Tampa Museum of Art

Tampa Museum of Art in Tampa, Florida by Rafael Viñoly Architects, 2004

A major element in Tampa, Florida's new Cultural District - 28 blocks of art, history and performing arts - will be the new Tampa Museum of Art, to be finished in 2006. The existing museum will be demolished after the completion of the new design by Rafael Viñoly Architects of New York, creating space for a new waterfront park and subsequently opening views to the building from Hillsborough River. At over 150,000 s.f. the new museum's home will more than triple the space of its existing facilities, while also creating outdoor space for leisure and art display.

Viñoly's design sites the mass of the building close to Ashley Drive, cantilevering a large roof canopy over a portion of the roadway to create a monumental entry for the museum. This canopy is sure to become the symbol of the museum, due to its visibility from a distance and its effect upon the spaces in and around the museum. Covering a roof sculpture garden, the trellis-like canopy is reminiscent of the traditional awnings of old Tampa, but blown up to an urban scale and acting as much as a symbol as a functional element.

A double-height space greets the visitor stepping inside from Ashley Drive. Vertical circulation to the galleries is stacked along this prominent elevation, providing views over the waterfront park to the river and the city beyond and reinforcing the connection of the museum to the rest of Tampa. Galleries include Greek and Roman antiquities on the lowest level, studio glass and graphic arts galleries above, culminating in traveling exhibit space and modern art/contemporary galleries below the roof terrace.

Above the galleries and below the trellis sits a sculpture park, planned as the culmination of the experience for the museum-goer - the anti-Guggenheim (New York) with the visitor ascending instead of descending. The roof terrace, and the movement through the museum, make sense in Tampa's climate which allows year-round use, if not always year-round comfort. Viñoly's simple, boxy design subdues itself towards the effect of the trellis, the project's most important element that hopefully will receive loving effort in detailing and execution so it becomes the proper symbol (at all levels of perception) for one of Tampa's important cultural institutions.