The Momentary

Submitted by Beth Garneata

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Client: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Location: Bentonville, AR, United States

Completion date: 2020

Project Team

Osage Artist

Addie Roanhorse

Executive Director

Lieven Bertels

The Momentary

Architect

Calli Verkamp, AIA LEED AP

Wheeler Kearns Architects

Architect

Brandon Hall, AIA

Wheeler Kearns Architects

Architect

Thomas Boyster, AIA

Wheeler Kearns Architects

Principal Architect

Larry Kearns, FAIA LEED AP

Wheeler Kearns Architects

Overview

The Momentary is a multidisciplinary contemporary arts venue creatively repurposed from a 70-year-old decommissioned cheese plant in Bentonville, Arkansas. Four glass-and-steel additions, detailed as distinctively new and explicitly contemporary, are superimposed in front of the existing concrete and masonry structures.

While the site’s history as a manufacturing facility is on full display through the reuse of the structure and industrial relics, the project looks even further back and acknowledges the oldest history of the site – Osage hunting ground. The architects collaborated with an Oklahoma-based Osage artist who designed a graphic pattern which pays homage to that history. The pattern is integrated into three of the glass additions as a superimposed frit pattern that playfully changes in scale and transparency across the building components.

“The Entry” is a 30’ x 30’ x 12’ glass box that features the digitally printed frit pattern folding around the volume in a large, graphic format. “The Container” showcases a gradient version of the pattern screen-printed within insulated glass units. Lastly, “The Tower” is an eighty-foot-tall glass rainscreen with the frit pattern screen-printed onto the number-one surface of the glass to allow for digital art and projection.

Goals

The Momentary is a contemporary arts venue in which every surface of the building and site is viewed as a potential canvas for art. Just as the architectural interventions consist of a family of additions that are similar in materiality and detailing, the commissioned artwork consists of a family of patterns that are specifically designed to respond to the context of each architectural intervention.

“The Entry” is designed as a human scale entry point and circulation hub for the building and site. The architect and artist worked to develop a pattern that would help direct visitors inside the building. The result is a large, graphic version of “Sway” that is visible from long distances and also features a woven pattern that is discovered close up.

“The Container” features a gradient version of the pattern which helps to manage privacy and vision for those working inside of a very visible glass box. The frit also reduces solar heat gain within the interior space.

“The Tower” was designed to be both a backlit beacon guiding visitors to the site and another means to display art. The small scale of the pattern gives the tower a brilliant white appearance during the day, and also allows the surface of the glass to be projected upon at night.

Process

The design concept language was first developed to describe the intended effect of the architectural interventions. The additions were intended to be ephemeral, human scale, to appear impermanent or as if they are floating, in direct opposition to both the existing building as well as what one would expect from a traditional art museum. The design team proposed using a frit pattern to help accomplish the desired effects for each glass element and proposed working with an artist to help achieve this while also incorporating a commissioned artwork into the DNA of the architecture.

The owner directed the artist search, ultimately commissioning “Sway” as the first commissioned artwork for the building. The owner focused the search by only considering artists belonging to the Osage tribe, upon whose land the Momentary would be situated.

Once the artist joined the team and the base pattern was designed and approved, the architect collaborated with the artist to develop the pattern into three distinctly different versions that would work with each architectural intervention. Tools such as Adobe Illustrator and Rhino were used to create the files that the glass manufacturers then used to print or screen-print onto the glass.

Additional Information

The artist’s design for the façade was inspired by finger-woven belts, which are part of a traditional Osage women’s dress. The belts are traditionally fixed at the waist of Osage women’s regalia and flow down the back. When the women dance, the belt sways back and forth. The artist recalls dancing with family and the back-and-forth sway of the belts as an authentic Osage experience. Because of this, the design was named “Sway” to recall that flowing movement. The way that the design has been applied to “The Entry” further suggests the movement in the pattern by the way it is folded and stretched up and over the three-dimensional surface.