The power of good architecture: entranced and enchanted at Mudam, Part 2
As I wrote about a couple of days ago, Mudam, Luxembourg’s contemporary art museum, is an architectural gem. I promised to take you inside the building, so you can see for yourself whether the building on the inside stacks up to how it looks outside.
The materials on show on the outside flow through to inside, making for gallery spaces that are in many instances beautifully lit by natural light which spills in through the large panes of glass in the roof and widows. The Grand Hall greets you soon after arrival. It is breathtaking in scale and structure, and serves as the main hub of the building, with other galleries leading off on either side and at different levels. Without a doubt, the moment I glimpsed the Grand Hall, I knew that we were in for something special.
Granted, Conrad Shawcross‘ site-specific work The Nervous Systems (Inverted) was intensely striking and worked to the utmost level of harmony with the architecture, and has left an indelible memory in my mind. But I think the Grand Hall space in itself is breathtaking and has the effect of making you feel so happy to be inside the building after admiring it from the outside; to find that it gets even better is quite amazing and unexpected. I imagine that the Grand Hall is a space that artists lucky enough to exhibit there find simultaneously inspiring and intimidating (hopefully not in equal measure). The interior balcony which affords a view over the Grand Hall and towards the city through the glass panes allowed a different, elevated view.
I found the way that the building plays with light and dark pretty enchanting too.
The various pop out viewing windows and levels which open out and up to provide a view down to the galleries below means that a sense of curiosity about how the building, which feels unpredictable and exciting on the inside, will present itself around the next corner.
Mudam was really fun to explore, with innovative use of spaces which other museums might see as dead space, such as connecting hallways, utilised to their full potential as exhibition spaces.
The way that windows frame the outside was also striking. Here you can see a view of the (also impressive) Luxembourg Philharmonie building. Perhaps the way the Philharmonie is framed was a happy coincidence, as it was built after Mudam. Or perhaps architects cleverly realised the framing opportunities that they could use to somehow link the buildings together in this way?
I’ve written before about staircases as a feature in a museum. With Mudam, Ieoh Ming Pei takes the staircase to an art form in itself. The spiral staircase in one of the galleries complements the rest of the space and the art nearby:
Whilst the staircase which carries you down to the basement level (which houses further exhibition space and a very comfortable theatre) completely captivated me, tricking the mind as if suspended midair.
However it was the glass encased footbridge, connecting the main heart of Mudam to a side wing, featuring an unusually shaped exhibition room under a second glass turret structure, which really wowed me. The space gives a real sense of being transported to another place.
After soaking up the beauty of the building and the art, by the point we stumbled upon the cafe, we should have known that it would likely be something out of the ordinary, yet it still managed to pleasantly surprise us, with its secret spaces and shadows…
…and fun and inventive purpose-designed and built furniture by Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec. The tactile side of me just wanted to touch the squishy looking “sky”.
And the food! Oh, the food. I shall let the photograph speak for itself here. Incidentally, Mudam’s summer cafe looks equally interesting, scroll down on this page to check it out.
The day we visited Mudam, in May, we had particularly odd weather: on approach to the building it was grey and overcast (as our photos in my earlier post attest), and it started to snow for a couple of moments (so fleeting we wondered if we were crazy, but the reactions of others around us confirmed we were not the only ones perplexed by the sudden flurry of small snow drops falling from the sky!). The chilly drop in temperature meant that by the time we had lingered for a longtime outside admiring the building’s exterior, we were icy when we finally got inside and welcomed the chance to thaw out. When we exited Mudam (oh, a good three or so hours later!), bright sunlight and blue skies greeted us. At this point, how could I resist taking some more pictures of this oh-so-photogenic building?!
I’m really glad I did, because I think the far side of the building has some of the most stunning features and viewing angles. For example, when we walked down this staircase on the inside of the building, we had no idea how it appeared floating on the outside…
… and the brilliant way that the building integrates with the fortress walls impressed me all over again!
What’s not to like about Mudam’s amazing architecture? Nothing, as far as I can see. If, like me, you can’t get enough of it, you should definitely check out this page which has a far more in-depth explanation of the building as well as some fantastic videos showcasing various features, and one which will take you on a virtual tour of Mudam. Go on, you know you want to!
Oh, and the art wasn’t too bad either… (read: amazing!). We’ve already featured some on foldedcranes.com before, here and here. Indeed, many of the works we viewed on this lovely day have continued to act as ongoing sources of inspiration, lingering in our minds. So, I think some future posts on the artworks held inside the architecture of Mudam will definitely be in order…
Photos taken by CIA and PJD at Mudam Luxembourg, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, May 2012.