, left feeling like I had wasted my time either deliberately or as a result of architecture pedagogy and undergraduate courses to fulfill my requirements. The other 15% was just Berkeley Time - incapacitating ambivalence. THUMBS UP











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