Tampa Museum of Art is a neutral frame for the display of art, an empty canvas to be filled with paintings. It is a beautiful, but blank, container; a scaffold, to be completed by its contents.
The building floats in the park, embracing it with its overhanging shelter and reflective walls. It is a hovering abstraction, gliding above the ground. The building is not only in the landscape, but is the landscape, reflecting the greenery, shimmering like the water, flickering like clouds. It blurs and unifies, making the museum a park and the park, a museum.
The lobby is at first horizontal, entirely with glass walls, two clear, two etched. The clear walls allow the site to run through the space, linking the Performing Arts Building on the north, with the turrets and domes of the University of Tampa on the south.
Off the lobby is a long glass room that houses the café and bookstore in a storefront along the riverwalk. They have built the most expansive and generous field of galleries as instruments to enable, through curation, a world to expose art. They are arranged in a circuit, surrounding the vertical courtyard void. The galleries are blank, walls, floor and PVC ceiling all shades of white, silent like the unifying presence of snow. The floors are ground white concrete with a saw cut grid to echo the illuminated white fabric ceiling above. Linear gaps in the ceiling conceal sprinklers, air distribution and lighting.
By day the surfaces appear to vary almost, but never quite. They are smudged and stammering, with moray like images of clouds or water or vegetation, a shimmering mirage of reflections. By day, light reflects on the surfaces. By night, light emanates from the surfaces.
By night the exterior become a canvas for a show of light. The art from within bleeds out onto the walls and escapes into the darkness.
Architects | Stanley Saitowitz, San Francisco, USA
Location | Tampa, Florida, USA
Technical info | PVC membrane
Picture credits | Richard Barnes