Grand Rapids Art Museum

by | 10. Aug 2012

Cultural | Feature | Sustainable

Photo courtesy wHY Architecture

The new Grand Rapids Art Museum occupies one city block in the heart of Grand Rapids; a city well known for its legacy and influence on commerce, craft and modern design.

GRAM is the first art museum in the world to receive a LEED certified status.


Photo courtesy wHY Architecture

Together with the sculpture “Ecliptic” by Maya Lin, located in the adjacent park, the site is an urban oasis surrounded by tall buildings.
The design stresses both the symbolic need of a museum to be a civic icon within the city, and the humanistic needs for people to have their own experience with art. It is grand in its presence, and intimate in the experience.

The projecting canopies, like large canopies of trees extend up and reach out to frame the park and the city, similar to the Japanese concept of “borrowed scenery”.

The sheltering canopy defines a place for multiple urban activities, as a gathering place for people.

The design for Grand Rapids Art Museum attempts to synergize the differences; the building is monumental in its civic symbol, yet intimate and warm in experience. It is earth friendly and art focus. It aims to make people feel most comfortable, yet trigger them to see and to think.
/Kulapat Yantrasast

Photo courtesy wHY Architecture


Photo courtesy wHY Architecture

The front of the building is formed like fingers extending into the green of the park.
Museum lobby, restaurant, education center are projecting pavilions towards the park with pockets of nature between them that slow people down from the hectic pace of urban life.
The presence of nature within allows visitors to reach a state of repose, adjust their eyes and conscience state for the art to come. Layers of screening – louvers, glass and shades soften the light and calm the mind.


Photo courtesy wHY Architecture


Photo courtesy wHY Architecture


Photo courtesy wHY Architecture

The inner sanctum is the 3-level gallery tower where top floor galleries are lit with lantern skylights serving as light sources to the galleries, as well as illuminating “beacons” in the urban night sky. The changing of time is sensed in the changing light in the galleries.


Photo courtesy wHY Architecture


Photo courtesy wHY Architecture


Photo courtesy wHY Architecture


Photo courtesy wHY Architecture

Being one of the very first art museums in the US designed with the goal for LEED certification, the use of natural light in the building was carefully planned.


Drawing courtesy wHY Architecture First Floor Plan

Most public areas have natural light, galleries receive light from top lantern skylights as well as large windows; connecting art to surrounding urban life.

The design emphasizes the important balance of both the exterior openness and the interior calmness. Visitors can enjoy the uplifting quality of light in the galleries as well as the outdoors under the canopy.


Drawing courtesy wHY Architecture Third Floor Plan



Drawing courtesy wHY Architecture Section




Drawing courtesy wHY Architecture Section Diagram




CITY Grand Rapids, Michigan
ARCHITECT Aaron Loewenson
Design Plus, Inc.
Doug P. Smith