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  • UC Davis

    The new Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis will feature a 50,000-square-foot steel canopy atop interconnected interior and exterior spaces that will display the university's collection of fine art.

  • UC Davis

    The New York-based firm of SO-IL submitted the winning design for the new art museum, which will be constructed on 1.6 acres just southeast of the Mondavi Center for the Arts and is expected to be completed in 2016.

UC Davis picks N.Y. firm to design $30 million art museum

Published: Thursday, May. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 2, 2013 - 8:16 am

The new Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis will be architecturally notable for a 50,000-square-foot steel canopy that seemingly floats atop and beyond a series of interconnected interior and exterior spaces.

University officials announced the winning design for their new museum, which will house the university's 5,000 works of fine art, on Wednesday.

The design firm SO-IL, based in New York, provided the winning look. The team includes the architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and contractor Whiting-Turner.

The $30 million museum project was deemed necessary because the university's art collection has never had adequate space for exhibition. Currently, the Richard L. Nelson Gallery of Art on the campus offers only 4,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Three-quarters of the university's collection are works on paper, many by old masters.

The university also owns Egyptian antiquities, an enviable collection of ceramics and seminal works by 20th-century Northern California artists.

"Almost none of our collection has been on view in recent years," said Rachel Teagle, director of the Shrem museum.

Teagle said the university, in the new museum's initial years of operation, is committed to regularly having some of its collection on display.

The design team was selected from a pool of three finalists after a five-month design competition that included the extensive involvement of students and others in the community.

The building will mark SO-IL's first university museum project. The firm, just 5 years old, is known for works that are light and airy, with a focus on edges and surfaces that help set a building apart from its neighbors.

The Shrem museum's signature canopy will soar over 29,000 square feet of interior space.

"There is a shift happening in museum design that has to do with the way that we look at museums," said Florian Idenburg, founding partner of SO-IL.

"In the past, a museum used to be the treasure chest of a certain collection of objects. But now, the information of objects has become so virtual, it has created a completely different way of reading and telling stories, and the way we consume visual culture," Idenburg said. "So, at Davis, we've created an open structure – a kind of place for people to come together and share ideas."

UC Davis design professor Timothy McNeil, who was on the selection committee, was drawn to the open nature of the design and how it equally posits the museum as a teaching facility as much as one for exhibition.

Art studio and community education space will be configured as both indoor and outdoor spaces facing the north side of the building that fronts Old Davis Road.

"I like that there is a blurring of the lines between what is indoor and what is outdoor. That is very much in keeping with one of our goals, which is to turn the art museum inside out so that it is very visible what is going on inside, and that students and community could see that very clearly," McNeil said.

"The building itself becomes a teaching tool, and that was a very important factor – that the building can be used as a tool to teach about architecture," he said.

The museum project received a big boost two years ago when Clos Pegase vintner Jan Shrem donated $10 million to the project.

Half of the cost – roughly $15 million – will be funded by private philanthropic gifts such as Shrem's. To date, the university has raised $13 million in such donations.

The rest will be raised from tax-exempt bond financing, which will be repaid from campus funds that generate short-term interest earnings. No student tuition, student fees or state funds are being used, said campus spokesperson Karen Nikos.

It will cost an additional $5 million to staff and open the museum. The university intends to raise funds to create an endowment to support museum operations and programs, Nikos said.

The building is halfway through the design phase, with a projected groundbreaking in February 2014. It will rise on a 1.6-acre lot just southeast of the Mondavi Center for the Arts. Completion is expected in 2016.

Call The Bee's Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

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