Making Public Buildings

Museum of Contemporary Art

Cydney Payton, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver (1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org), has programmed the place to the max, and shows are constantly opening and closing there. One that's on the way out soon is Making Public Buildings, a traveling show with special relevance to the MCA.

The exhibit focuses on the career of David Adjaye, the African-born British architect who won a competition to design the fabulous and flexible MCA building, situated at the west end of LoDo. Though the building opened last fall, the final touches — and touchups — have only been completed in the past month or so.

The exhibit, installed in various spots on the lower level, the ground floor and the second floor naturally includes a section devoted to the MCA itself. There's a model of the building (pictured), a massing model of the building in situ in the neighborhood, and a selection of samples of the materials that were used to clad it.

The exhibit, which highlights ten public buildings designed by Adjaye, reveals that the MCA is an exemplar of his signature style and seamlessly fits into the overall oeuvre. The influence of American architecture is also undeniable, especially the mid-century-modernist work of Phillip Johnson and Edward Durell Stone.

But the show also reveals how Adjaye was equally inspired by traditional African art, vernacular buildings and textiles — something he told me himself when I interviewed him while the building was still under construction. For example, at first glance, those vertical ribs on the MCA's exterior suggest a modernist revival, but when you notice that the ribs don't line up from floor to floor, you can see what Adjaye was talking about.

Because he uses rectilinear shapes, Adjaye's been accused of building boxes. However, since the opposing sides of his enclosures are not set parallel to one another, his boxes are literally coming apart at their seams. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the same thing happens to this show, because you need to move from place to place to take it all in.

Making Public Buildings closes on May 25.

 
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