The museum store is located in the heart of the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The museum desired a store that was warm, natural, tactile, and understood by patrons as an extension of the museum experience. The 3,040 square foot semicircular space provided has a number of significant challenges including a west facing storefront and an array of concrete columns supporting a green roof that interrupt the interior
Mindful that several local artists would be featured in the museum store, our analysis focused on the work of celebrated basket maker, Leon Niehues (Huntsville, Arkansas), known for his beautifully crafted sculptural baskets made of young white oak trees from the Ozarks. His process combines traditional splint techniques together with new construction methods, simple repetitive elements, and strong formal profiles extruded along specific paths. This process was an inspiration for developing a unified system of articulation that envelopes the retail space.
A series of 224 unique parallel plywood ribs, from locally harvested cherry, were digitally fabricated directly from our BIM model forming the ceiling and millwork on the rear wall, and organizing the space. Likened to the ribbed underside of a mushroom known as a lamella, the surface undulates to create an elegant sectional profile while also serving the practical function of providing filtered shade from the intense western sun. The porosity and regularity of the lamella system provide an inherent flexibility for controlling the configuration of heating and cooling systems, lighting and hanging merchandise. Textured green fabric covered display walls terminate the ends of the retail store and compliment the cherry wood floor and lamella surfaces. The form and structure of the lamella attempts to resonate with the aesthetic of the museum, mediating between the given curved raw space and the practical needs of the retail shop.
Free-standing custom Ozark walnut and glass vitrines further organize the space, providing integral display and storage while serving as a counterpoint to the sensual curved ceiling and rear wall. The geometry of the plan is transformed into a three dimensional spatial proposition imbued with local materials and craftsmanship, expressing a kinship with the unique sensibility found in American Art.