Defining the museum as a landscape of cultivation, the design of the recently established Manetti Shrem Museum at the University of California, Davis, captures the Central Valley’s spirit of optimism, imagination, and invention. Cultivation has a divergent etymology, on one hand rural, on the other urban bourgeoisie. The overarching 'Grand Canopy' seeks to embrace both contexts, extending a rolling form patchworked with aluminum beams over both site and building. An environmental silhouette, the design provides identity and awareness to multiple constituencies.
Beneath the canopy, the spatial and experiential qualities of diversity and transparency underscore the museum’s democratic stance. Casually taking root at the edge of the campus, the unique form of the canopy draws visitors from a distance. The subtle interplay of light and shadow across the public plaza helps blur the boundary between civic and institutional spheres. Inside, a glass-walled lobby invites interaction as the convergence of viewing, learning, and making areas. These interconnected interior and exterior spaces create informal opportunities for experiencing art and learning, supporting the museum’s mission to have all visitors become students.
The 50,000 square-foot Grand Canopy is composed of custom-built, perforated, triangular aluminum beams. It is the product of an intimate knowledge of both technology and craft. From light studies through iterative prototyping and large-scale mock-ups, BIM modeling aided to maximize material efficiency, cut labor costs, and synchronize the design-build team, ensuring fast-paced and smooth transitions between physical and digital modes. Exceeding university requirements, the museum achieves LEED Platinum rating.
Close attention to the museum’s many contexts led to the innovative organization of its social and physical components enabling the cultivation of relationships. The result offers a model for the future museum that is neither isolated nor exclusive, but open and permeable; not a static shrine, but a constantly evolving public event.