Broad Art Museum: The Building Is the Art...and a Memorial
a stunning addition to the contemporary art world
The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on the campus of Michigan State University is one of the more recent additions to this ever-growing campus. It is also a stunning addition to the contemporary art scene, both in its daring design and in its contained exhibits. One of the last works of the late and much lamented Zaha Hadid, it serves as much as a memorial as a showcase for international talent and themes. It will help to advertise the changing nature of modern art , wherever new creativity takes us all in the future.
The exterior of this eye-catching structure is constructed of stainless steel and glass, with no regular plan. Rather, it stresses a fluid, organic rhythm that invites the eye to travel around the perimeter as if one were following a flock of birds in flight. This very freedom seems to be what Hadid was driving at, and the irregular pattern lends an almost restless quality to the building, as opposed to a conventional, static structure. Yet it cannot be categorized as just another postmodern concoction. Although the design could be interpreted as controversial, it has a mysterious, yet reassuring character, and somewhat resembles a contemporary Noah's Ark sailing up (or moored alongside) Grand River Avenue. It is equally striking by day or night, when its interior illumination adds to the streamlined and futuristic effect perceived from the outside. It should be recalled that when first put on public display, both the Eiffel Tower and the Guggenheim Museum in New York were sources of great controversy. Eventually, the Broad will also blend into its surroundings as they did and will become a comfortable presence along this busy corridor.
The immediate impression one has on entering the structure is limitless space. This is, of course, an optical illusion, for the building is only two stories tall. Still, it has the same fluid, flowing quality that the exterior conveys so well. The galleries tend to melt into one another, and there is never a sense of overcrowding which can be found in other museums and particularly art galleries. Indeed, the space at times is enough to induce a mild sense of agoraphobia. With intelligent placing of the permanent and revolving temporary exhibits, there will be ample space to take in a sculpture in the round, for example, or a hanging mobile. This is apparently what Hadid was aiming at, and it will serve the future well, whether one is en route to a special painting or sculpture or simply enjoying a general walk through. On the ground floor, there is also a lounge area, where one can discuss art or any other topic. The same curvilinear rhythm holds true for the inside as the outside.
Zaha Hadid's legacy
Zaha Hadid was a British-Iraqi architect who worked all over the world. She was also an author who wrote a number of architectural books. Her firm was and is staffed by architects who had much the same sense of style and mission. Known colloquially as the "Queen of the Curve", she won numerous prizes for her always unmistakable work, including the prestigious Pritzker and Stirling Prizes. She was made a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth ll and obviously struck a positive note for women worldwide. Although she was arguably not as diversified as Frank Lloyd Wright or Philip Johnson, her impact was keenly felt in many lands, from Spain to Azerbaijan to China. Indeed, her identifiable style calls to mind Edward Durell Stone, who always had that unique flair and also contributed much to modern architecture. Her untimely passing in Miami in 2016 leaves a void in the arts. Now that she is gone, the Broad takes on a special significance and will serve as a lasting and fitting local tribute to her memory.