Adopting an Orphaned Collection
Salmons, John Andrew
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"Architecture itself is linked not only to other arts but also to the broader context of life; it is only on that scale that we may understand its specific contribution to the formation of the communicative space of culture."* - Dailbor Vesely 2004 Architects have explored Art Galleries as a medium throughout the ages. In 2014, the Corcoran was sold, dismantled and divided between the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University signaling the end of an era of art display in the Nation's Capital. This transformation of a major DC art collection was the impetus for this thesis: to mark the end of an era and to create a new home for the Corcoran Collection. To house this orphaned collection, I have studied similar elements that earlier architects have studied such as light, shadow, and reflection, taking into account the dawn of the next generation of art galleries. The role of this museum is to educate and facilitate information about the collection and the art. Contemporary art galleries that have been built recently included additional areas of services that were originally not part of the Corcoran Museum's building program, such as the role of conservation of historical objects including paintings and works on paper. Another area of my research was the relationship between the viewer and the building. The Corcoran has an extensive collection of American art and art directly from D.C. and it is important to allow direct access for the community and accommodate enough wall space to give context to the art. With the setting of the contemporary art gallery framed, we return back to the research to really question how each of those elements were thought about moving forward. We need light to see, but what had been seen and depicted on great Master's canvases should be protected from light. Should natural light be brought into the gallery spaces even though it damages works on canvas and paper? Can gallery spaces change over time to mirror the objects that they hold? Can the building reflect the area around the gallery but also act as a space of meditation and self-reflection? To adopt means to take another's child, but it can also mean to embrace an idea. In this case we are adopting the collection of William Corcoran and combining it with newer elements found in modern museums. On further evaluation of the gallery it has strong ties to historic D.C. because of its collection and its community outreach however its weakness was due in part of turning its back on the same community that made it strong. I propose moving the collection into the heart of Washington D.C. and combining it with newer ideas of light and gallery services. This process will allow the Corcoran to continue its evolution as a great American collection. *Dailbor Vesely, "Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation." (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2004), 88-89.
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