(ai) gallery’s urban image
The design of the Art Interactive Gallery facade, landscape, and signage was the result of WINNING an open INTERNATIONAL DESIGN COMPETITION.
The competition was challenging in its requirements & limitations. It called for the complex program of a new public image, signage, a new entrance, and light control/blackout capability; but was restricted by a budget of $2,000, the historic modernist structure (by Jose Luis Sert) into which it fit, the city’s rather conservative architecture and signage laws, and construction by unskilled volunteers.
This winning entry - entitled “Facade Masterplan” - offered the gallery flexibility. The design described a system (a set of rules) that would accomplish all of the programmatic requirements at varying cost options, capable of being altered in time with more funding. It pushed the notion of "interactive" to a poetic level - through reflection and ability to change - while fitting within the parameters of the historic building.
ORIGINAL BUILDING CONCEPTS (JOSE LUIS SERT’s): A light box floats above a “public” base. The temple-like, red door entrance is framed by large columns, and a large “lintel”. The rhythm of the windows is like music in a forest.
CURRENT EVENTS (EXISTING CONDITION): The base is in competition with the floating box because the lower windows are covered up oddly... The rhythm cannot be read. The red doors, mistaken for the now closed main entrance (not wheelchair accessible), tell visitors that the gallery, and the building, is closed.
DESIGN PROPOSAL: Using dark and strong colors within the window units allows the white mullions, and thus the beautiful rhythm, to become evident. Color is woven through so that the facade comes to life playfully as a whole. Urban scale arrows direct to the main entrance. Signage pops out. Reflective film allows the facade to “interact” with its surroundings. Black draperies provide light control and flexibility in transparency. All these inserts fit within architectural parameters: displays must take up space of entire window.
The design says that interaction is not gadget related, but about the ability of one thing to act upon another... Such as the trees acting upon the glass, such as changing internal events, and time, acting upon the facade.
COMPETITION ANNOUNCEMENT: “Ioana Urma’s winning design, facade masterplan... resolved the complex competition brief in a feasible and aesthetically dramatic manner, enhancing the present and future public image of the Art Interactive. [It provides] for the variable programmatic needs of a contemporary gallery, re-ordering the existing facade, addressing the desire for pedestrian and street scale signage, and achieving this within the economic realities of the proposed construction project.”
“[The design] thoughtfully and sensitively re-conceptualizes the ground floor exterior of the Sert building. It provides an enduring public image for the Art Interactive at both human and urban scales, and, at the same time, offers a flexible and feasible solution to the changing needs of the exhibition program. The Art Interactive looks forward to collaborating with Ms. Urma to realize this elegant project.”
- The Art Interactive, April 2003
Post-competition work involved building and using a 1/4" study model as a form of discussion/design collaboration with the Client(s), the Landlord, the City of Cambridge Community Development Department, the Cambridge Historical Commission, and the City’s Signage Review for approval and fundraising. The material budget was thereby increased to $10,000 (still low for something so big).
Based on this collaboration several big items were revised:
1. increased permeability of the street level storefront (for street safety)
2. replacement of the (more expensive) lightboxes with paint
3. increased budget for the landscape in front
4. the pedestrian alley space was added to the project The design also changed to account for the fact that all construction work was unskilled volunteer labor.
Aside from design, the project required a detailed breakdown of the construction costs, with several bids for each material, and construction supervision.
16’ tall x 160’ long walls + 1,000 sq ft landscape
Reflective Film, Paint, Aluminum, Plywood, Blackout Shades, CMU, Gravel
Central Square, Cambridge, MA
INTL. COMPETITION WINNER
Art Interactive International Exterior Facade Competition, April 2003
1. Winnie Wong, “Congratulations to Ioana Urma!”, AI:files, A Newsletter for the Art Interactive, Issue 003, Summer 2003.
2. Joanne Silver, ”Also of note” in “Gainsborough: portraits of an artist: MFA exhibit shows the British artist's knack for portraits and love of landscapes”, The Boston Herald, June 2003.
3. Stanford Anderson, Foundations, Newsletter of the MIT Department of Architecture, May 2003.
The Art Interactive Gallery
Design, Cost Estimates, Construction Supervision:
Cost Estimate Assistant:
Emanuel Lewin & AI gallery volunteers (except 3M reflective film by 3M certified installer)
Ioana Urma, except left photo #10 by Catherine D'Ignazio