I was recently honoured by being commissioned to design a new art museum on the corner of Mary Street. Instead of the long and drawn out tendering process, the city planner called me personally at home and asked me if I’d be interested in the exciting project, to which I immediately replied in the affirmative. It wasn’t all to go my way though. The city planner was rigid when it came to the build time and the only other consideration was that this project came in on budget, under all circumstances and no matter what.
After giving it some thought, I sat down at my desk and in what seemed like no time, I had the building designed and planned.
The cost was cut seventy-five percent by my decision to display the museum’s collection on the exterior instead of the interior. There are many advantages to this approach. Firstly, there is no need for an interior at all, so the entire structure is poured as one solid, monolithic concrete block (steel reinforced). This building therefore has no power or lighting service requirements, no lift or fire services, nor mechanical services (air conditioning).
The gallery director was at first horrified that should her entire collection of paintings be exposed to the elements on a constant basis, they would indeed suffer physical damage. I put her mind at ease by pointing out that all paintings are varnished by the artist for the very purpose of protecting the paint, and so there was definitely no reason to be concerned. I suggested the Drawings and Prints department be donated to a university or something, to be on the safe side.
The design time was reduced dramatically by my choice to place a no parking zone outside the corner location which dispensed with the tedious drawing of cars in the street.
No project of this dimension is free of a hiccup or two.
Firstly, pouring such an monumental block of concrete generated such heat that paint peeled from passing cars and workers complained of high temperatures. We also lost many rubber boots to the deep, wet cement. Secondly, we found that affixing the canvasses to solid steel-reinforced concrete to be an absolute headache as some of the workers forgot to use hammer set anchors and the nails just kept bending. Finally, with the gallery curators standing on the roof of a carpark on the opposite side of Mary Street using megaphones and calling “left a bit… right… up… down a bit… no DOWN… that’s it!…” it all began to get on the workers’ nerves resulting in many sick days being called in, which set the finish date back some.
A radical design, the cautious town planner argued for false doors to be added to pay lip service to the more traditional designs of the surrounding buildings.
However, the good news is that the Museum of Outside Art came in well under budget and three months earlier than expected, much to the pleasure of the City.