“What if you could walk up the face of a museum?”

Rethinking The Future Awards 2022

The New York-based studio, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, won the Museum of Image and Sound competition in Rio de Janeiro. It was over a decade ago that this competition took place. The site for the museum lies on the iconic Copacabana avenue. The building itself was envisioned to be a magnificent cultural destination. Yet, shortly after its construction began, the project was discontinued. The museum that was left at a standstill since 2016 recently came into the news. 

Award-winning photographer and artist Paul Clemence released images of the much anticipated Museum of Image and Sound. His series on the museum showcased the incompletely constructed structure. However, the works are expected to commence again as promised by the governor in his new announcement.

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Images of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Discontinued Museum of Image and Sound revealed by Paul Clemence Sheet1
Museum of Image and Sound, Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro _ © Paul Clemence

About the Project

According to the project architects, the new Museum of Image and Sound hopes to exhibit the identity of Rio to the world. The project required a six-story museum building incorporating exhibition galleries, bars and restaurants, workshops, an auditorium, and a theatre for the Brazilian contemporary arts. The narrow site faces Copacabana beach on the famous promenade designed by Robert Burle-Marx, one of the most influential landscape architects of the 20th century. Hence, the responsibility was to reproduce the character of the avenue within the museum. It was a daunting task for the team of architects.

The winning proposal by Diller Scofidio + Renfro aligned perfectly with the brief. They translated the famous sidewalk of the neighborhood, folding it into a vertical boulevard. The museum’s facade features a series of ramps that allow the visitor to extend his walk on the promenade into the building. They aimed to elevate the walkway, build a dialogue with the landscape, and eventually form an architectural icon for the city. 

The concept for the building brings about a meeting point for inside and outside, traversing through different programs. While adopting the DNA of the vibrant promenade below, the Museum of Image and Sound becomes a lively cultural hotspot. 

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Museum of Image and Sound facing the Iconic Copacabana Promenade _ © Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The museum program builds a haven for public space. It captures the essence of the place with moving traffic consisting of pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. An interconnected network of exhibition galleries showcases the journey through Brazilian culture. They give a modern approach to the earlier collections of the museum, originally opened in 1965. 

While several spaces like shops, kiosks, and cafes support the museum galleries, others invite locals and tourists alike. The series of ramps on the face of the building allow the restaurant, bar, and the open-air cinema on the roof to be accessible to the public at all times. These entertainment spaces uphold the lively spirit of the neighborhood, complete with a view of the Copacabana beach and promenade. 

The beach in Rio does not lose its association with the icon in landscape architecture. The local studio of Burle Marx became responsible for the landscape design of the project. In addition, the works of Diller Scofidio + Renfro form an epitome of barrier-free design and accessibility. The museum building is not far behind. The nature of the building with connecting ramps and intermediate public space adds to its inclusivity. The structure also fulfills the standards for sustainability and certifies for LEED. Therefore, the museum promises a holistic experience in the heart of the city. 

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Ramps on the Façade of the Museum _ © Diller Scofidio + Renfro
The Open Air Rooftop Theatre with Views of the Coastline _ © Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Construction Work and the Revival of the Project

The construction of the museum began in 2014. The work was divided into three phases. The museum received funding of R$79 million from public funds and R$119 million from the Roberto Marinho Foundation. The first two phases included demolition works at the site. They were followed by excavation, foundation, and executing the building structure. Furthermore, the final phase would be to finish the museum building through the coating and technical execution. The project went through several delays due to the challenges on site. The sandy ground on the beach came with many associated obstacles. 

Two years into the construction, there was a complete suspension of the work. However, in July 2021, an announcement was made by the governor of Rio. He declared the resumption of works on the Museum of Image and Sound. Following that, the series by Paul Clemence showed the current state of the museum building where the physical structure looks near completion. 70% of the work was already complete. Through encouraging investments in art and culture, the Brazilian government strives to rejuvenate the protagonist role of Rio’s culture.

Images of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Discontinued Museum of Image and Sound revealed by Paul Clemence Sheet5
Photos of the Incomplete Structure Released by Paul Clemence _ © Paul Clemence
Images of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Discontinued Museum of Image and Sound revealed by Paul Clemence Sheet6
Photos of the Incomplete Structure Released by Paul Clemence _ © Paul Clemence
Images of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Discontinued Museum of Image and Sound revealed by Paul Clemence Sheet7
Photos of the Incomplete Structure Released by Paul Clemence _ © Paul Clemence

Even today, the museum stays as one of the most eagerly awaited buildings in the world. With the completion expected by 2022, the museum will open doors to the public in the following year. The building also acts as a means to view the city through a new lens. The heavy exposure to tourism defines the Copacabana beach, hence restricting it for the residents. The new headquarters of the Museum of Image and Sound will play a principal role in curating a new image for Rio. 

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Images of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Discontinued Museum of Image and Sound revealed by Paul Clemence Sheet8
The Museum Creating a New Identity for Rio _ © Paul Clemence
Author

An architecture student who finds architecture to be a continuous process of pushing boundaries, to make the world grow around and about it. She strives to read and understand the dialogue that occurs between architecture and the lives of people connected to it.

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Rethinking The Future Awards 2022