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Why is religious architecture so often good and museum architecture so often terrible?

mordecai

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This question has produced a lively discussion on my facebook wall, but I thought I would continue it here.
What is the cause? SFMOMA is hideous. MoCA is only better because less of it sticks out of the ground. The LACMA campus looks like shit and makes no sense. Hammer is just a domino box, and if the Norton Simon didn't have the sign it could easily be mistaken for an abandoned Robinsons-May.

Is it a proselytizing thing? Churches and mosques want to bring people in whereas museums want most people to stay out? This would explain the crappy architecture of most synagogues.
 
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mordecai

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i have no dog in this fight but i will agree with you. every church is beautiful and every museum, save the Soumaya in Mexico City, has been a clusterfuck.

Not true. The LA cathedral is so ugly that if it didn't have the cross I would think it was part of the nearby contemporary art museum.
 

Rambo

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Not true. The LA cathedral is so ugly that if it didn't have the cross I would think it was part of the nearby contemporary art museum.

well, i'm not a gentile, so my only experience is visiting churches in central america. and, since there is literally one on every block, i only go to the famously beautiful ones. so my experience could certainly be skewed.
 

StephenHero

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Because church architecture is its own endgame of aesthetic pursuit. It's not burdened to facilitate suitable display for things that might be held within it temporarily, which lets it pursue stylized/non-functional means of beautifucation with more permanent materials and noticeable detailing, whereas museum architecture is burdened to accommodate things that are both aesthetically divergent, and experientially hegemonic, which will always cause museums to defer on the side of versatile banality to prevent conflicts. There are also the logistics of art hanging and necessary wall types that allow affordable adaptations of exhibition spaces, or lighting control which will generally force museums to control natural daylight oppressively. With that said, I think museums are often far too formal and conservative in their gallery arrangements, and especially conservative in the surface materials they're willing to arrange art on. I would put Labelking in charge of fixing this.
 
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impolyt_one

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Went to the museum of western art in Ueno recently, done by le Corbusier - it too was functional, at best. A bit of a letdown.
 

SkinnyGoomba

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Looks pretty awesome to me. I've enjoyed Barnes in Philadelphia and Uffizi in Florence.
 

akatsuki

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Because church architecture is its own endgame of aesthetic pursuit. It's not burdened to facilitate suitable display for things that might be held within it temporarily, which lets it pursue stylized/non-functional means of beautifucation with more permanent materials and noticeable detailing, whereas museum architecture is burdened to accommodate things that are both aesthetically divergent, and experientially hegemonic, which will always cause museums to defer on the side of versatile banality to prevent conflicts. There are also the logistics of art hanging and necessary wall types that allow affordable adaptations of exhibition spaces, or lighting control which will generally force museums to control natural daylight oppressively. With that said, I think museums are often far too formal and conservative in their gallery arrangements, and especially conservative in the surface materials they're willing to arrange art on. I would put Labelking in charge of fixing this.

Or to put it simply: museums need flex-space that can accommodate many different types of displays.

As to the formal/conservative critique: in a museum, the focus should be on the art, not on the building.
 

globetrotter

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the islamic art museum in Qatar is about the best museum building in the world, as far as I am concerned.

in general, though, I would agree with you.

my wife was a museum currator when we met, at a pretty good museum. I remmeber one of the things that she said to me early on "we don't do art, we document it, study it, catalogue it, make it available for people, but we aren't artists." the people who run museums aren't artistic, and they probably don't hire the right people to make the buildings.
 

Mark from Plano

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This threak is worthless without pics:

The Kimball, Ft. Worth, Texas, USA (Louis Kahn, Building opened 1972)


Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas, USA (Renzo Piano, Opened 2003)


Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, USA (Moshe Safdie, Opened 2011)
 
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Catallas

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Because church architecture is its own endgame of aesthetic pursuit. It's not burdened to facilitate suitable display for things that might be held within it temporarily, which lets it pursue stylized/non-functional means of beautifucation with more permanent materials and noticeable detailing, whereas museum architecture is burdened to accommodate things that are both aesthetically divergent, and experientially hegemonic, which will always cause museums to defer on the side of versatile banality to prevent conflicts. There are also the logistics of art hanging and necessary wall types that allow affordable adaptations of exhibition spaces, or lighting control which will generally force museums to control natural daylight oppressively. With that said, I think museums are often far too formal and conservative in their gallery arrangements, and especially conservative in the surface materials they're willing to arrange art on. I would put Labelking in charge of fixing this.
Too many words, and, in the end, it isn't even true. Many nice museums used to be old buildings or historical architecture...say the Hagia Sophia.

Lots of new museums are made by brands and use starchitects...they are still intended to be statements, like religious architecture might be, but are usually not so good at displaying art anyways. So it is not just the case that museums need to display things and hence are bound to be less aesthetically pleasing.
 

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