///////Project Info

///////J,P:A Index


CLIENT: San Jose State University

SITE: the open side of the existing two story U-shaped art school, alongside the Paseo on the SJSU campus

PROGRAM: Art museum, including spaces for permanent and temporary exhibitions, performance space, storage, workshops, administrative offices; replacement space for displaced art student studios and classrooms

SIZE: 35,000 ft2 + 15,000ft2 replacement space

COST: $12 Million

COMPLETION: Winter 2003 (competition)

NOTES: Structural steel frame on cast-in-place concrete spread footings, steel decking with concrete fill floors, steel curtainwall or corrugated panel cladding, movable molded fiberglass interior partitions.


from the competition boards: “While this proposal addresses all of the Competition Objectives, it focuses particularly on those that concern the university’s position at the “forefront of creative inquiry and problem-solving across the range of activities necessary to the successful realization of our future.” The present design understands this objective within the critical context of contemporary art practice and exhibition as an injunction to engage the ongoing debate about the “neutral while box.” Current museological discourse has more or less rejected the possibility or even desirability of such “neutrality” in favor of an exhibit setting that is more reflective of the conditions of art production and its ensnarement within a complex web of economic/social power relations. Some current design has taken this as a license to “let architecture out of the box,” with a concomitant exuberance that may be inappropriate in the sensitive context of the San Jose State University setting. This proposal attempts to steer a course between the drawbacks of the historical trend toward “architectural zoo-ology” in university design and the positive interest in a “killer” building for this site, as it presents both the artist and curator with the most empowering arena for their efforts.

This design proposes a division of the program into two categories—those of actual production and exhibition of art and those of support—and provides two types of space for these activities. For the “front of the house” efforts of the artists and curators, a spatially continuous “school of fish” partitioning system is provided. This system allows for a maximum of flexible, challenging spatial variety; the many individual translucent partitions are individually rotated and slid around their columnar supports to respond to the changing exhibition and pedagogical requirements of the Museum and Art School. Not only are the exhibition spaces thus electively continuous with the production areas, but an extremely fluid, open-ended relationship exists between them, so that a change in any single area may ripple through the fabric of the “a(rt)quarium” to subtly or dramatically effect the rest. The resultant rhyzomatic complex ties together even the most far-flung elements in the building at the same time that it emancipates all of the school’s members from the banality of conventional striated enclosure. Even the supporting elements of the program that do not participate physically in the eddies of the school of fish are drawn into a relationship.