Tampa Museum of Art
by Stanley Saitowitz


San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz has completed a museum in Florida, USA, which is wrapped in a perforated metal skin and cantilevers out from its glazed base.

Called Tampa Museum of Art, the building is divided into two volumes, each organised around a courtyard.

The first contains public areas of the museum and the other is for offices and curatorial facilities.

A cafe and bookstore are located on the ground floor overlooking the water.

The information below is from Saitowitz:

Tampa Museum of Art
Tampa, Florida

Museums began in ancient times as Temples, dedicated to the muses, where the privileged went to be amused, to witness beauty, and to learn.

After the Renaissance museums went public with palatial structures where the idea of the gallery arose, a space to display paintings and sculpture. Later, museums became centers of education, researching, collecting, and actively provoking thought and the exchange of ideas.

By presenting the highest achievements of culture, museums became a stabilizing and regenerative force, crusading for quality and excellence. The role of the modern museum is both aesthetic and didactic, both Temple and Forum.

The design of contemporary museum can be characterized by two polar approaches.

On the one-hand buildings which aim to be works of art in themselves, independent sculptural objects as signatures of their architects.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are museums as containers, as beautiful jewel boxes, treasure chests whose sole purpose is to be filled with art, like the Tampa Museum.

This museum is a neutral frame for the display of art, an empty canvass to be filled with paintings. It is a beautiful but blank container, a scaffold, to be completed by its contents.

We are interested in openness, in unknown possibilities in the future, in Architecture as infrastructure.

We have created compelling space in the most discreet way, avoiding the building as an independent sculptural object, and using space and light to produce form.

A glass pedestal supports the jewelbox of art above. The building floats in the park, embracing it with its overhanging shelter and reflective walls. It is a hovering abstraction, gliding above the ground.

The building is not only in the landscape, but is the landscape, reflecting the greenery, shimmering like the water, flickering like clouds.

It blurs and unifies, making the museum a park, the park a museum.

The long building is sliced in the center.

This cut divides the programs in two, the one public and open, the other support and closed.

Each of the two sections is organized around a court, one the lobby, the other a courtyard surrounded by the offices and curatorial areas.

The 40’ cantilever provides a huge public porch for the city, raising all the art programs above the flood plane.

The walk along this porch, flanked by the park, focussed on the river, leads to the lobby. The procession through this quiet and levitating space is the preparation for viewing art.

The lobby is at first horizontal, with entirely glass walls, two clear, two etched.

The clear walls allow the site to run through the space, linking the Performing Art Building on the north with the turrets and domes of the University of Tampa on the south.

Above the glass, the perforated ceiling wraps from the exterior into vertical perforated walls that turn into an upper ceiling, perforated again by a series of skylights. The galleries are reached from the lobby below via a dramatic cinematic stair reaching up. Below the stair is a bed of river rock.

Off the lobby is a long glass room that houses the café and bookstore in a storefront along the riverwalk.

We have built the most expansive and generous field of galleries as instruments to enable, through curation, a world to expose art. They are arranged in a circuit, surrounding the vertical courtyard void.

The galleries are blank, walls, floor and ceiling all shades of white, silent like the unifying presence of snow. The floors are ground white concrete with a saw cut grid to echo the illuminated white fabric ceiling above. Linear gaps in the ceiling conceal sprinklers, air distribution and lighting.

The second segment, around the open court, contains all the support for the museum. Offices surround the court on three sides. A bridge on the lower level is a secondary crossing from preparation to storage, a place for museum staff to be outside.

The image of the museum results from the nature of its surface – it does not symbolize or describe. It disengages through neutral form, providing a kind of pit stop in the attempt to represent. It is a moment to savor things in themselves.

By day the surfaces appear to vary almost, but never quite. They are smudged and stammering, with moray like images of clouds or water or vegetation, a shimmering mirage of reflections.

It is an expansive and illusive image of a museum about things we don’t quite know, about things we don’t quite see.

By day, light reflects on the surfaces.
By night, light emanates from the surfaces.

By night the exterior become a canvass for a show of light. The art from within bleeds out onto the walls and escapes into the darkness.

By night it is the magical illumination of the skin changing colors and patterns in endless variations which turn the building inside out, revealing it secrets as it broadcasts light, color and form into the city, duplicated in its reflection in the water.

This museum is both timeless and of our time, an electronic jewel box, floating on a glass pedestal, a billboard to the future, and a container to house works inspired with vision and able to show us other ways to see our world. The museum hovers in the park, a hyphen between ground and sky.

Posted on Tuesday March 16th 2010 at 4:45 pm by Catherine Warmann. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Jocelyn

    Woow… Really nice !!!!

  • V-V

    Whattt a span!

  • Wow, a really rigid and symmetrical deYoung Museum for Tampa!

    Am I surprised the firm is from San Francisco? No.

    If you are going to copy a design, please improve on it. Yes it has an indigenous temple feeling in it’s copper clad form on the west coast. Here it could be a perforated temple to IKEA on the east coast. The Calder mobile looks horrible against a dense grid of holes.

    I am not usually this critical of the projects on here, but I imagine this only looks good during the flood, with the hovering mesh iceburg illuminated inches above a torrent of water.

  • Lady Blue

    Love the lightings!!!

  • flytoget

    This is great. Love it!

  • Elegant and simple

  • Juampi Z

    plans are so clean… exterior very austere… really like it! and nice lighting!

  • AJ

    I really like this… thumbs up!

  • Chase

    Some shots look identical to Herzog + de Meuron in Golden Gate park, anyone else see the similarities?

  • YML

    All young designer kiddes take note, this is how post-modernists execute a MODERN structure in a contemporary context

  • YML

    Stanley’s firm has always consistently produce objects that play on light and heavy.

  • elias

    Welcome to perforation galore !!

    Why is there a need to completely wrap the entire exposed surface with perforated sheet? Won’t there be a serious problem in cleaning the glass panels beneath that sheet? Nice but maintenance nightmare.

  • Kristen

    I love this..instead of having glass in between the view, this one just leave it open.

  • hernindya

    can’t be better than this!superb..

  • oh boy, can’t wait to take the high speed rail from Epcot Center straight to this behemoth! Culture, Florida, USA!

  • roman kralya

    sorry, but it looks like an old soviet archecture… not pleasent.

  • wd40

    this is the longest blogpost i’ve ever seen!

  • bebo

    i think that the human nature cannot help it not to like and admire clean and neat shapes what ever they are…realy beautiful.

  • ehab

    this project look like a heaven to me

  • Seb

    It reminds me of Soviet architecture too. And that’s a good thing.

  • fakhrur

    and what a wonderful night lighting!

  • Jimmy

    super build, tasty photos.

  • Mindy

    I’ve always wondered what the inside of an Apple G5 looked liked.

  • ivan ventura

    that’s what i like! nice simple form and elegant skin!
    good job!

  • gab xiao

    this is a genuinely HOT MINIMAL project coming from the US! LOVE Saitowitz – all his buildings are a sheer lesson in architecture!

  • max habi

    Great display spaces, expansive curatorial areas and all in a stunning package.

  • to be enlightened

    Michael –

    please enlighten us with your criticism of this project being a copy of the De Young. from the building’s rectilinear form, sectional gesture, symmetry between galleries and office spaces, to programmatic organization, please point out anything that is close to the De Young. even the diagrammatic reading of the two buildings share no similarities. are you just referring to the use of perforated skin and the cantilever piece? if so, does that make any building with perforated skin a copy of the de young? if you are referring to this building’s cantilevered massing is a copy of the de young’s canopy, i suggest you look at the sections of the two buildings again. i hope you know what a building section is?

    “rigid and symmetrical de young” is a contradicting statement to begin with based on HdeM’s design approach. temple to ikea in the east coast … okay, i am lost….along with the 20+ people on dezeen and 20+ other on archdaily who made no reference to this building being a copy of the de young, nor have the ability to compare apples to bananas. having a critical eye is good, but making sense with your argument is another…

  • Al-Ishaq

    The things you can do with a simple rectangle…

  • Ayham


  • JP

    i agree that this is a nice everything but maintenance is practically impossible,,,,,, unsustainable

  • marl carx

    is it just me or is everything these days cantilevered?
    like everyone is trying to push it just a little bit further and further. my fear is that in the future all these buildings are going to develope structural problems and we are left with a great deal of flawed buildings. these have no longevity. any movement in the foundation and you have a huge problem.

  • M Spencer

    Tampa absolutely needs this.

    @marl carx
    Work with any team of ingenious engineers for the duration of a project and you will cease to have any doubt in their abilities to make things like this possible. I for one firmly support cantilevered facades. They lend a human scale to the grounds surrounding a building.

  • RK_LA

    Awesome! I think this is what is now needed in the face of all the crazy buildings starchitects are building these days… love it!

  • Time for enlightenment,

    I am guessing you worked on the project, work with art in Tampa, or are a wealthy donor to to the project being criticized. I won’t play games, I am a recently graduated architecture student, and I like to call out BS when I see it. Hopefully young, keen eyes will be noticing my mistakes when I make them in the future. It keeps us honest. Here is how I will enlighten and keep the designers honest.

    There are several outstanding successes with the M.H. de Young museum. The methodology and process that went into the copper cladding for for the location was rather genius. Having lived in Monterey, and knowing the weather of this region, day in and day out, I have to say, choosing this technique was brilliant. The idea is, the museum will slowly change over time with an envelope that has panels both individually repetitive, yet entirely unique.

    Tampa does not have the same program, as it lacks the pre-columbian works the de Young has. So, if you were to adjust the de Young’s programming to match a more contemporary collection, set in a more urban setting, you might make it look like this. Instead of salty air changing copper perforated skin over time, you use light to change a perforated stainless steel skin daily. Copper patina for a collection of timeless and ancient art, a stainless steel light show for the every changing modern collection of contemporary western displays.

    The statement about this being a “temple” clues me in to this being a H&dM ripoff. The de Young is, in fact a monumental temple to art. If any temple were to look like a box, lacking any human craft or fabrication, it might be for minimalist IKEA or Apple. Or perhaps, another objectified monument in the fantastical Florida landscape, like Epcot or Grave’s Disney hotel nightmares. Having all those copper panels, individually water cut and then made to be undulating by a craftsman, leaves an impressive statement about people and the MAKING of something. You can build, but laboring to actually make, is an awesome impression to leave on a gallery that displays all sorts of methodical handmade objects.

    Tucking the glass public/lobby space for the de Young allows access from more then one facade and entrance creating the open circulation you would want in the middle of an expansive park like Golden Gate. Again, the main entrance orientation in Tampa seems arbitrary, so you would need to have an open circulation. Not entirely a de Young copy, this was more Mies Van der Rohe and the modernists lobby setback, but still an entirely similar feature.

    Adding on to that is the designer’s claim there is a connection to natural disasters with the height and setback associated with a “flood plane”. Maybe this is a typo, it is “floodplain”. The de Young also reacts to localized disasters in earthquakes.

    Then you have this concept of bringing the park into the museum and blending it into the surrounding. I’d say H&dM did this rather successfully with their cuts into the building the actually draw in trees, plants and sunlight. The roof detailing actually show this physical process of breaking the galleries open and mixing the public outdoor and indoor spaces. The skin is also supposed to draw on this concept of light cascading through a heavy forest canopy because of it’s setting.

    In Tampa, this setting is considerably less natural, and more urban. The one skylight you do have exposes river rock and sky instead because the museum’s differing proximity. Same concept, different environment. It is done at a minimal level, and could pushed so much further for a cultural and art center.

    Then you have, what I think, is the most blanket and BS statement about the perforations letting reflecting light during the day, and then emanating light out at night. Most buildings already achieve this, it is called contrast and glare. I think the designers here enjoyed the de Young’s concept of light through a forest canopy that they copied the perforations. If the light is going to emanate instead of reflect at night, why do a light show? Because the perforations aren’t actually being as open as we are led on to believe, and the lighting at night conceals this.

    Look at the de Young at night. Obviously daytime glare is an issue in a museum, so the only real open spaces are the lobby and tower. For the rest of the museum, they illuminate exterior lighting after the sun sets. Saitowitz just chose colored light because stainless steel lacks the color copper has and is boring to look at season after season as a massive box.

    Need more evidence? Sure the museum in Tampa is different, but the concepts are the same. The cleverly worded statement by the designers is just that, cleverly worded. Feel more enlightened? I can continue with a few more observations on how this is a poor knock off as opposed to what I feel, could have been an impressive rehashing of a great project.

    P.S. Not all bloggers/commenters are qualified to really assess, interpret and criticize architecture. I’d guess most are enthusiasts or fans of anything big and new. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you are related to this project, I would love to give you a more in-depth analysis of this work. I am not saying the designers are bad, they just chose to use the de Young as a precedent, and could have gone so much further with that inspiration.

  • Bopper3000

    The images at night are stunning! although during the day, the building is way to dull!

  • Doesn’t care if it’s a ripoff

    Don’t worry Michael, they didn’t call me back for a job interview either.

  • It’s pretty awesome.

    Every detail of it is Edward Durell Stone taken to the next level.

    Then the lighting is done by Leo Villareal.