I don’t think any building has impacted me as much as the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. I’ve seen some pretty amazing buildings in big cities such as Chicago, London, St. Petersburg, and Washington D.C that are huge and elegant and gilded in gold. I’ve also enjoyed some very impressive world-class art museums. The Broad Art Museum is small, a basement and two floors, with a small footprint but it packs a big wallop. There are three display rooms that are the typical, windowless rooms that hold a special display. I’m not going tell you about it because these rooms and this art could be most anywhere in the world.
Instead I am going to tell you about the building and the art and the building that is art, from the outside in. It is new and very modern. I am not turned off by modern but I’m not usually drawn into it. It doesn’t speak to my soul – until now. This is the full length of the building, completely covered with metal panels forming different patterns of light and shadow and lines. Even the bench and the landscaping become a part of the angular design. The whole exterior is covered with angular panels.
The two sides come to a point at one end (top image), with the main entrance in the shorter side of the triangular shaped structure and another entrance under the apex. It looks like an impenetrable fortress until I see glimpses inside. As I walk around the outside, lines and shapes draw me in and begin to open the structure ever so subtly. Let yourself be drawn in too, by clicking on the first photo of each gallery to see larger images.
The front entrance seems closed and hidden but as I move closer it opens up. I am drawn in by light panels on the ground that are designed to pull my eyes to the building. I am drawn in by the sculpture by the front entrance that feels softer and curved until closer inspection reveals that it, too, is angular. I am drawn in by the angular shapes and lines of the building that show me where to go. It plays with my emotions – holding me out while drawing me closer.
I walked in and stop, taking it in, surprised. It is a small space in area but not visually. Walls that are solid from the outside are filled with windows.
The solid fortress is open and full of light so that the inside and outside become one. As I move through the building, busy Grand River Avenue becomes a part of the art. This very modern building integrates with the older brick buildings of the campus.
I move further into the building and see that every detail becomes a work of art, the art of the architecture.
Most amazing is the integration of art and architectural form. When I walk into the first exhibition room I am drawn to the side wall. The art is subtle, almost not visible, feeling like a shadow.
I walk closer to see what makes the shadows, the movement, the undulating lines. This art isn’t hanging on the wall, it is a part of the wall. I look from multiple angles to see the pins, the string, the shadows of pins and string, and the glistening heads of pins. I step back to see the sum of the parts, repeating the process again and again.
There aren’t many pieces of art but all are artfully displayed and frequently seem to become a part of the architecture. I feel as if I am a part of the space and from this perspective the art becomes alive – interactive. As I move around the space, from side to side, from main floor to balcony, from room to room, the art interacts with light and architectural lines to form new images.
We were most intrigued with a sculpture of hexagons hanging on very thin threads. The tops are mirrors and the bottoms have designs painted on them so they reflect what is above as they gently move with the air currents caused by passing visitors. They also reflect the light from the windows, my clothing, and my camera lens. It is like an open air kaleidoscope; it is mesmerizing.
I walk across the gallery and sit on a bench to take in the room. I realize how much this sculpture is a part of the architecture, the architecture supports the sculpture, the architecture is a part of the art, and visitors become a part of the exhibit.
In fact I begin to notice that people become an important part of the interactive experience of this structure, of the art.
This is what a museum should be like. This stimulates my intellect that loves the interactive integration that results in a total that is greater than the sum of the individual parts. It excites my emotions because what is, is not what it seems to be.