Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Museum Macura | Ivan Kucina, Nenad Katic, Vladimir Macura

Project: Museum Macura
LocationNovi Banovci, Serbia
Design Team:
Ivan Kucina, architect
Nenad Katic, architect
Vladimir Macura

Photos: Ana Kostic

Serbian architects Ivan Kucina and Nenad Katic, together with Vladimir Macura, designed a Museum for the art collection Macura in Novi Banovci, Serbia. They shared with us their project and an absolutely to read story concerning the whole process of design and building of the museum:

Museum Macura is the first designated museum object built in Serbia after the Belgrade's Museum of Modern Art from 1964an the Musuem of African Art 1972.. It displays the art collection Macura that is one of the largest private collections of modern art in the region of south-east Europe, and comprises the works of 20th century avant-garde artists, with much focus on early 20th century movements such as dada, zenithism, surrealism, constructivism, Viennese activism and others. It includes painting and sculpture, as well as design objects such as furniture. More importantly, collection is complemented by exhaustive original documentation in form of notes, sketches, photographs, letters, magazines and artifacts that contribute to better understanding of the artists and movements itself. 

Opening of Museum Macura in May 2008 was an important milestone in Serbian art scene as it was the first museum dedicated to permanently house a private collection. Collections are presented in a very casual manner, where works of high art mingle with signature furniture, original documentation and every day banal objects. This creates a sense of an intimacy of a home, not least because Mr. Macura actually uses part of the building as his residence, and often personally admits the visits and excursions. 

Museum is located in the rural settings, dramatically perched on top of the cliff overlooking the river Danube, and it is a place where art lovers gather as if going to a picnic, to spend a day enjoying art and nature. Art collector Vladimir Macura, Serbian from Vienna had been looking for ways to set up a permanent exhibition of his collection in Belgrade. A few years ago he contacted us asking for design a budget-sensitive gallery building of about 180 square meters on a field close to Novi Banovci, 10km out of Belgrade. Our initial design for the gallery included the use of cheap materials and structure in a Do It Yourself manner. The layout was an attempt to create as much exhibition walls as possible within a tiny building footprint, Floor plan reminded Mr.Macura of a meander painting from his collection by J.Knipfer, which inspired him to imagine a much more ambitious project and so the design brief grew from a gallery into a museum.
The museum design was to be 5 times bigger than initial gallery (800 sqm) which meant adding more segments to the meander form, and adding one more floor. The program had to be expanded too, adding cafe to the exhibition space as well as an apartment in which Mr.Macura was about to live a part of the year. The new design for the museum envisioned a visually continuous interior space on two levels connected by two stairways placed in the outer space of the meander (see plans), and carefully placed few large window openings to achieve different levels of lighting. Above the internal stairways, exactly the same external stairways were designed to connect the ground to the roof which activated roof as a useful space. Exterior stairways articulated otherwise understated cubic exterior which created a strong presence of the building in a very special location in of vast lowlands of Vojvodina. This concept also allowed us to use the most available and cheapest building materials used for construction of family house around - concrete slabs and columns, bricks, and the aluminum-framed windows. The banality and the rawness of these materials were to serve as an ideal backdrop contrasting the collection comprising outstanding works of arts.

The preliminary design of museum, in form of a floor plan and 3D renders were presented and handed over to Mr.Macura for consideration and feedback. It was not until about a year later that we were contacted again by Mr Macura to come and see the building already in the final stages of construction. 

For us, it was highly unusual that he even started to build based on unfinished project, and after a visit to construction site we were greatly disappointed by the changes Mr Macura conducted to original design. The proportions of exterior, as well as the fluidity of interior space were damaged; exterior stairways were replaced by glass atria. Inspired by our design, Mr Macura has adopted it to his own understanding of exhibition space. 

Although we seen all of this initially as diminishment of architectural value of the building, and disrespect of client-author relationship, the unexpected positive feedback from the cultural scene in Serbia made us reconsider our own attitudes. The completed building with the exhibition in place, has maintained the being of an art piece that we established in our design --- the one that reflected in a poetic of unfinished and unpretentious. 

Although, from authors' point of view, we could say that the endeavor was an unsuccessful one because some of the architectural values has been lost due to lack of control and supervision of the construction, on the other hand it was a great success because, under unlikely circumstances, a new value has been created due to incomplete communication with the client. This great new value emerges when architecture ceases to be only an object and becomes an instrument of social interaction. This was achieved through such relationship with client in whom he becomes a co-author of the piece who has the last word when making decisions. This attempt is aligned with new developments in participative design methodology, although here for us it happened unplanned and spontaneous. This all underlines the impression of informality, immediacy and freedom which is crucial when experiencing and understanding the art on display. We attempted to create a simple and affordable design which would be raw and unfinished, as a neutral background on which the art can be presented in less formal way.
In one way, architectural practice in Serbia nowadays is no different than any other place, except that maybe the expanding real-estate market in a period of economic and political transition made it a bit more extremely commercial rather than socially-driven. However, what does differ is that architects in Serbia don't have any institutional protection - there are no officially adopted service fees, no protection of intellectual property nor insurance of contracts. Additionally, there is an estimated one million of illegal structures built in Serbia from the beginning of 90ies, which contributed a lot to a perceived understanding that people do not need architects to build. In the light of these facts, what happened to Museum Macura is not very unexpected, although again we would like to emphasize the positive outcome of this process rather than its shortcomings or frustration. We always wanted to make design that acts responsibly within social, economic and ecological environment. In a case of Museum Macura these would translate as respect to cultural heritage of art on display as well as institution itself, sensitivity towards economic needs of client and realities of the marketplace, and more than anything awareness of social responsibility when designing a type of building that is a hub of social and cultural life.

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