The Design Principles & Practices Journal Collection offers an annual International Award for Excellence for new research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Design Principles & Practices Research Network.
When the Hirshhorn Museum, a building to showcase modern and contemporary art designed by Gordon Bunshaft, opened in 1974, the building’s austerity was a shocking symbol of the modern art world, while also representing Bunshaft’s evolution toward architectural monumentality. Slowly and over time, critics and the building’s users began to appreciate its unique architecture, but less has been spoken, then and now, of its interior and intended function as a space to view art. As such, this article examines if and how the interior of this strong architectural form works in its intended function, to showcase its collection. It asks the questions: Does a strong statement of form, with an original intention to stand out as a sculptural element and contrast with the classical architecture on the National Mall, work as a museum? Is the building an architectural statement and, thus, an expression of its time? Or, did it (and does it) actually function effectively for those who not only visit, but those who curate and design the exhibitions? Specifically, how does the strong circular form facilitate the curatorial work and influence the exhibit design? How do the differences in the inner and outer rings (i.e., through materials, lighting, etc.) have an effect on the art placed in each? And, how do all of these elements influence the user’s experience when viewing art?
As program head of an interior architecture program, with expertise in modern and contemporary architecture, I aim to bring focus to the interiors of buildings with an in-depth analysis on how a user engages with and moves through a space—on a micro scale—and how buildings adapt over time as the function changes—on a macro scale. As an associate professor at The George Washington University (GW) in Washington DC, I hope to bring more attention to the outstanding modern architecture in the District, where classical architecture dominates. My scholarship also aligns with the courses I teach on the history of modern architecture and design, which are required courses in the GW Interior Architecture BFA and MFA curriculum.
As critique of the Hirshhorn Museum building has focused mainly on the exterior, this article examines if and how the interior of this strong architectural form works in its intended function—as a space to view art. I found the most interesting aspect of my research to be the interviews I conducted with present and past senior curators and exhibit designers at the museum; this experience gave me a wonderful, nuanced understanding of the building. My focus on modern architecture in DC will continue, as there are a number of other buildings that I would like to explore, as many students and designers are not aware that modern structures of this significance exist in the District. With an educational background in architecture, professional experience in architecture and interior design, and in my current position as an interior architecture educator, I aim to bring attention to these works through my papers and conference presentations, as I present a unique perspective through the eyes of a designer. Ultimately, my goal is to examine the user experience within interiors in modern and contemporary architecture, and share my research and analysis with the art, design, and architecture community.
Lisa Zamberlan and Stephanie Wilson, The International Journal of Design Education, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp.1–16
Ian Gwilt and Jennifer Williams, Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal—Annual Review, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.81–98