Page N3.2 . 07 November 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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Art of Ando in St. Louis


Upon entering the new Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts building, most visitors will cross to their left from the foyer/gallery to the building's east wing, which houses the principal galleries. This route takes them first into a central, double-height space, where a wall of windows opens a vista onto the terrace and reflecting pool. Two doors provide access to this exterior area. The principal gallery in the east wing provides an unbroken flow of space for 170 feet (52 meters), almost the full length of the building. It is daylit through a band of windows that look onto the pool and west wing.

Architecture and Art

From here, a stair descends to a dramatic double-height space top-lit by a skylight. Directly ahead, on the south wall of this space, is Blue Black, a two-panel work by Ellsworth Kelly, specially commissioned for this site.

"I knew from the start that certain works by Ellsworth Kelly and Richard Serra would be installed in this building," says Ando. "My goal, therefore, was to take to the limit the relationship between the works of art and the volume of the building's space."

Kelly's work is a simple rectangle of painted metal. Ando says: "You might think that anybody could have made this piece; and yet everything about it is exactly right the size, the proportions, the colors, the relationship of one part to another. It could be only what it is; it cannot be anything else.

"I hope to be able to say the same thing about my work. The building is just a box," Ando concedes. "But why it has to be exactly like this, with nothing added or subtracted and nothing altered, this is what I am careful about."

Touring the Galleries

From the top of the stair to the double-height gallery, the visitor has a choice of proceeding along a passage to the right or descending. The passage continues straight back, permitting views down to the lower level on one side and out to the pool on the other, and leads to a 22-foot- (7-meter) cube gallery.

On the lower level, to the right of the wall on which the Kelly work is installed, is another gallery, 22 feet (7 meter) square with a 10-foot (3-meter) ceiling. Both these volumes are lit with indirect daylight.

A stair or elevator leads to a glass pavilion and terrace on the roof of the west wing, which offer views across the immediate Grand Center district of St. Louis.

A descending series of stairs and ramps punctuated by terraces leads to Richard Serra's sculpture Joe. Named by the artist in honor of the late Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., the work is the first of Serra's torqued spiral series. This level will also provide access between the PFA and the courtyard of the Forum for Contemporary Art.

The whole building offers a sequence of spaces that, like the interaction of art and architecture, contribute to the definition of one another. "The surprise, the emotion, of how you perceive a space comes from what you see before and what you see after," Ando has said. "This is architecture."

He continues: "In the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, I have tried to get the maximum effect from this kind of composition. For example, the reflecting pool in the middle of the building is not very long, but you perceive it as long because the proportion is very narrow. A similar play of perception is involved in the asymmetry, or imbalance, of the building. You perceive each part in relation to another. Each part emphasizes what the other is.

"With the installation of the works by Kelly and Serra, you have yet another complication of these relationships. The space becomes even more interesting, even more layered. And the final layer will be the people who enter into the space, bringing their movement and experience. It is the interplay of all these factors that will create the effect of the building."

Fulfilling a Vision

Emily Rauh Pulitzer, founder and president of the PFA, says the building has exceeded the original vision, "particularly through the subtlety of the light and the drama of the natural elements as they interact with the precisely defined spaces of the interior and exterior."

"Just as there are two parallel wings in the PFA," she says, "there are also two parallel planes. One is the roof of the lower wing, which is planted with pygmy bamboo, and the other is the reflecting pool, which is situated adjacent to the wing and a story below: a plane of green and a plane of water.

"Because the water is affected by wind," says Pulitzer, "it casts constantly changing reflections into the building, which are remarkable. The result is a merger of art, architecture, and nature and yet the PFA is very much an urban building."

In summing up her hopes for the public's experience of the PFA, she returns to the founding purpose of the building: "One of our goals is to encourage individual experiences of contemporary art and contemporary architecture," she says.

"Quite simply, I hope that people will enjoy the tranquility of the setting, and enjoy seeing the works of art and the building in different lights. I also hope that people will feel the PFA is a meaningful addition to St. Louis." Pulitzer concludes: "If we elicit those responses, then I'll feel we're off to a good start."

With its characteristically sculptural presence, simultaneously striking and reserved, the new Ando building should satisfy and inspire the artistic community of St. Louis.

Project Credits

Design Architect: Tadao Ando
Architect of Record: Christner, Inc.
Construction Manager: Clarkson Consulting, Inc.
General Contractors: BSI Contractors, Zera Construction Company
Mechanical Engineers: Ove, Arup & Partners International, Clark Richardson and Biskup
Structural Engineer: Eqe-Theiss
Civil Engineer: Kuhlman Design Group, Inc.


ArchWeek Image

Between the two wings of the PFA building by Tadao Ando is a reflecting pool, perceived as longer than it really is because it is so narrow.
Photo: Robert Pettus

ArchWeek Image

A cantilevered roof slab extends from the higher wing over the lower.
Photo: Robert Pettus

ArchWeek Image

Despite its concrete walls facing the street, "the PFA is very much an urban building," says foundation president Emily Rauh Pulitzer.
Photo: Robert Pettus

ArchWeek Image

A torqued spiral sculpture by Richard Serra is named "Joe" in honor of the late Joseph Pulitzer, Jr.
Photo: Robert Pettus

ArchWeek Image

"Joe" by sculptor Richard Serra.
Photo: Robert Pettus

ArchWeek Image

Ando's stark forms create a setting for modern art.
Photo: Robert Pettus


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