CLYFFORD STILL MUSEUM

Museum

Denver, CO

2006

While the breadth and flexibility of most art collections require buildings disassociated from the work they contain, the museum devoted to a single artist has a 1:1 relationship; one body to one building. The museum can be its own biography, catalogue, and textbook. In the case of Clyfford Still, this possibility becomes a mandate dictated by his will and his disdain for the conventions of the museum, requiring his work to be shown alone with no distractions, no restaurant, no auditorium and no bookstore.

The proposal takes as its representational challenge the mythos of the abstract expressionist painter intersecting that of the cowboy and individualistic ethos of the American west. Freed from the ground, the galleries float above a transparent space for educational functions.

Visitors enter the galleries by ascending a stair that gradually erases context, leaving only a framed view of the sky and a wash of natural light. Clues from Still’s paintings find parallel valences in architecture: exposed edges of walls reveal their built up surfaces, exterior views are transformed into edited images, and fissures of exterior space punctuate the galleries providing pauses to refresh the eye and mind.

Since only a selection of Still’s work will be in the galleries at one time, the total collection is revealed to the public in a “live storage” gallery, a coda to the museum experience. A wheat field replaces the traditional landscaping elements at the entrance to the building and covers a thermal mass labyrinth that assists in naturally cooling and warming the building. The roof is conceived as a phototropic surface: it leans toward the south to collect energy through photovoltaic cells, while the galleries draw diffuse light from the north.

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