Art Meets Architecture

Located in Cleveland, the city’s new Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) features a façade as artistic as what’s inside. The nearly 34,000-square-foot project was designed and engineered with the architects at Farshid Moussavi Architects (FMA), the firm’s first museum and its first major structure in the United States. The design team also included executive architects Westlake Reed Leskosky, headquartered in Cleveland.

A view of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland from Euclid Avenue. Rendering by Foreign Office Architects. Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland and Foreign Office Architects, 2010.

A. Zahner was brought on to provide the façade services, including design assist, engineering, fabrication and installation of the building envelope and glass and metal façade. According to information from MOCA, the four-story building is clad primarily in mirror-finish black Rimex stainless steel; one of the buildings six facets is also clad in transparent glass.

According to Zahner, this metal surface “is essentially a dark-tinted mirror, reflecting a darker image of its surroundings with perfect mirror accuracy, and imbuing the imagery of the sky and general surroundings on its dark polished surface.”

The project seems to at first have a hexagonal shape, but when viewed from above, the core of the structure is actually a 92- by 92-foot cube. According to FMA principal Farshid Moussavi, the building’s hexagonal base gives the museum multiple entries, while its square top lends itself to the museum’s rotating collection, allowing the space to be easily divided into flexible temporary spaces.

As part of its role, Zahner produced a mock-up for the project in June of 2011. The design required a highly engineered and crafted surface, according to Zahner, noting that “in many ways, the building is as complex to build as some of the more curvilinear projects [in which it] has been involved.” This was because the tight corners and edges had acute tolerances.

Zahner’s design assist group and its operations team worked with the architects to produce a mock-up that was built to simulate a corner-section at the top of the building. According to Zahner, the building’s upward design was calculated to minimize distraction from reflected surfaces and the design was also tested using computer-modeled simulations of the sun.

The project was completed earlier this year and also features the Donna and Stewart Kohl Monumental Staircase and Atrium. According to MOCA, this is a unique feature in the world of architecture and design. The staircase begins its ascent in the atrium and has been stacked on top of a second staircase, creating a sculptural form, well lit and illuminated by the glassy atrium.