The Contemporary is a non-collecting exhibition, educational and event space in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The site is located in the Grand Center District, adjacent to the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. Together, the institutions are a focal point for the arts community in St. Louis and a catalyst for the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood. The Contemporary’s mission is not to preserve, but to provoke: presenting work from noted artists such as Maya Lin, Bruce Nauman and Cindy Sherman, as well as emerging contemporary artists.
The two-story, 27,000 s.f. museum provides open, flexible space for exhibitions and programs while emphasizing transparency at ground level. The building is formed by two intersecting ribbons of concrete and stainless steel mesh that weave and overlap to define the principal volumes. The lower walls bound the museum and create a series of large interconnecting galleries. The walls alternately delineate the site boundaries and fold inwards, inviting the public to enter and providing views through the building from the neighboring streets. The upper walls span above the galleries, providing spaces for administration and education. Between these walls, ceiling planes are held at varying heights to create variations in scale, proportion and enclosure, providing a diversity of day lighting conditions and curatorial opportunities.
This building is a simultaneous act of enclosure and invitation, allowing the landscape to flow through the entire site, while tenuously capturing and containing rooms for art. The museum is not a privileged domain, but an open field that concentrates the forces of the city in preparation for later occupation by the artists.