Page D3.2 . 23 October 2002                     
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    Museum of Glass by Arthur Erickson


    Working behind the Scenes

    Having spent 15 years working in art museums, I am interested in the interior spaces, particularly for storing the collection and staging the exhibitions. The Museum of Glass has yet to decide if it will become a collecting institution, so currently there is no collection storage. Although there is a large holding area for incoming exhibitions, crates, and temporary walls, there is no plan in place for storing the dozens of glass objects that will be produced during daily hot shop demonstrations.

    The galleries, to the right of the Grand Hall, are basically one huge 13,000-square-foot (1200-square-meter) space, with 15-foot- (4.6-meter-) high ceilings. With as few as two permanent walls, the space can be configured in a myriad of ways with the use of temporary construction.

    But one always has the feeling of being in a really big room, and with the current arrangement, the visitor must walk through one exhibition to get to another. The front and largest of the three inaugural exhibitions, of monumental cast-glass sculpture by Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtová, was best suited to the large proportions of the hall.

    An exhibition of works by John Cage, Morris Graves, and Mark Tobey, more intimate in scale, was installed in back. These works necessitated smaller spaces and subdued lighting, thus making the transition somewhat awkward. But once in the smaller space, one adjusts to the shift in scale and lighting. In the far corner, a darkened space was created to house Gregory Barsamian's stereoscopic sculpture, one of the several long-term installations.

    The concrete floors of the Grand Hall are carried into the gallery space. Though unobtrusive and easier to maintain than wood or carpet, concrete floors are notoriously hard on the feet of museum-goers as well as staff installing and maintaining the galleries. There are industrial touches such as steel mesh kick plates on the permanent walls and a sleek lighting system set into the coffer-like ceiling of the room.

    For me, the most intriguing area of the building is the interior of the stainless steel cone, the Hot Shop Amphitheater, containing the hot glass work areas. There is sloped seating, a wrap-around balcony, and a video system with a "jumbotron" screen for viewing the glassmakers up close. The screen is a bit of overkill because the audience is not that far from the center of action on the hot shop floor. There are multiple furnaces in the hot shop as well as facilities for finishing and a cold-glass studio.

    The top attraction of this space is the beautiful steel framework that makes up the cone's basic structure, a perfect melding of form and function. There is an elegance and rhythm to the structural steel as it moves up the cone's interior to an apex of perforated metal, which is softly lit at night, like the old sawdust burners it calls to mind.

    Anna C. Noll is a freelance writer and former museum professional. She has written for the Tacoma Art Museum and for Dialogue, Ceramics Magazine, and the Tacoma Reporter.



    ArchWeek Image

    Level one floor plan, Museum of Glass by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson.
    Image: Museum of Glass

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    Level two floor plan, Museum of Glass.
    Image: Museum of Glass

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    Level three floor plan, Museum of Glass.
    Image: Museum of Glass

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    Roof level floor plan, Museum of Glass.
    Image: Museum of Glass

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    East elevation, Museum of Glass.
    Image: Museum of Glass

    ArchWeek Image

    West elevation, Museum of Glass.
    Image: Museum of Glass


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