The first freestanding building for The Contemporary Arts Center, founded in Cincinnati in 1939 as one of the first institutions in the United States dedicatedto the contemporary visual arts.
The new CAC building will provide spaces for temporary exhibitions, site-specific installations, and performances,but not for a permanent collection. Other program elements include an education facility, offices, art preparation areas, a museum store, a cafe andpublic areas. To draw in pedestrian movement from the surrounding areas and create a sense of dynamic public space, the entrance, lobby and lead-into the circulation system are organized as an “Urban Carpet.” Starting at the corner of Sixth and Walnut, the ground curves slowly upward as it enters thebuilding, rising to become the back wall.
As it rises and turns, this Urban Carpet leads visitors up a suspended mezzanine ramp through the full lengthof the lobby, which during the day functions as an open, day-lit, “landscaped” expanse that reads as an artificial park. The mezzanine ramp continuesto rise until it penetrates the back wall, on the other side of which it becomes a landing at the entrance to the galleries.
Jigsaw Puzzle: In contrast to the Urban Carpet, which is a series of polished, undulating surfaces, the galleries are expressed as if they had been carvedfrom a single block of concrete and were floating over the lobby space.
Exhibition spaces vary in size and shape, to accommodate the great range of scales and materials in contemporary art. Views into the galleries fromthe circulation system are unpredictable, as the stair-ramp zigzags upward through a narrow slit at the back of the building. Together, these varyinggalleries interlock like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, made up of solids and voids.
Skin/Sculpture: The building’s corner situation led to the development of two different, but complementary, facades. The south facade, along SixthStreet, forms an undulating, translucent skin, through which passers-by see into the life of the Centre. The east facade, along Walnut, is expressed asa sculptural relief. It provides an imprint, in negative, of the gallery interiors.
Location: Cincinnati, USA
Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Local Firm: KZF incorporated
Project Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects | Markus Dochantschi
Assistant Project Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects | Ed Gaskin
Project team: Ana Sotrel, Jan Hübener, David Gerber, Christos Passas,Sonia Villaseca, James Lim, Jee-Eun Lee, Oliver Domeisen,Helmut Kinzler, Patrik Schumacher, Michael Wolfson,David Gomersall
Competition design team: Shumon Basar,Oliver Domeisen, Jee-Eun Lee,Terence Koh, Marco Guarnieri, Stéphane Hof, Woody K.T. Yao, IvanPajares, Wassim Halabi, Nan Atichapong, Graham Modlen
Construction Manager: Turner Construction Company
Structural Engineers: THP Limited, Jane Wernick
Acoustics: Ove Arup & Partners
Services: Heapy Engineering
Security: Steven R. Keller & Associates
Theatre: Charles Cosler Theatre Design Inc.
Lighting: Office for Visual Interaction Inc.
Client: The Contemporary Arts Center
Program: Temporary exhibition space, performance space, education facility, offices, art preparation areas, and museum store
Surface area: 8500 sqm
Project year: 1997-2003
Photographers: Roland Halbe, Helene Binet