Akron Art Museum

Architype Dialogue presents

Wolf D. Prix

What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?

We wanted to redefine a museum not as a closed container for art, but as a vibrant public space. We resolved this through a lobby that is open to the public and can be used for exhibitions, events, fundraiser banquets, etc. In addition, we proposed a public sculpture garden. Since our building for the Akron Art Museum is an addition to the old, existing museum, we built a large roof that cantilevers over the old building, the new gallery space and the lobby, and becomes a sign for the new museum that is visible in the city.

Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?

In this project we – the architect – had a very good relationship with the client. This dialogue between architect and client made the exceptional building possible. I would say it the other way round: in this project we had the role the architect should have, solving the problems in dialogue with the client in a visionary way. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as overall we see a trend of the role of the architect declining.

How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?

The idea about public space is an answer to trends in society. As more and more space in our cities has been privatized in the last decades, especially in the United States, and still is privatized, it is a topic of many of our buildings, especially also cultural buildings, to re-define public space and give it back to the people.

The Akron Art Museum was designed in 2001 and realized until 2007. What technology is concerned, the 3D technology made possible, what one or two decades before that time would not have been so easy to build. Since the early 90ies we have utilized 3D digital models in combination with physical models to design and develop our projects. In Akron, this 3D model was used through construction to execute the complex form of the building. Working with such new possibilities of course also inspires the specific architectural solutions.

In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

In the last years, the digital age has brought many new tools to academia and the architecture practice. In the academic environment it is possible to experiment freely with those tools to see how they influence architecture, and it is also necessary to do so. Some of these ideas we can then bring into the practice as well. In the example of digital tools – such as scripting and parametric tools – specifically in the context of our office, they are not changing the way we design projects, but they add possibilities for certain aspects of a project.

In the practice for example, one new trend all over the world is energy. Our projects have always been energy intelligent, however, the current awareness towards this topic allows to bring these aspects of a building into the foreground and allows for much more radical ideas to be realized. Because of the overall awareness, the industry is also interested to share into developing new ideas and products, which opens possibilities at a very different scale. This trend about energy we can bring back into the academic world and have the students experiment further what this could mean for the development of architecture or even cities.

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