North Carolina Museum of Art | Notes of Interest

Inside the North Carolina Museum of Art, the light of day and the lush surrounding hills have a presence unusual in institutional galleries for art. Overhead, hundreds of elliptical occuli, in long, parallel, coffered vaults bathe the museum’s interior in even, full-spectrum daylight, modulated in intensity by layered materials that filter out damaging rays. In the gently luminous setting, against pure white walls, the artwork takes on heightened immediacy and vividness.

A departure from traditional hierarchies, the museum, in some respects, is a single 65,000-square-foot room. Within this spatial continuum, a succession of wall planes, many freestanding without reaching the ceiling, delineate separate galleries. But none of the spaces forms a discrete, fully enclosed room. Instead, a corner or two of each gallery remains open, inviting flow from one area to the next.

Outside the building skin—a rain screen of pale, matte anodized-aluminum panels, sheaths the museum and carries on the discourse with the landscape. These aluminum sheets, arrayed like great vertical pleats or shingles, softly pick up surrounding colors and movement. From oblique vantage points, the underlying strips of mirror-polished stainless steel that angle the panels off the facade capture unexpected, fragmented,and scintillating reflections.

The expansion galleries at the North Carolina Museum of Art will provide a distinct visitor experience in a state-of-the-art "energy smart" building. Naturally illuminating the interior environment provides color rendering and light levels ideal for viewing art, while efficient temperature and air quality controls, lighting and envelope systems provide the ideal interior environment for preserving North Carolina’s priceless collection of art.

Additional Credits

  • Local Architect: Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee
  • Architect: Thomas Phifer and Partners
  • Structural Engineer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
  • Mechanical Engineer: AltieriSeborWieber
  • Landscape Architect: Lappas + Havener
  • Lighting Design: Fisher Marantz Stone
  • Natural Lighting Design: Arup, London and New York
  • Environmental Design: Artifex ED, Inc
  • Civil Engineering: Kimley-Horn Associates
  • Acoustics: Creative Acoustics
  • General Contractor: Balfour Beatty; Barnhill
  • Photographers: © Scott Frances, © Iwan Baan

North Carolina Museum of Art

  • Architect: Thomas Phifer and Partners
  • Owner: Department of Cultural Resources, State of North Carolina
  • Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Jury Comments

Worthy of recognition for the precision and technology that went into the design of the ceiling and light well – the way daylight is brought into this building is ingenious.

From a distance, the building appears as a normal industrial building fitting into its context – upon approach it is an amazingly precise and elegant box.

Very unique for a museum in that it contributes to the overall master plan for this part of the city.

2011 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture Jury

  • David Miller, FAIA, (Chair)
  • The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP
  • Seattle
  • Ashley Clark, Assoc. AIA
  • LandDesign Inc.
  • Charlotte
  • Curtis Fentress, FAIA
  • Fentress Architects
  • Denver
  • T. Gunny Harboe, FAIA
  • Harboe Architect, PC
  • Chicago
  • David Neuman, FAIA
  • University of Virginia, University Architect
  • Charlottesville, Va.
  • Louis Pounders, FAIA
  • ANF Architects
  • Memphis
  • Sarah Snodgrass, AIAS Representative
  • Parsons The New School for Design
  • New York City
  • Allison Williams, FAIA
  • Perkins & Will
  • San Francisco
  • Jennifer Yoos, AIA
  • VJAA
  • Minneapolis

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