PHOTOGRAPHY & TEXT HANS FONK
The building, in its very simplicity, possesses extraordinary purity. The form, the massive planar walls in smooth concrete and the visible architectural structure make of it a modern work of art. This is the Modern Art Museum designed by the Japanese architect, Tadao Ando. It is situated in the Cultural District of Forth Worth in the American state of Texas. A building of lasting beauty. It comprises various large open spaces and pavilions which seem to float in a vast pool.
Fort Worth’s Cultural District is situated on the outskirts of the city. It is a concentration of museums, including the Kimbell Art Museum designed by Louis Kahn, the Museum of Science and History by Legorreta + Legorreta Architects and Philip Johnson’s Amon Carter Center. The Modern Art Museum is surely the simplest and purest architectural work and, therefore, the most impactful. It is architecture with no need of a story; it clothes subtlety and simplicity in powerful forms and striking materials like concrete, glass and steel.
The stark, rectangular concrete façade has, at its centre, a large glazed opening housing the front entrance. Behind the glass curtain wall, framed in metal surrounds, there is a vast lobby and, on the other side, an equally high transparent glass wall overlooking the artificial pool, in which three pavilions appear to float. Beyond the water feature there is a sculpture garden. The lobby is tall and long, and rests on concrete pillars, which guarantee maximum transparency. Unpretentious concrete benches reinforce the feeling of space. On one side Ando has made room for a large art work, plus a mezzanine floor above. A narrow corridor, again with a high window wall, leads past the pool to the elliptically shaped restaurant that stands in the water. On the other side of the entrance lobby is the actual entrance to the exhibition spaces. There, stairs access a conveniently-ordered succession of galleries, where changing exhibitions and the museum’s permanent collection are shown in the soft light entering through linear skylights.
The permanent collection contains over 3,000 works by a wide range of artists, including Anselm Kiefer, Robert Motherwell, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Gerhard Richter, Susan Rothenberg, Richard Serra, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol. Striking features in the complex are the three tall pavilions situated in the water – with their immense cantilevered roofs which shield the artworks from direct daylight. In remarks on his work, the architect wrote: “I try to relate the fixed form and compositional method to the kind of life that will be lived in the given space and to local regional society. My mainstay in selecting the solutions to these problems is my independent architectural theory ordered on the basis of a geometry of simple forms, my own ideas of life, and my emotions as a Japanese.”