The Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art

 

by Stanley Collyer

 


Tadao Ando © Laio (all other photos by author)

 

When you think of iconic libraries in the United States, Louis Kahn’s Kiimball Library in Fort Worth, Texas is one of the first that comes to mind. But space in the old existing Museum of Modern Art as well as in the Kahn building was limited; so in 1996 a competition was organized to select an architect, based on a winning design. The competition, which was documented in our quarterly (COMPETITIONS, Vol. 8,#1), was supplemented by an insightful article by the former Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington, George Wright. He mentioned that the competition took place at the same time that the competition was occurring for MOMA in New York, but that this did not deter architects from the first echelon from submitting their qualifications for a shortlist.

 

From that group, Tadao Ando from Japan won out over Richard Gluckman (New York), Arata Isozaki (Tokyo), Ricardo Legorreta (Mexico City), and David Schwartz (Dallas).

 

The brief stipulated that the new museum should “neither mimic the Kimball nor dispute its primacy.” As a very modern giant box with protruding galleries breaking up the façade by facing out into the lagoon, Ando’s design did neither. But its very spacious entrance and lobby area was an immediate sign that it was a different kind of museum. Consisting for the most part of large volumes, it was ideally designed to accommodate 21st Century art installations and art works.

 


Visiting such an important facility more than a decade after its opening was an opportunity to examine how the museum has stood the test of time. From my perspective, it is certainly one of the best museums dedicated solely to modern art that I have visited—a view affirmed by others accompanying me on this visit, most of whom were not architects but frequent museum visitors.

 

Aside from the many attributes of the main building, the landscaping, containing a large lagoon surrounding the structure, was also masterfully conceived. As a shallow element at the edge of the building, one could see an artwork by Jenny Holzer, illuminated words in red, carrying a message out of the building into the shallows. Also of special note, exemplifying the spatial attributes of the building, was Martin Puryear’s Ladder for Booker T. Washington (left), an obvious crowd favorite.

 

This building, exquisite in its finished concrete interior and spatial planning, with a flexibility to accommodate all kinds of modern art, is an example not only of good architecture in the broader sense, but also turning the landscape into an art form.

 


Martin Puryear – Ladder for Booker T. Washington

 

 

 

 

 

 

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