Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry

Weisman Art Museum is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the United States. It is designed by the world-renowned Canadian American architect Frank Gehry in the year 1993. It is a modern art museum and has large collections of Marsden Hartley, Alfred Maurer, Charles Biederman, Native American Mimbres pottery, and traditional Korean furniture.

Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
Weisman Art Museum
An art exhibition at the Weisman Art Museum

Case Study of Weisman Art Museum

  • Design Architect: Frank Gehry, LLP, Los Angeles, California
  • Executive Architect: Hammel Green and Abrahamson, Inc., Minneapolis, MN
  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
  • Client/owner: University of Minnesota
  • Project type: Cultural
  • Project status: Built
  • Awards: 1992 ARCHITECT Progressive Architecture Awards  
  • Remodelation architect: Frank Gehry
  • Developer: Frederick R. Weisman
  • Built in: 1990-1993
  • Remodeled in: 2009-2011
  • Structural engineer: HGA – Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc.

Also, Read: Institute of Indology: Incorporating Indian Traditional Elements in Modernism

Location of the site

The Weisman Art Museum is located on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, United States. The building is present on the banks of the Mississippi River. It has access from Av. Washington as well as from the campus, via a suspended walkway that connects them.

Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
Location map

Weisman Art Museum: History

Frederick R. Weisman is the man before which the museum was named. He was a Minneapolis native who was famous in the area as an art collector before he died in the year 1994. Weisman’s collection and reach were so large that he founded other Frederick R. Weisman art museums on the campus of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and on a Los Angeles estate, designed specifically to showcase a selection of Weisman’s collection.

Concept of the Weisman Art Museum

The concept of the museum building copes with the culture as well as the needs of the Art Museum of the University. The museum is in a striking stainless steel and brick building. It is often described as a crushed aluminum can by visitors. The main aim of the design is to offer a friendly and educational museum experience.

According to the museum’s official website, “The museum’s collection features early 20th-century American artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley, as well as a diverse selection of contemporary art”.

Conceptual sketch

The elevation of the building when viewed from the campus is a large brick façade. So that it blends with the surrounding brick and sandstone buildings. While on the opposite side the elevation displays curving and angular brushed steel sheets presented like an abstract artwork by Gehry. Moreover, the abstract structure is also highly significant, as it was built prior to the widespread use of computer-aided design in architecture.

When asked what inspired the innovative design of the museum, the architect said, “The first inspiration came from the Tibetan monasteries that are on hills, where the big frontal elevation is off the side of a cliff. That was really the building type that came to mind when I looked at that facade on the river.”

Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
Crumpled aluminum can like structure

Also, Read: National Museum Delhi – Largest Museum of India

Weisman Art Museum: Spaces

Site plan

Originally the building has four brick-clad, sky-lit galleries standing on top of a parking garage.  Two galleries for American art, one gallery for ceramics, and one gallery for photography as well as works of art on paper. Entrance to this is from a road along the Mississippi River. Additionally, a studio space of 2,200 square feet is present next to the Museum’s main entrance. This studio space is open for people to view artists at work.

Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
Main floor plan
Building Section

The space in the museum is large and airy, allowing a proper exhibit for all the works. The building has four floors above the ground and serves several purposes. Additionally, the building is distributed in two different zones:

The West Zone

This zone is for services, consisting of both staircase and elevators. This zone also consists of bathrooms, shops, cafes, and museum offices.

The East Zone

The east side of the museum is for exhibition galleries that are easily accessible to the students within the University campus. Additionally, the artworks are in harmony with the building.

Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
East gallery interiors

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The main features of this gallery are the stunning river view and clerestory lighting. This is used for events up to 150 people for dinner and 350 people for a reception.

William G. Shepherd Hall

It is a conference hall with an occupancy of 120 people.

Seminar Room Weisman Family

This is a seminar room with an occupancy of 25 people.

Target studio interiors

Design constraints of Weisman Art Museum

The main feature of the museum building is the use of curved metal structures as seen in the works of Frank Gehry. However, the building received a lot of criticism from the neighborhood due to its blinding effect generated by the façade when the sun reflects. The architect still gets recognition for his work under the expressionistic style and proves interesting for the visitors. The museum design of Frank Gehry received the “Progressive Architecture Design Award in 1991.

Façade of the museum

The building has two faces that are contradictory to each other. When one sees the building from within the campus, it has a brick façade that blends with the existing brick and sandstone buildings. In contradiction to this, the west façade stands out for its irregular stainless steel façade, creating an area of curves and angles.

Two facades of the museum
Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
West elevation (Facing river road)
Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
North elevation facing Washington avenue
East elevation
Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
South elevation

Also, Read: The Acropolis Museum by Bernard Tschumi Architects

Expansion of the building (2009-2011)

Gallery diagram for expansion

In the year 2009, the Weisman Art Museum was required to expand its surface, improving the original design of 1993. The addition to the original museum building was also by architect Frank Gehry in partnership with HGA. In addition, this addition extends the 1993 museum building in three directions. This includes the new brick-clad galleries perched on two sides and a new target studio for creative collaboration.

Five new galleries with an area of 8100 square meters were added to the original building. However, this allows the museum to double the capacity of the exhibition at any time. This expansion also included spaces for study. Moreover, the pedestrian walkways are also widened facing an undulating cowling and beneath a flowing stainless steel canopy.

Moreover, the new stainless steel elements demonstrate the fluidity of the building. In this expansion module, the architect used combined concrete and structural steel at the southeast part of the building. This allows natural light to penetrate inside.

Weisman Art Museum: Materials

The museum’s outer skin is brushed stainless steel, manufactured and installed by the A.Zahner Company, a frequent contributor to the works of Gehry. The walls of the exhibition hall are white in color as this color is in contrast with the treated wooden flooring, this gives warmth to the galleries.

Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota by Frank Gehry
White color walls with wooden flooring
Stainless steel facade

The galleries, stores, and offices are wrapped in a stainless steel façade of cubist-like shapes. The interior design of the museum is as compelling as its exterior. The new expansion added about 3 times the gallery space to this teaching museum.

Key features

  • The museum building is a curved metal structure built in the expressionistic style.
  • Frederick R. Weisman was the founder of the museum.
  • When the sunreflects by the metal façade it generates a blinding effect for the neighbourhood.
  • The museum building has two different facades; one is the brick façade which is on the campus side and the other resembles an abstract of metal sheets.
  • The materials used in the building are brushed stainless steel as well as exposed bricks, for the façade. On the other hand, the interior walls of the museum is white with wooden flooring.

Also, Read: The Jewish Museum Berlin

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