A powerful expression of architecture, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona has become a visual symbol of today’s city.
The project is the work of North American artist Richard Meier, designed in 1990 and built between 1991 and 1995.
The atrium is the building’s quintessential space for interaction. It is a covered gallery parallel to the façade, which filters and distributes light throughout the three levels of ramps and hallways leading to the exhibition rooms.
The building is shaped by a combination of rectilinear and curved elements, a geometry that is softened by the external light that comes into the building through open galleries and large skylights.
Richard Meier’s architecture is fundamentally a formal reinterpretation of rationalism, with references to the masters of the modern movement, particularly Le Corbusier:
In Barcelona we were investigating the potential for new interactions, not only for the museum, but also new interactions between the art and the architecture of the museum, Richard Meyer says in an interview*.
Contemporary art is boldly unpredictable, whether it be painting, sculpture, video, digital media, prints and photography, or performance art. The scale of some canvases, sculpture, video, and performance installations has become enormous, whether a Kiefer painting, a Serra arc, or an Eliasson installation.
If there are forces competing for attention in the design of museums, they involve the disparities between that large-scale work and smaller objects. One interesting goal is to understand and communicate that scale relationship. Different objects should be perceived in different ways, yet an architect cannot assume what particular object or work will be displayed.
Fundamentally then, we propose a broad variety of spaces to accommodate those scales, and the unexpected, as we have done at the MACBA. Beyond its potential for mounting exhibitions of existing art, artists soon found fascinating ways of engaging the variety of spaces within the museum through a series of site-specific commissions and/or re-imagining their works’ presentations. The boundaries between architecture and art have been blurred.
Natural light enters the building, be it through the apertures in the corners, the curtain walls, or the skylights in the ceilings. Some structural elements are separated from the line of the façade and the building envelope in order to allow continuous overhead lighting.
MACBA is the place for contemporary vanguard art displayed as temporary exhibitions and for many events that usually take place in summer and autumn.
The museum opened to the public in 1995 and in 2014 acquired an additional venue for its programming, comprising a 15th-century chapel and two large halls.
The spaces are used for performances and site-specific installations.