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Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as "a celebration of the sky"

United States Architecture News - Jul 20, 2023 - 17:48   2358 views

Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as

Studio Other Spaces (SOS), led by artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann, has created a gant glass and mirrored canopy enveloping the courtyard of the Seymour H. Knox Building at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum in the United States

Created as part of a larger master plan transformation of the museum, led by OMA New York office partner Shohei Shigematsu, the installation, called Common Sky, is envisioned as a canopy of glass and mirrors enveloping the courtyard of the Seymour H. Knox Building. 

The Seymour H. Knox Building, which was originally designed by American architect Gordon Bunshaft and completed in 1962, are the main program elements of the campus as part of the larger masterplan, alongside the new Jeffrey E. Gundlach Building, and the design of the new John J. Albright Bridge.

Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as

Image © Studio Other Spaces

The original - strictly modernist building is complemented by Common Sky’s organic shape, which rhymes with the forms found in the surrounding landscape, such as the trees, winding paths, clouds, and shafts of sunlight.

The renewed and vastly expanded campus of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum was led by OMA New York Partner Shohei Shigematsu and in collaboration with executive architect Cooper Robertson. It is the most significant campus expansion and development project in the museum’s 160-year history.

SOS's Common Sky artwork was designed as a sculpture and an architectural structure to provide a space that is free and open to the public. The installation reflects the museum’s vision of a twenty-first-century art institution of inclusion.

Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as

Image © Studio Other Spaces

"Common Sky is a celebration of the sky as common," said SOS.

"The glass roof acts as a lens, inviting people to connect with their immediate environment, while bringing the ephemeral qualities of the atmosphere into focus: the changing seasons, the dappled light, and the cloud formations." 

"The alternating mirror and transparent glass panels emphasize physical movement as a means to shape space, making visitors visible within the work, and prompting them to co-create fragmented inward and outward perspectives," the studio added. 

The artwork's mirrors and transparent glass panels are positioned in various angles, with kaleidoscopic reflections that frame unexpected views as people move around the courtyard below.

Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as

Image © Marco Cappelletti

"Common Sky is a dynamic, sculptural statement that combines a geometric language and a playful, poetic approach," said Olafur Eliasson, artist and co-founder of SOS. 

"As an artwork, it sensitizes you to the world outside, to the surrounding environment of Buffalo." 

"It draws your attention to things that are difficult to measure, and to things that depend on emotion and on your active involvement. If you don't get involved, nothing will change," Eliasson added.

The geometry of the canopy forms a trajectory across the courtyard, from a triangular pattern at the roof’s edges to a hexagonal pattern towards the middle. 

In cross-section, the roof structure has two levels, which are covered by alternating mirror surfaces. These reflect sunlight and minimize heat gain, which is necessary for environmental reasons. 

The distribution of hexagons and triangles thus also serves to balance the opening and closing of the roof. Even though nearly half of the surface is closed, the space feels open and airy. The structure curves and reaches down to the ground at a single off-center point of support, maintaining an asymmetry of space. 

Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as

Image © Studio Other Spaces

This funnel-like column marks the spot where a lone hawthorn tree, planted in the 1960s, once stood, evoking a memorial to what came before. 

The presence of this feature means that the roof structure need not impose a new support system on the building. It also adds movement and, like a hollow tree trunk, draws the outside elements in – whether rain, snow, leaves, or light.

"The structure forms a unique design that takes into account all of the surrounding elements from the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, including the park, and neighboring buildings," explained Sebastian Behmann, architect and co-founder of SOS. 

"We created a site-specific artwork that amplifies the existing situation and combines it with the idea of a modern courtyard. We hope visitors enjoy this new space that is accessible to everyone all year round, in all weather conditions, without a ticket, and where public events can be held," Behmann added.

Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as

Image © Studio Other Spaces

Studio Other Spaces designed Common Sky to create a connection between the historic museum and the adjacent Delaware Park. 

Inspired by the intense weather patterns of the City of Buffalo, and the lush park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, it strives to form space with non-classical architectural elements that are already inherent to the site, while also honoring the original architecture. 

Each element of the canopy was developed especially for Buffalo AKG Art Museum, in collaboration with engineer Herwig Bretis from Germany-based ArtEngineering, and Petersberg-based steel constructor Hahner Technik.

Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as

Floor plan

Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as

East elevation

Studio Other Spaces adds glass canopy to Buffalo museum's courtyard as

Section

Project facts

Project name: Common Sky

Architects: Studio Other Spaces

Client: Buffalo AKG Art Museum 

Location: Buffalo, NY, USA

Date: 2019–23

Top image © Marco Cappelletti.

All drawings courtesy of Studio Other Spaces.

> via Studio Other Spaces 

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