Utah Museum Of Fine Arts

by | 15. Aug 2012

Cultural | Feature

Photo: Michael Moran

The project evolved into a continuous succession of stepping prismatic volumes that wrap around as they ascend and culminate in the tall central space. This organization creates a spiral-like crescendo of discrete volumes, each one associated with specific and distinct programmatic elements.

Thus, the lowest corresponds to the auditorium, the next to the entrance and public services (such as the restaurant and bookstore), followed by art education, permanent galleries, etc. These terminate in the Grand Gallery, an icon against the dramatic natural setting, which dominates the ensemble and is crowned by a halo of green glass that marks it by night and day from the inside and outside as the building’s centerpiece.

To reinforce this strategy, each of the volumes is distinguished from the others by a distinct and subtle combination of two different colors of brick, creating a unique pattern for each volume.

Photo: Michael Moran

During the competition stage for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, our ideas developed within the guidelines provided by the master plan. For us this implied more than just following established specifications for the building’s placement: it required that the architecture of the new museum acknowledge and exploit its privileged location at the terminus of the campus mall and its unique condition as a free-standing artifact seen against the spectacular backdrop of the Wasatch Mountain Range. These potential attributes also suggested that the museum could afford visitors and users unique views out of the building in all directions, a condition rare to museums.

As for its architectural context, the reverse was also true: the campus area surrounding the site offered little in terms of architectural features that may either impress or inspire our design. In addition, given the museum’s stated programmatic intentions, we decided early on to make the proposed Grand Gallery the centerpiece of the project, its tallest and most representative space – indeed to make it a powerful, singular space.

/Machado and Silvetti

3-utah_museum_of_fine_arts.jpgPhoto: Michael Moran

4-utah_museum_of_fine_arts.jpgPhoto: Michael Moran

Photo: Michael Moran

This results in a gradation of five different tones for the five volumes – from darkest (for the auditorium) to lightest (for the Grand Gallery). Large protruding window volumes inset at the outer corners intensify the thrust of these volumes’ centripetal and upward movement. From all sides and perspectives, the museum appears as a commanding, dynamic, and abstract composition of articulated volumes, colors, and light.

Photo: Michael Moran

Photo: Michael Moran

Inside, the visitor is also drawn into this dynamic play of volumes and light by the tension developed between the easy, straightforward, and well-scaled circulation system that follows the organization of the galleries, and the Grand Gallery’s powerful diagonal force created by the relationship between the entry point and the over-scaled corner window.

The visitor is thus constantly challenged by two realities: first, that of the exhibition spaces which are entirely subordinated to the display of the collection; and second, that of the Grand Gallery’s distortions of all normal parameters of light, scale, and function.

Model photo courtesy Machado and Silvetti Associates

Drawing courtesy Machado and Silvetti Associates
Site Plan



CITYSalt Lake City
ARCHITECTMachado And Silvetti Associates
Peter Lofgren
Prescott Muir Architects
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTGarr Campbell Associates