Wrapping and unwrapping season is now far behind but we are still thinking how architecture wraps and unwraps needs, atmospheres, volumes and shadows. Although there’s a myriad of projects, most of them are organised in boxes standing next to each other, forming straight streets. We are daily confronted with solid parallelepipeds that accommodate our daily life so our approach to them is instinctive, we simply go through the door and expect to find our way by recognizing the same pattern of spaces. We can easily identify the façades, the roof and the openings of a building without having to acknowledge its whole shape: we just assume all buildings work the same way.
The box shape is not only user’s comfort zone, it is the architect’s comfort zone as well. However, when it comes to museums, architects seem to have carte blanche to make a wrapping statement. Often disparagingly referencing at them as “objects” instead of buildings, museums receive harsh criticisms for being out of the box. Yet hey shouldn’t be judge for their capacity to blend in but for standing out and stimulating our perception of the space in order to act as a prelude for what it contains. The way the building unfolds must be an invitation to engage with culture and prepare us to open our minds.
When a building is presented in an unusual shape, our motion is suddenly challenged and it’s not anymore about only moving our gravity centre towards it but about finding the way to unveil it. Having the need to approach it is definitely the feeling a museum should give us at first glance. The Teshima Museum by Ryue Nishizawa, the Zinc Mine Museum by Peter Zumthor or the Guggenheim by Frank Lloyd Wright are examples of museums that are exciting to experience, perceiving them quickly make us want to see what’s behind.
Museums besides having a good insertion to the site or fulfilling all its program requirements, have to be an attractive spatial experience. Just as the excitement of unwrapping a present, a building that hosts culture needs to catch attention and be reachable at the same time, the perfect combination to let the knowledge be spread.