MASS MoCA Building

Architect: Bruner/Cott Architects

Owner: MASS MoCA

Location: North Adams, Massachusetts

With galleries sculpted from the bones of a former factory, this project marks the completion of the third and final phase for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art’s 25-year master plan and the complete transformation of a 28-building factory campus that was shuttered in the late 1980s.

Inside Building 6, the interiors of existing mill structures become the backdrop for contemporary art galleries. The team wove design interventions in and around more than 1,000 columns and acres of maple factory floors. Existing spaces were renovated with grand gestures, including a two-story central core capped with a glass roof, a lounge placed at the building’s “prow,” and ample openings that invite both visual and artistic connections. Despite the significant alterations, the original building retains its character, context, and history, resulting in a combined work that marries old and new seamlessly.

Designed as museums within a museum, the galleries were all inserted into the industrial landscape along three one-acre floor plates. Each hosts long-term exhibitions featuring renowned contemporary artists such as James Turrell, Louise Bourgeois, and Robert Rauschenberg. They are complemented by additional spaces that cater to rotating and experimental works.

Overall, the design is driven by ideas of space, light, and rhythm. The industrial bricks, columns, and patina form the building’s vocabulary, while new stairs and walls were added with the same scale and weight. Just as industrial spaces must find a balance between the size of requisite equipment and that of workers, Building 6’s massive spaces retain human dimensions.

The museum’s concept was introduced in the 1980s as a place to highlight large-scale minimalist art. Since then, its mission has been broadened to include a museum that both shows and creates art while kickstarting redevelopment in North Adams. Building 6 completes the master plan developed by the architect and is the final link in the figure-eight-shaped campus loop.

"What an incredible project! Born out of the tradition of the Tate Modern Museum in London, this bare-bones remodel leaves most of the existing finishes in place to consciously evoke the industrial history of the building and emphasizes the reliance of art on industrial sites for their scale and economy." - Jury comment

Additional information

Builder: Gilbane Building Company

Engineer - MEP/FP: Petersen Engineering, Inc.

Engineer - Electrical, Fire Access: R.W. Sullivan

Engineer - Structural: Arup

Consultant - Specification: Kalin Associates

Consultant - Acoustics: Acentech

Consultant - Environmental: GZA

Consultant - Lighting: Lumen Studios, Inc.

Consultant - Code and Fire Protection: Cosentini Associates

Consultant - Code and Fire Protection: Code Red

Engineer - Civil: Hill Engineers

Consultant - Cost Estimating: Daedalus

Consultant - Food Service: Colburn & Guyette

Consultant - Hardware: Assa Abloy

Consultant - Structural Wood Testing: Wood Advisory Services, Inc.

Consultant - Building Scan: Existing Conditions Survey Inc.

Consultant - Environmental Graphics: Over,Under


Zena Howard, FAIA (Chair), Perkins + Will, Charlotte, North Carolina

Benjamin de Rubertis, AIA, Flad Architects,  Seattle, Washington

Kelly Haigh, AIA, Design Lab Architect, Boston, Massachusetts

James Garrett, AIA, 4RM+ULA, St. Paul, Minnesota

Kelly Bauer, NCIDQ, FIIDA, White Baux Studio, Phoenix, Arizona

Image credits

MASS MoCA Building 6-03

Michael Moran Photography

MASS MoCA Building 6-07

Michael Moran Photography