Global Contemporary Art Museum

This 165,000-square-foot exhibition and art storage facility for contemporary art adapts the economical and flexible building system of industrial sheds and the scale, massing, and form of early industrial mill buildings, such as those seen at the nearby Mass MoCA. Its goal is to be the “least expensive museum in the world” with a budget of less than $200/sf, or one tenth of the cost of typical “world-class” contemporary museum construction today.

To this end, a repeating, prefabricated steel structure and envelope create series of long, linear bays, providing the large-scale, flexible space required for changing exhibitions of contemporary art. The steel structure rests on a slab-on-grade foundation, typical of big-box stores. Each bay includes a north-facing translucent skylight-monitor to provide daylight and reduce lighting energy consumption, a major operational expense for museums. The insulated panel building roof is left exposed from the interior, and mechanical distribution is routed through open-web truss roof structure, concealed by translucent scrims.

The building is punctuated by a 140’ x140’ column-free gallery and a series of courtyards. These elements enable orientation, circulation and provide moments of relief within the larger, repetitive structure of the building. The project is divided into two structures, a 35,000-square-foot art storage wing that reaches to the road, and the main 130,000-square-foot exhibition facility.

Located at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and Massachusetts State Route 2, the building is part of an active municipal airport complex. The client demanded that the building’s footprint extend to be as large as possible, while avoiding site setbacks, wetlands, and right-of-ways. The building is split into two volumes to allow a proposed North Adams-Williamstown Bike path to pass through the site.