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2018 MCHAP.emerge

Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art


Davis, CA, USA

November 2016




Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (Office)


University of California, Davis


Iwan Baan


In approaching the site, the challenge was to give definition to an area twice the size of the interior program. The strategy of creating a diverse portfolio of interconnected spaces provided a comprehensive and unifying solution. This approach enables visitors both to feel the grandeur of an important public institution and to find moments of intimate connection to art and people. The gallery suite exemplifies the portfolio strategy by providing a range of gallery sizes and heights. Within the galleries, multiple paths of exploration and varied, layered views occur. The museum acts as a platform for the arts and a variety of activities. The spare material palette features muted grays and whites in order to place greater emphasis on the art and activities. An acute attention to craft produced the custom-designed concrete panels and canopy structure. Utilizing materials and techniques vernacular to the agrarian context, these elements are elevated in their composition and detailing. Further connecting the museum to its cultural legacy is its relationship to TB-9 (Temporary Building 9), the military surplus building that incubated the groundbreaking artists who made UC Davis a destination for emerging art expression beginning in the 1960s. The new facility echoes the corrugated metal exterior and exposed interiors of this ordinary building.


The site for the museum completes the long-range master plan for program surrounding Vanderhoef Quad. Situated in a highly visible location adjacent to an active Amtrak line and Interstate 80 between Sacramento and San Francisco, the museum had to serve as an icon for the university from a variety of vantage points and speeds (pedestrian, bicyclist, automobile). The building acts as the terminus to an axis leading back to the center of campus, aligning interior and exterior circulation to maintain visual connectivity. An environmental silhouette, the design provides identity and awareness to the museum’s multiple constituencies. The procurement strategy for the Manetti Shrem Museum was a design-build competition. During the competition phase, the architects were in constant dialogue with the builder. This allowed for specific feedback about vernacular building techniques and cost-effective systems readily available in the Central Valley. This relationship continued through the documentation process: the architects worked directly with the various trades to refine details and test assemblies through large-scale mock-ups, maintaining a focus on aesthetic, functional and budgetary goals.


With a mission for all visitors to be students, the Manetti Shrem Museum invites participation and interaction across generational, racial, economic, and other societal divisions. The museum is free to the public and accessible to all. Liberating education from the closed classroom, the museum creates opportunities for informal, active, tactile and interdisciplinary learning. Flexibility and variety of spaces throughout the museum allow activities of different types and scales to occur together or in parallel, supporting the individual and collective, contemplative and conversational learning activities of the university as well as the broader community. The Collections Classroom provides an intimate setting for small seminars to learn directly from actual art objects in the controlled museum environment. Medium-sized lectures take place in the Community Education Room. A clear-span gallery area is reconfigurable and expandable to accommodate many different kinds of exhibitions and events. The Events Plaza hosts art performance day and night. Transforming an empty lot previously used for construction staging into an arts institution, the Manetti Shrem Museum integrates a variety of environmentally friendly systems. All LED lighting reduces electrical and heating loads, while linking room occupancy monitors to the mechanical system further reduces energy use. Water-saving fixtures and native, drought-tolerant landscaping lessen water consumption in California’s parched Central Valley, while stormwater run-off is retained and treated on site. The building incorporates locally sourced materials and ties into the university’s centralized photovoltaic farm. Through these systems and responsible decision-making, the LEED Platinum museum exceeds the university’s sustainability requirements.

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