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The heated competition between art and architecture is crystal clear when we talk about museums. Grand museums are not visited only for the precious content they hold, but also because of the aesthetics of their design that appeal to the public. Creating a museum design is a great honour for architects, as it enables them to carve their names in the memories of the generations to come. In tribute to these great architectural buildings and the value they present, we present you a selection of some of the most mesmerizing museum designs spread across the globe.
Article Originally Published On December 12, 2014
The Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum (Oscar Niemeyer, Niteroi, Brazil, 1996)
The museum design was the result of a collaboration between the prominent Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and structural engineer Bruno Contarini. The art venue, which resides on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, has a futuristic design that resembles an alien spaceship.
The museum design represents Niemeyer’s affection for undulating forms. He wished the museum design would look like a flower making its way through the rocky lands. The museum design is naturally encircled by a reflecting pool, and the entrance is very distinct with its spiralling red ramp.
The Louvre Museum (Paris, France, 1793)
The ancient museum offers three 360-degree tours to visit several exhibitions like the Egyptian wing. The Louvre contains 380,000 valuable pieces of human heritage as well as displays 35,000 art pieces.
The objects on display vary from paintings, archaeological findings, relics, and sculptures. It is the most visited museum around the globe as it receives 15,000 visitors per day.
The Museo Soumaya (Fernando Romero, Mexico City, Mexico, 1994)
Funded by Carlos Slim, the 6-floor Museo Soumaya holds various types of art pieces from Europe and Mexico, and its building cost 47 million EUR.
The avant-garde design features a shiny structure that brings to mind the sculptures of Auguste Rodin. The exterior is composed of 16,000 polygonal Aluminium panels which are responsible for the twinkling effect.
The Guggenheim Bilbao (Frank Gehry, Basque Country, Spain, 1997)
The Guggenheim Bilbao museum overlooks the Nervión River, and it was created from glass, limestone, and Titanium. Its curvaceous design resembles a bunch of flowers growing by the river. The effect which the museum had on the development of its surrounding area was massive.
The industrial port city of Bilbao generally witnessed what is known as the “Bilbao Effect”—a term used now to describe the influence of commissioning a “starchitect” to design a world-class cultural facility on revitalizing the economic state of a city.
The Hanoi Museum (GMP Architect, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2010)
The museum design is an upside-down pyramid which displays the heritage of Hanoi over the last 1000 years.
The building has an atrium from which all of the exhibition floors can be entered. The design also offers shade to the bottom floors and augments the efficient use of energy.
The Jewish Museum (Daniel Libeskind, Berlin, Germany, 2001)
The museum resides at Lindenstrasse in Berlin, and it comprises an old Baroque-style building in addition to a new annex, designed by Daniel Libeskind.
The new building’s plan takes the form of a zigzag, featuring sharp angles, dark and narrow paths, interior walls of bare concrete, as well as a titanium-zinc facade with minimal openings. The museum aims to document the history of the Jews of Germany and commemorate the Holocaust.
The Museum of Islamic Art (I.M.Pei, Doha, Qatar, 2008)
The museum, which overlooks the Arabian Gulf, is composed of a 5-floor building that is linked to an education centre by a vast courtyard. I.M.Pei’s design was inspired by Islamic architecture, specifically the mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Egypt.
The atrium has a high dome inside the main tower in addition to an oculus which transmits daylight. At the north side of the museum design, there is a 45-meter-high window which offers great views of the gulf. The angular features of the building go in keeping with the Islamic Art pieces which the museum displays.
Denver Art Museum (Studio Libeskind, Denver, Colorado, USA, 2006)
The Denver Art Museum had an addendum designed by Studio Libeskind as an extension to the 45-year-old main building, designed by Italian modernist Gio Ponti. The annexe was necessary to keep up with the development of Denver.
The new building now contains collections of Contemporary and Modern Art. Moreover, it houses the Oceanic and African Art collections. The architects worked, hand in hand, with the museum’s head, curators, Board of Trustees, and the contractor. The museum design is now one of the iconic buildings in Denver that attract thousands of people every year.
The Louis Vuitton Foundation (Frank Gehry, Paris, France, 2014)
The $143 million-worth art venue resides at the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris. It is not only a museum but also a cultural centre designed to encourage contemporary art. It is composed of two floors which encompass 11 exhibitions.
The cloud-like design was meant to appear as if floating against gravity and to “provoke visual ruptures that reinterpret perspectives.” The museum design respects the Grand Palais with its grand glazed features.
Louvre-Abu Dhabi (Jean Nouvel, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2017)
The Middle-eastern branch of the Louvre had several construction setbacks because of the global financial crisis, but it has been recently opened. Its curvaceous design, by Pritzker Prize-winner Jean Nouvel, features a white façade overlooking the blue waters of the Arabian Gulf. It was inspired by Al Ain, which is an oasis emirate, in addition to the Islamic and Arabic architecture.
The $650 million-worth museum showcases 300 art pieces from 13 important institutions in France, including the Louvre, Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Musee d’Orsay. “La Belle Ferroniere” for Leonardo da Vinci, “Saint-Lazare” for Claude Monet, and “Still Life with Magnolia” for Henri Matisse.
The Broad Museum (Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Los Angeles, USA, 2015)
Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s design for the Broad was driven by two key concepts: first, the much-publicized idea of “the veil and the vault” which controlled the project’s organizational layout and structure; second, the idea of the visitor experience, which culminated in the building’s main route up an escalator to the exhibition floor and then back down a set of stairs where the public gets a glimpse of the museum’s archive.
This focus on simple logic and on visitor experience has made The Broad one of LA’s most popular museums.
National Museum of Qatar (Atelier Jean Nouvel, Doha, Qatar, 2016)
Atelier Jean Nouvel used colliding white discs to create the distinct exterior of National Museum of Qatar. After almost 10 years in the making, the landmark building opened in March.
The museum surrounds an early 20th-century palace, which is also part of the visitor experience. Inside, a mile-long elliptical path follows the chronological history of Qatar, from its prehistoric beginnings to the present day.
The Shed (Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group, New York, USA, 2019)
The Shed is an eight-storey museum in New York’s Hudson Yards development. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group, the museum design‘s translucent polymer-clad roof is can be moved to shelter a space that almost doubles the building’s size.
A sled drive pushes the U-shaped steel frame along a pair of 80-metre-long rails, so the venue can transform depending on the requirements of different artists using the space.
The Pompidou Center (Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, Paris, France, 1977)
Over the past 40 years, the Centre Pompidou in Paris has been called many things, from an architectural King Kong to an overgrown construction project with never-ending scaffolding. But the city’s most iconic modern building has slowly become a beloved treasure, now praised for its multi-colored, inside-out design.
The museum design is the work of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, along with Arup engineers and Gianfranco Franchini, who designed the structure to be a column-less, flexible interior space for exhibitions. The Pompidou is so firmly situated in the canon of French culture that the government just approved a $106 million facelift. It’s also one of the city’s most popular tourist spots.
The Bundeswehr Museum of Military History (Dresden, Germany, 2011)
Consisting of two separate parts—an arsenal that was built in the 1870s and a new extension designed and completed in 2011 by American architect Daniel Libeskind—the Bundeswehr Museum of Military History is a perfect example of how cultural institutions are blending the modern and the historic.
Shaped like a wedge, the five-story Libeskind addition uses steel and glass to cut through the heart of the old structure. A 98-foot high rooftop viewing platform provides a view of Dresden’s skyline to the west, while pointing in the opposite direction toward the source of the fire-bombs that devastated the city in 1945. The German government had shut down the museum in 1989, unsure how it fit into the program of a newly unified German state.
Stay with us to discover more museum designs