Museums represent our greatest cultural and social aspirations in their mission to collect and disseminate ideas while also striving for symbolic status within global cultural and national/local, shared aspirations. A Museum of Contemporary Art has a particularly elevated status within this shared cultural milieu because it embodies our aspirations to shape and evolve culture. It collects and defines the edges of our cultural production and at it’s best, reflects the current and future states of our collective evolution.
After the 2008 global financial crisis and within our shifting understanding of shared responsibility to the environment, a museum must strategically situate it within this dynamic context. We understand the world as a space of interconnected networks both visible and unseen. These networks work together to define an environment in which shifting forces continuously re-invent context and conditions presenting challenges and opportunities along the way. The design of a Museum of Contemporary Art must, therefore, embrace the instability and present itself as a partner with the art contained within, to embody our aspirations while shaping and evolving our culture and our future.
The Nuevo Museo de Arte Contemporáneo site, located along the Avenida de Mayo axis that runs East to West through the heart of Buenos Aires, is ideally located to take advantage of local and regional infrastructure, cultural and civic events, and extends the Milla Museos along the Puerto Madero to the East and South. The design of the New Museum of Contemporary Art attempts to develop a response that re-enforces these connections and evolves within its context. It provides a new and adaptable public event space to attract a broad spectrum of visitors and takes advantage of its location by stitching together the civic space with the new insertion of a museum program. The project aspires to enmesh the new functions within the city fabric while engaging visitors to explore and investigate the many layers of culture within a city-appointed by UNESCO as a “City of Design.”
The design strategy uses a systemic logic to develop a dual museum, the new Museum of Contemporary Art (nMAC - Nuevo Museo de Arte Contemporáneo) which houses the majority of galleries and is inwardly focused while the other erodes the edges of the institution both conceptually and formally, producing a second museum the New Museum of Arts and Culture (nMAC – Nuevo Museo de Artes y Cultura.) This added value is a museum of the street, into which culture flows and from which the city becomes a canvas for exploration and interpretation. The traditional museum as an institution is by its very nature slow to respond and react to a rapidly changing environment, though it forms the leading edge of contemporary art. In contrast, the space of cultural production is in constant flux, forming, evolving, flowing, crystalizing, and transforming time and again. This dichotomy captures new opportunities for alternative programming for events that cross liminal cultural moments. While the first museum is the instigator of the competition and the initial attraction within the city, the second museum evolves from, into, and with the institution over time. It adapts to the changing needs of the very culture that will eventually transform the direction of the contemporary museum. They are at times one synthetic network and at other times distinct and autonomous, always enmeshed in a productive struggle but at their heart share a progressive lean toward the future.
The Nuevo Museo de Artes y Cultura allows for after-hours programming to reinforce and leverage the site within temporal movements of the city, as a destination in and of itself. This has secondary benefits of symbiotically connecting the institution of the nMAC to the city and the city to the institution. It also allows the institution to develop alternative programming that can strengthen the funding strategies, highlight educational outreach, increase social awareness and help to stabilize the institution in a rapidly changing global environment.