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Orange County Museum of Art

Morphosis Architects

Costa Mesa, California, United States

October 2022


Brandon Welling (Partner in Charge)



Orange County Museum of Art


Mike Kelley


Instead of being isolated and discrete spaces, the museum’s main galleries are flexible and connected, glimpsed from the ticketing lobby and mezzanine galleries through glass interior walls and keyhole openings. A grand outdoor public stair curves toward the museum’s entry, creating dialogue with the monumental sculpture by Richard Serra at the heart of the arts complex. The high-performance façade of light-colored, undulating bands of glazed terracotta creates a distinctive character for the building, playing off the forms and language of neighboring works of architecture.

The main floor of the museum is dedicated to reconfigurable open-span exhibition space, complemented by mezzanine, black-box, and jewel-box galleries that can accommodate temporary and permanent collection exhibitions spanning a variety of scales and mediums. A spacious roof terrace provides flexible space for events, day-to-day visits, and outdoor dining for the museum restaurant, with mature native trees and large-scale sculpture installations. A sculptural wing hovers over the lobby atrium and creates a prominent location for the educational hall, with all-ages programming for the local community.

The project took specific aim in reducing its water usage and footprint, responding to Orange County’s dry environment. Inside the building are efficient plumbing and kitchen fixtures paired with advanced irrigation systems, which are supplemented through water metering for storm water collection. The property’s exterior repurposes the collected storm water for plants used in the landscaped roof terrace, which are native and adaptive to foster soil health. Vegetated roof surfaces have permeable concrete underneath that allows for water to collect and be reused.


The Orange County Museum of Art is located on the final site to be developed within an existing arts and performance campus in Costa Mesa, California. Joining the city’s most significant cultural buildings, including the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, the museum is designed to be a “good neighbor,” responding to the nearby buildings through material and color palette; sympathetic height and massing; and maintained sightlines and circulation.
The Orange County Museum of Art is designed to welcome the community, bucking the trend for art museums to be impenetrable and inward facing. The museum opens to its surroundings, with a Storefront Gallery and window walls lining the street and entrance elevation, creating views into exhibition spaces from the sidewalk and plaza. Accessible to the public, the spacious roof terrace gives back 80% of the building’s footprint to event space, for sculptures and installations, outdoor performances, or private rentals.

The new building also grants OCMA its first dedicated space for learning: the Education Pavilion, where community workshops, K-12 programming, and lectures are held. Wired for various AV/IT possibilities, the Education Pavilion provides opportunities for museum educators to work in innovative ways, offering hands-on learning and dynamic programming. The educational spaces are showcase instead of hidden, housed in a sculptural form floating above the entrance to become a focal point of the museum’s public presence.


The Orange County Museum of Art was designed to offer a new home to a 60-year-old institution who had outgrown its previous location. The goals for the new building were to expand the museum’s exhibition possibilities; create spaces that offered a range of leasable event venues; and create a new institutional identity that was both welcoming to the community and responsive to its iconic architectural surroundings.

Since its opening, the museum exceeded their projected attendance, welcoming over 200,000 visitors with diverse exhibitions and events. The large roof terrace has expanded programming possibilities for the museum, allowing them to offer outdoor art workshops for K-12 groups and as well as community events such as yoga classes for all ages. Supported by the iconic new building, the museum was able to secure sponsorship for free admission for ten years from local business partners.

The new building also hosts the museum’s annual fundraising Art Sense Gala with over 400 guests, which are easily housed in the museum’s varying event spaces. The roof terrace is also used for the museum’s new space rental program, which hosts weddings, corporate retreats, meetings, and film productions. The open and reconfigurable event spaces throughout the building have a great range in capacity, holding between 10 and 400 people. This allows the museum to have both intimate gatherings or lavish affairs, transitioning seamlessly based on need.

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