College Culture II

Marcos Cantu
Eight Houston citizens whose sole purpose was to provide the community with
an understanding of the rapidly growing art world through lectures and show art’s role
in modern life brought the CAMH into fruition as early as 1948. Established in the
Montrose area in the Museum district of Houston by several individuals with the intent
to provide the public with a greater understanding of contemporary art. The
Contemporary Art Museum of Houston is designed to better communicate the art it
contains through the use of its gallery space. The CAMH highlights its exhibitions in a
fashion that truly gives one walking through it an even flow as you walk by and
appreciate the pieces on display. It breaths new life into postmodernism as the building
itself could be a work of art for the movement, with its massive ribbed, stainless steel
walls that separate the building from so many others in the Montrose area. The
trapezoid it is shaped after has a certain level of Monumentality that one feels as you
enter the CAMH. As you walk trough the doorway and leave the noise of the street, you
are engulfed in a place of meditation and contemplation as tranquility washes over you.
All gallery space follows the trapezoidal shape that the building is shaped after.
The staircase separates the space as you enter the CAMH from the upstairs gallery to
the basement gallery, allowing for multiple exhibitions to take place at once. The
apertures in the basement level allow for natural lighting to interact within the
exhibition. The majority of the facility is made up of concrete and plaster that allows for
a simple space, which puts all focus on the actual artwork. The dim lighting on the first
floor allows for brighter lights to focus on the actual work that is hanging currently,
which can only be described as a massive black room that ones eye is focused on what
the light shines on.
The exterior of the building is what truly gives a sense of postmodernism as the
structure truly follows the argument of “Less is more”/”Less is a bore”. The structure is
misleading in the fact that it appears as if nothing of interest could possibly be housed in
such a bland looking building. Only to those who step through the narrow entryway that
can easily be overlooked if not for the massive pyramid over the entrance, that from a
distance appears to be a arrow leading into the structure. The building challenges the
modernist idea and removes itself from cheap ornamentation, with it taking the 11,107
square foot in its upper gallery and focusing it on the artwork on display. The
excitement one feels walking around the museum comes with the use of its bland open
space that when coming across a captivating installation from one of the many
exhibitions on display gives a sensation of wonder and discovery.
These moments of discovery come with an amount of reflection and deep
contemplation. The space in CAMH allows people to pause and without any outside
distraction focus on what the artwork means, what the artist was trying to achieve in its
design. This type of thought and reflection could only be found in places like churches
with its grand monumental design allowing those to feel harmony in the space they
occupy. The design intent would be to create something that resembles a church or a
structure that carries a level of serenity for those who seek shelter from philistines and
outside distractions, as if to highlight that once walking through the doorway of the
CAMH all thoughts are welcome and unique ideas are praised. When walking through
the museum its what one might feel walking through a temple and the free exchange of
thoughts of what art might be can be debated as you walk from piece to piece
highlighting aspects of artwork.
The overall design principles of the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston are to
explore new ideas in a structure that allows for its artwork to speak for it. The space is
designed around the work it houses so naturally its gallery space should always be taken
into consideration. With its postmodern influences and monumental design qualities it
is a structure that achieves its intent and pushes it further every time a new exhibit is
installed in the space. Houston continues to lead the country in innovative design and
young creative minds and the CAMH is a testament to that statement. The building and
the rich history behind it proudly show that innovation is alive and well in Houston.
Works Cited
“Gunnar Birkerts-Bentley Historical Library.”Gunnar Birkerts-Bentley Historical
Library.U.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb.2015
“Home Page/Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.N.p,n.d. Web 17 Feb. 2015
“History & mission” History & Mission. N.p., n.d. Web.17 Feb. 2015