Sometimes architects design buildings that, intentionally or otherwise, look like something else – Lord Norman Foster’s cucumber-shaped office tower in London, for example. Its nickname is “The Gherkin.”
Other times, buildings are intended to look like nothing in particular. The Tampa Museum of Art is such a building.
“It doesn’t symbolize or express anything,” architect Stanley Saitowitz said at the opening of the $26.6 million, 66,000-square-foot building in February 2010. It is a neutral box, “a scaffold, to be completed by its contents.”
More Florida Buildings I Love
He described it as “a hyphen between the ground and sky.”
The building’s appearance as a silver monolith perched on a knoll above the Hillsborough River is interrupted only by a single gash at the entrance and two large cubic forms removed from the west and south facades that create viewing platforms. There are few windows.
During the day, the building’s appearance changes with the weather, thanks to its cladding: twin layers of perforated aluminum panels set a few inches apart and slightly off center. There are 900,000 circular holes, each 3 inches in diameter.
Clouds and sunlight play off the gray aluminum. At night, LEDs in the walls provide a light show.
“I didn’t want the facade to present any image or any particular kind of meaning,” said Saitowitz, of San Francisco’s Natoma Architects. “The idea of the two layers of perforated metal, which are shifted to create moiré patterns, was to provide a kind of lively and changing facade.
“So it is almost like looking at the flowing of water. Clouds actually reflect and create another layer of patterning on the moiré. So it was trying to make something that works like nature but is a machine.”
Adding to the drama is a plaza that’s sheltered by a 40-foot-wide cantilevered overhang. Views to the south over Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park take in what’s left of Kiley Garden and the Tampa skyline.
The building, also known as the Cornelia Corbett Center, has 14,000 square feet of galleries. It was built as part of a program to revitalize the riverfront in the area around the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
“The museum is a hovering presence, which glides above the park. It is in the landscape, but also a piece of the landscape,” Saitowitz said.
“Florida Buildings I Love” is Harold Bubil’s homage to the Sunshine State’s built environment. This story originally ran Ap, 2017.