UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN MUSEUM OF ART GIFT SHOP - Ann Arbor, MI
This 540 sq. ft. bookshop was designed and built for the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) as an independent architecture within their existing Beaux Arts building. Its site on the building’s primary axis obliges the bookshop to have a strong object quality in order to hold ground on this ideologically strong line. Its program, a retail enterprise embedded inside an academic archive, obliges the bookshop to avoid calling undo attention to itself. Decisions were made so as to maximize the impact of these paradoxical obligations. The bookshop reads both as a tightly detailed box -- compact and complete -- and as a series of distinct millwork figures that do not resolve their individual differences into one manageable whole.
Inspired by Robert Ryman, the American artist of white paintings who achieves subtle effects with monochromatic textures, the exterior skin of the shop is an essay in textured monochrome. Externally, the white surfaces provide a background for medieval fragments and figures, their display designed to disturb the symmetry of the box. Embedded into one long wavering wall is a slender glass case which, supported by 101 spiderly steel legs, holds manuscripts, chalices and small artifacts.