From being a journalist to being a founder and principal architect of a leading architectural firm, Rem Koolhaas has left no stone unturned. Apart from being an architect, he is an urbanist and professor and has authored many architecture books like Delirious New York, S, M, L, XL, and many more. His firm, Office of Metropolitan Architecture, also known as OMAs, has created turmoil in the industry. Unless you live under a rock, everyone associated with the architecture is familiar and is well-versed with this starchitect. His works are widespread across the globe, from CCTV Headquarters in China to Seattle Public Library in Canada.
One of his projects is the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, a renowned Russian art center recently redeveloped by OMA.
Location: Moscow, Russia
Principal Architect: Rem Koolhaas
Clients: Iris Foundation, Garage Center for Contemporary Culture
Program: Museum/ Gallery
The museum was first established in the year 2008 by well-known business people and art collectors Dasha Zhukova and Roman Abramovich. Their aim was “to provide opportunities for dialogue, as well as the production of new work and ideas (and to) reflect current developments in Russian and international culture”.
Originally, the museum was housed in the former Bakhmetievsky Bus Garage constructed in 1926 by constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov. Its location was on the outskirts of north Moscow, a semi-industrial neighborhood. Later in 2014, the center changed its name to the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, and a year later, it shifted to its current location in central Moscow.
The current location was once a popular destination known as Vremena Goda restaurant in Gorky Park. It was a Soviet-era 1960s prefabricated concrete construction restaurant that was abandoned and then depreciated into ruins.
Rem Koolhaas aimed to preserve the original Soviet-era elements, including the mosaic wall, tiles, and brick while incorporating innovative architectural and curatorial devices.
The new museum retains many characteristics and details of the old building, such as the large and picturesque mosaic depicting the summer season. Rem Koolhaas did not treat these artifacts as mute relics of the past but managed to include and elevate them as active elements. He successfully created a visual relationship between them and contemporary artworks on display in the museum.
Structure and Material
The façade design played an integral role in shaping the museum. As the previous building was in ruins, the building required a new envelope. The program required a building with a contemporary style. Thus, Rem Koolhaas chose the façade to be double-layer polycarbonate. An unconventional choice of material for a museum, but Rem had previously worked with it in the design of the Seoul National Museum of Art, South Korea. The façade, along with a protective cover, contained a ventilation system and a safety stair. Furthermore, these translucent panels acted as projection screens giving the whole façade a giant multimedia communication device that conveys information from inside the museum into the public realm. A visual connection between the pavilion’s interior and the park is created by lifting the facade 2.5m above the ground. It will also attract the outside onlookers to get a glimpse of the museum and might invite them in.
The idea for the exhibition was to provide a wide range of interior conditions beyond the regular white walls. While the existing walls retained their brick and green tile cladding, an innovative solution of a movable separation system termed as white cube is installed to give the exhibition an instant neutral look whenever demanded.
The museum is composed of three levels-
- Ground-level consists of the Main Lobby, Bookshop, Media Library, and Cafeteria
- The upper levels consist of exhibition and special events space, Educational Center, an Auditorium, offices, and Roof Terrace. A smaller building nearby houses a 20,000 item art library and an education center.
The entrance to Garage Gorky Park is pronounced by two large facade panels that slide upwards to frame the art in the lobby’s double-height space and provide a view through the building from the park. The main lobby is a double-height space, 10m tall, which can be also utilized to displace large-scale sculptures and art installations.
A public loop on the lower level connects the bookshop, mediatheque, auditorium, and a café. Rem Koolhaas envisioned this design as an informal living room with Soviet-era furniture.
The building offers two levels of unobstructed open space dedicated to exhibitions, organized around two circulation and service cores. As it is a redeveloped structure, the spatial and structural possibilities of the existing building allowed the museum programs to occupy three levels. The more fragmented spaces in the North-Eastern part of the pavilion surrounding the main core accommodate education and research programs. The large open spaces in the South Western part have exhibitions, projects, and events.
- Anon, (n.d.). Garage Museum of Contemporary Art – Moscow | Inexhibit. [online] Available at: https://www.inexhibit.com/mymuseum/garage-museum-of-contemporary-art-moscow-rem-koolhaas-oma/ [Accessed 8 Apr. 2022].
- OMA. (n.d.). Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. [online] Available at: https://www.oma.com/projects/garage-museum-of-contemporary-art [Accessed 8 Apr. 2022].
- ArchDaily. (n.d.). Gallery of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art / OMA – 41. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/642936/garage-museum-of-contemporary-art-oma/5580947fe58ece710300010f-garage-museum-of-contemporary-art-oma-exhibition-concept?next_project=no [Accessed 8 Apr. 2022].
- garagemca.org. (n.d.). About. [online] Available at: https://garagemca.org/en/about [Accessed 8 Apr. 2022].