The MAXXI, designed by Zaha Hadid, is a national museum of contemporary art found in Rome, Italy. The MAXXI's overlapping and intersecting pathways create an interactive space for viewers. (Photo courtesy of MAXXI)
Corona del Mar High School

New Age for Art Museums: Following the evolution of museum architecture

Stifling, stagnant and jading are no longer terms used to describe the new wave of museums and exhibits that are burgeoning up worldwide. Museum visits have now become less about the exhibits and revolving installations, but more about the individualized euphoric, consummate experience found at each museum. 

Intertwining mesmerizing architecture and engaging displays, museums across the globe have started to focus on creating an environment that engages their audience and fosters participation.  

Museums, in their early days, housed primarily private collections of antiquities and rare objects belonging to the rich. Over time, as art appreciation became more mainstream, museums became available to the general public. Fascinating to note, that prior to the Louvre’s opening in 1793 in Paris, France, vast impressive collections of art and treasures were owned by the Church, aristocracy, or royal family. Only after the grand opening of the Louvre, did national treasures become available for public viewing at museums.

Art appreciation is constantly evolving. Today, with the integration of technology, experiencing an art installation at a museum has become more of an interactive experience, rather than just providing a venue to showcase art collections. Social media allows visitors to experience a hands-on role in the museum, providing insight into future changes they would like to see made and contributing to different museum exhibits. 

In August 2014, the Frye Museum in Seattle hosted an exhibit which consisted exclusively of selections made by museum-goers using social media, called #SocialMedium. Similarly, the Portland Art Museum collected a gallery of pictures for their website using Instagram pictures electronically tagged to #captureParklandia. Visitors and Portlanders alike tagged their pictures of parks found across Portland, and several found their photography featured on the museum’s website.  

Students in Corona del Mar High School’s AP Art History class, taught by Vanessa Valdes, spend the school year studying the architecture of different museums, and the art held within them. Throughout the year, they go on several museum visits as a class, including to the Getty Villa and Norton Simon Museum. 

A student in the class, senior Kalia Rodich, said she went to LACMA for the first time last winter.

“I was originally turned off from it (LACMA) because I had only ever seen Instagram pictures of urban light or that big rock.  But I was super pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon their Japanese art building. Although I didn’t go to LACMA with that in mind originally, walking up and down the thoughtfully designed spiral that showcases the art around it felt like an immersive experience, and even the lighting can enhance the overall mood,” Rodich said.

Museums are now more relevant and reflective of our times. They are no longer drab shells housing art, but rather conscious constructive installations. With the usage of interactive technology, such as multimedia and touchscreen displays, museum experiences are breaking new grounds.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain is a museum designed by architect Frank Gehry. It serves as a good representation of innovations in museum architecture. (Photo courtesy of Aesthetica Magazine)
The Japanese Art Pavilion at LACMA, designed by renowned architect Bruce Goff. Here, they house Japanese art dating from 3000 B.C.E. (Photo courtesy of LACMA and Museum Associates)