Museums are places of culture, adventure, and amazement. While some museums may portray beautiful artworks and impressive performances, others celebrate national achievements or display archives of precious history. Visitors have the opportunity to learn, observe, and interact while feeling that they are part of the earth’s expanding story. Museums can also entertain and truly function as inclusive public spaces for cities.
In 2020, despite a world-stopping pandemic, museums rose to the challenge of providing virtual visitor experiences and maintaining the public’s relationship with museums.
Check out the world’s newest museums that opened their doors in 2020 and what impacts they hope to make on their communities.
1. The Grand Egyptian Museum
Location: Giza, Egypt
Architects: Heneghan Peng Architects
Located between the Pyramids of Giza and Cairo, the Grand Egyptian Museum sits on a 50-meter topographical difference created by the Nile River. While the pyramids in the desert are on a plateau, the museum is placed within a valley and on the plateau.
Heneghan Peng Architects designed this museum project with the intent of giving a new level to the plateau. Using the land difference, the museum’s surface is a screen of translucent stone that transforms throughout the day.
A visitor’s procession through the museum is a series of layers that includes a grand forecourt, a shaded entrance, and a monumental staircase that leads to the plateau. At the plateau level, visitors have views of the pyramid and access to galleries.
2. MassArt Museum (MAAM)
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Architects: designLAB Architects
Sponsored by the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, the MAAM is a museum renovation project by designLAB. In 2020, MassArt opened as a “kunsthalle,” or a gallery of rotating exhibits without a permanent collection.
The renovation changed the two main gallery spaces and workshops, as well as a rearrangement of staff offices. The visitor experience is enhanced through a new entry, specifically for galleries, a new lobby, and an elevator.
3. Museum of the Future
Location: Dubai, UAE
Architects: Killa Design
The Museum of Future by Killa Design is truly a museum project of the future. Without a doubt, your attention will turn to the unique shape and skin of the museum. Wrapping around the museum, windows in the form of Arabic calligraphy express quotes from the Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed.
The main inspiration for the museum was to physically describe the present understanding of the “future.” Located adjacent to the Emirates Tower, the museum is made up of three main parts: the green hill, the building, and the void.
The green hill represents the earth, the building represents mankind, and the void represents innovation. Overall, the Museum of the Future stands as a creative space for inventors and innovators worldwide.
4. WA Museum Boola Bardip
Location: Perth, Australia
Architects: OMA + Hassell Studio
Located in the heart of Australia’s capital, the WA Museum Boola Bardip commemorates the culture, history, and landscape of Western Australia. Exhibition and event spaces along with retail and dining spots make up the 19,000 square meter area of the project.
In addition to the existing buildings, the new volumes wrap around the heritage buildings and create two intersecting loops. With new circulation, a variety of possibilities are offered for spatial and personal connections. The two volumes stand out from the stone historical buildings with a metal facade and clean rectangular form.
5. He Art Museum (HEM)
Location: Guangdong, China
Architects: Tadao Ando
After delays due to the pandemic, the He Art Museum is open to the public. The museum project was built as a home for the He family’s Chinese art collection. Ando took inspiration from the family name, which translates into harmony, balance, and union.
Natural light flows into the museum from a central skylight and illuminates exhibition spaces and the double-helix staircase that reinterprets traditional Chinese architectural principles. Stacked and staggered concrete disks wrap around the staircase and run from the ground floor to the fourth, encased by a vertical facade.
Sticking to a minimal interior, the concrete structure is exposed within exhibitions and the central courtyard.
6. Humboldt Forum
Location: Berlin, Germany
Architects: Franco Stella
The Humboldt Forum is another renovation project that harmoniously blends the Old and New Berlin Palace. Home to four partners, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Cultural Projects Berlin, City Museum Berlin, and Humboldt University, the Forum fuses history and modernization and stands as one of Europe’s most important cultural centers.
Stella imagined this museum project as, “a palace, with its six portals representing city gates, and its three inner courtyards servicing as city squares.” Constructed with sandstone, the rectangular form of the Forum allows for six grand portals and new public space.
The three inner courtyards serve as gathering places for events and performances in Renaissance fashion. Within the museum, a spacious atrium and five stories allow for cultural and academic programs to exist.
7. Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA)
Location: Queensland, Australia
Artist: Jason deCaires Taylor
The Museum of Underwater Art is a museum project by the World’s leading underwater sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor. Being the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, the museum hopes to highlight reef conservation, restoration, and promote education worldwide.
One work of art stands above the surface while the rest of the museum is submerged to introduce a visual reminder of the unseen challenges for Australia’s reef. Divers and snorkelers will be guided to exploring the museum sixty feet under the sea.
8. X Museum
Location: Beijing, China
Designed for contemporary art in Beijing, the X Museum is a place for the younger generation to explore the uncertainties of a changing world through culture. TEMP took inspiration for this museum project from a simple question, “how should a painting be hung on a wall?”
Their answer is reflected with a new wall system consisting of custom terracotta bricks with horizontal slots for metal clips to be installed. This way, artwork, installations, and projectors can be hung and displayed.
The intersecting beams that create the ‘X’ at the museum’s entrance support each other while also holding the curving perforated roof. The museum prides itself on being a diverse stage for artists as well as architects, scientists, engineers, musicians, and designers.
9. US Olympic & Paralympic Museum
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum is a monument to the Olympic and Paralympic movements. The 60,000 square feet museum project will feature galleries, a theater, event space, and a cafe.
Inspired by Team USA athletes and the notion of inclusivity, the museum offers continuous and accessible circulation, ranking amongst the most accessible museums in the world. The diamond-shaped aluminum panels of the facade produce ranges of color and shade that add motion and dynamics to the exterior of the building.
A common path shared by all visitors adheres and exceeds ADA requirements and material details, such as glass guardrails for low-height visibility and smooth flooring for easier wheelchair movement, makes the museum a comfortable and considerate experience.
10. The National Ainu Museum and Park (Upopoy)
Location: Hokkaido, Japan
Architects: Takano Landscape Planning Co.,Ltd.
The National Ainu Museum and Park, dubbed Upopoy by locals, serves as a testament to the Ainu culture of Japan. On the verge of extinction due to colonialism and discrimination, the Ainu culture has had a troubled history with Japan since the Meiji era of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The goal of this museum project is to raise new awareness and showcase knowledge about various elements of the Ainu culture. By having an open-air museum, visitors can connect to nature and truly understand the history of the Ainu people.
The entrance of the park is dedicated to graphic concrete walls that visually invite visitors in. Three distinct areas of land, the museum building, the park, and a memorial site, promote the culture differently.
11. The Momentary
Location: Bentonville, Arkansas
Architects: Wheeler Kearns Architects
The Momentary is a museum project that reinterprets the expectations of a traditional art museum. Repurposed from a decommissioned Kraft Foods plant, this museum emphasizes southern hospitality. Instead of a grand frontal entrance, visitors are welcomed from the back into a glass and steel structure, inciting curiosity and adventure.
Keeping the human in mind, Wheeler Kearns Architects build at human-scale to increase approachability yet use materials that highly contrast the building. This way, visitors and passersby can sense that there is something different and exciting.
Location: Moscow, Russia
Architects: Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano’s projects are never ones that disappoint and GES-2 is not an exception. By redeveloping a former power plant, an open and vibrant venue for creative arts was created. The center hosts an artist residency along with having an amphitheatre, education center, and library.
GES-2 organizes its spaces and functions into four major poles: The Civic pole, the Welcoming pole, the Exhibition pole, and the Education pole. Each pole serves a specific visitor function and allows for simultaneous activity.
Piano also keeps nature and sustainability in mind for this museum project by restoring the brick chimneys into steel ones and planting new trees inside the museum.
13. The Box
Location: Plymouth, UK
With strong ties to Plymouth’s history and culture, The Box opened on the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage. Rightfully named, this museum project is a massive concrete cube hovering 10 meters above the street, studded in 149 glass panels. Atkins’ principal architect, Kevin Presland, achieved designing the UK’s largest double cantilever.
The Box functions as a museum, art space, and archive library, blending an Edwardian baroque Museum and Art Gallery with a contemporary Central Library. Essentially, conservation is the main focus of the project and Atkins makes sure to preserve the character of pre-existing structures.
The marriage of the old and the new is evident at The Box and Plymouth’s history is celebrated through the museum’s collection and architecture.
14. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Architects: Renzo Piano
Another Renzo Piano museum project was opened in 2020, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Located on Wilshire Boulevard, the project consists of the renovation of the 1930s May Company Building and a new glass sphere designed by Piano’s firm. The dome is made of 1,500 laminated glass panels that cover a basin of steel and reinforced concrete.
Within the glass sphere, there is a 1,000-seat theater and a terrace that captures sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills. The exhibition and programming spaces are housed below in the May Company Building.
The museum hopes to give visitors unprecedented chances to look behind the screen and dive into the creative processes of moviemaking.
15. Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center
Location: Oklahoma City, OK
Architects: Rand Elliott Architect
Oklahoma Contemporary’s mission is to provide accessible and inclusive arts for children and adults. The new downtown location marks a new cultural destination among Oklahoma City’s architecture. Beginning with sunrise, Oklahoma Contemporary’s goal was to create something timeless and elegant.
The facade of the museum project is constructed of recycled, aluminum fins that capture the inconsistent weather and reflect the dramatic landscape changes through light and sky. As the surroundings of the building change, the facade mirrors it in a breathtaking way that greets visitors at all times of the day.
Using almost five acres of land, the museum includes the main building, consisting of gallery space and classrooms, art studios, created from a renovated historic warehouse, and the art park, which provides space for outdoor exhibitions, education programs, and performances.