The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, under construction at the University of California, Davis, will open to the public on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.
The architecturally significant new museum of art has been designed by associated architects SO — IL, an innovative, emerging practice based in Brooklyn, New York, and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, a nationally known firm based in San Francisco, Seattle and Pennsylvania.
“By further empowering a dynamic educational experience at this research university, the Manetti Shrem Museum points the way to the university of the 21st century,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “I look forward to seeing the new ways of thinking that will emerge from having the museum within walking distance of our major centers of research.”
The Manetti Shrem Museum, located along Interstate 80 on the south edge of campus, will provide new classroom space for studies in a range of fields and will incorporate two outdoor projection walls, free Wi-Fi access and study areas for students to help fulfill its commitment to 24/7 use for faculty, students, staff and the public.
Contemporary, with roots in the ’60s
The Manetti Shrem Museum is a contemporary art museum whose roots go back to the 1960s, when a group of originals arrived at UC Davis. Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Arneson and William T. Wiley were among the first to be hired at the Department of Art. This first generation pioneered an interdisciplinary approach to art making that has produced scores of influential figures, beginning with Bruce Nauman and Deborah Butterfield.
“Sixty years ago, the Department of Art at UC Davis emerged on the scene as an incubator for new talent and a place to explore divergent ideas,” says Rachel Teagle, founding director of the Manetti Shrem Museum. “We are following this example. Once again, UC Davis is supporting new talent, in this case SO — IL, backed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s breadth of experience.”
The new museum at UC Davis is named in honor of Jan Shrem, the founder of Clos Pegase winery in the Napa Valley, and his wife, arts patron Maria Manetti Shrem.
An architecture designed to evolve
Set amid the sweeping views of the Central Valley, the Manetti Shrem Museum is quintessentially of its place and time: an integration of the indoors and outdoors that is horizontal, light-filled, porous and flexible. The design proposes a museum for the future: “…neither isolated nor exclusive, but open and permeable; not a static shrine, but a constantly evolving public event,” in the words of Florian Idenburg, a founding principal of SO — IL.
A 50,000 square-foot “Grand Canopy” of perforated aluminum triangular beams is the signature design gesture and an engineering challenge. Taking cues from the agricultural vernacular as well as the lush trees of the arboretum on campus, the architects designed a permeable roof that serves as a modulator and projector of light. The canopy tops most of the 75,000 square-foot museum site, which comprises a hardscape entry plaza; separate pavilions for galleries, art making and operations; a courtyard; and a glass-enclosed lobby opening onto each of these spaces and to views beyond. “The plan is carefully orchestrated to increase moments of encounter and wonder and provide opportunity for informal learning,” notes Teagle.
The colors and shapes of the farmlands and vineyards surrounding the museum inspired the geometry of the Grand Canopy, the exterior cladding of pre-cast corrugated concrete, and the textured use of aluminum, concrete, clear glass, wood and white walls throughout the building.
Sustainability factors large
The design of the Manetti Shrem Museum reflects the architects’ understanding that sustainability begins with fundamental choices, finding a new way to live with our environment. The museum will also be energy efficient, complying with the University of California’s sustainability policy to strive to outperform California’s energy efficiency code by 30 percent and LEED Gold certification. The all-LED lighting systems in the art-display and exterior areas of the museum reflects UC Davis’ commitment to sustainability.
Bringing Davis back to Davis
The Manetti Shrem Museum is now in the midst of an ambitious acquisitions initiative designed to return to UC Davis its artistic legacy. As a uniquely situated archive and repository of works by UC Davis artists from the ’60s to the ’90s, the museum is positioned to make an original contribution to the field.
Among many gifts to date are Robert Arneson’s towering bronze sculpture, “I Have My Eyes on Me Endlessly” (1992), and Roy De Forest’s large-scale painting, “Painter of the Rain Forest” (1992), a gift shared between the Manetti Shrem Museum and the Oakland Museum of California.
The inaugural exhibition, opening Nov. 13, will unveil many gifts to the collection and feature major public and private loans. Along with Arneson and De Forest, those who will be represented include Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley, Ruth Horsting, Manuel Neri and Roland Petersen.
Education out front
Education is at the core of the Manetti Shrem Museum: As one enters, among the first spaces to be encountered are large, open rooms for classrooms, and indoor and outdoor workshops. UC Davis students across the curriculum will utilize the building. Groups will be able to sign up through the university’s central booking to use a classroom or lounge, and a collections room will accommodate classes and seminars.
The architectural team
SO — IL and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson are associated architects with contractor Whiting-Turner. Founded in 2008, SO — IL is well known for the Kukje Gallery in Seoul, Korea, and the Frieze Art Fair in New York City (2012). SO — IL won The Museum of Modern Art’s prestigious Young Architects Program in 2010 and the Architectural League of New York's “Emerging Voices” award in 2013. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, founded in 1965, has received more than 625 regional, national and international awards for design. The firm is well-known for its work with Apple, Pixar and Adobe. With offices in Folsom and Pleasanton, California, Whiting Turner recently completed construction of the Burton and Deedee McMurtry Building for art and art history at Stanford University.