Architecture students win museum façade design competition

Peter Elsbeck, Cristina Greavu and Eric Rang, all graduate students in architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, won an international competition to create a sculptural façade for El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe in New Mexico.

Detail from the
Detail from the “Shifting Lines” competition board by architecture graduate students Peter Elsbeck, Cristina Greavu and Eric Rang. The winning design for a Santa Fe, N.M., cultural center façade consists of strips of fabric mounted on metal frames and will be unveiled at a ceremony today.

The group’s winning design was selected from more than 100 entries submitted by architects, artists and designers representing 10 countries. The team will receive a $5,000 first-place cash award.

El Museo Cultural — a center for Hispanic culture and learning now celebrating its 10th anniversary — is housed in a recently rehabbed, 32,000-square-foot former liquor warehouse. Competition entries were judged on creativity and their ability to transform the building’s existing industrial façade into a focal point for Santa Fe’s emerging Railyard Arts District.

“This is another great opportunity for art and architecture to come together in our city, which is known worldwide for both,” noted Carolyn Eason, competition committee chairperson for ART Santa Fe Presents Inc., a not-for-profit organization that sponsored the competition.

The winning proposal, titled “Shifting Lines,” consists of semi-translucent strips of white architectural fabric arranged in a rhythmic, undulating pattern along the building’s eastern side. During the day, these 10-inch-wide strips — which are mounted on a series of 95 metal frames anchored to the roofline and the concrete sidewalk — will create ever-changing configurations of shadows on the building’s corrugated steel cladding. At night, they will be subtly lit by a curving bank of low-intensity lamps.

“By capitalizing on the strong light of the Southwest and the repeating rhythm of the existing wall corrugation, the addition encourages a more three-dimensional, engaging experience,” the designers noted in their artists’ statement. “The material choice gives the viewer not only a visual experience, but also one of touch and hearing. The fabric softens the effect of the harsh metal surface, while even a mild wind can create a pleasant rippling sound.”

A public unveiling ceremony for the finished façade — which has a construction budget of about $30,000 — is being held today. In addition, the top three entries will be on display in El Museo’s exposition hall during the biennial art fair ART Santa Fe 2007 July 12-15.