Herzog & de meuron plans Memphis art museum on Mississippi waterfront
a new seafront in memphis
herzog & de meuron ventures on the banks of mississippi and unveils the design concept of its memphis brooks art museum. the 112,000 square foot proposal is developed in conjunction with the memphis archimania-based practice, and is expected to celebrate its grand opening in 2026. the project will relocate the 105-year-old institution with expanded exhibition galleries, more spaces and varied for the community and educational programs and several central spaces dedicated to the public.
the contemporary structure will be nestled atop a cliff in the oldest part of memphis, overlooking the river, just a few blocks from beale street. the relocated museum marks the keystone of an ambitious six-mile-long waterfront redevelopment – designed by a studio gang with scape – which is now underway. this project will introduce recreational trails and parks, a cultural corridor consisting of a museum, library and law school, as well as a newly preserved historic paved landing stage.
images © herzog & de meuron | @herzogdemeuron
herzog & de meuron with archimania
with its memphis brooks art museum, the design team at herzog & de meuron with local architects in archimania redirect memphis to the river. the museum will take the form of a pavilion covered with earth and glass which sits at the top of a sloping plinth before projecting into the river. the base, forged out of the river cliff, both supports the upper structure and accommodates parking and other interior uses. all galleries are on one floor in the pavilion, providing an uninterrupted experience.
the main entrance, set back in the middle of the eastern façade, is marked by a pair of double-height wooden columns, a slender metal canopy, and a brick-paved entrance courtyard. this entrance courtyard punctuates an otherwise simply expressed facade comprising two horizontal bands, the upper part of a warm, textured earth cladding and the lower part of a continuous expanse of glass wall. transparency at street level minimizes the feeling of a barrier threshold, encouraging glimpses into a glass-fronted entrance hall, cafe, museum store, gallery of temporary exhibits and even into a courtyard at the very heart of the building.
the new memphis art museum
in a continuous single-story loop, the permanent collection and focus galleries encircle the central courtyard of the memphis museum. herzog & de meuron and archimania integrate “break spaces” into the gallery sequence, offering moments of quiet reflection with views to the outside. a large temporary exhibition space at the southeast corner completes the galleries of the permanent collection. there are a number of entrances directly to the galleries from the lobby, and the classrooms and family interactive space are adjacent to the exhibition spaces on the main level.
the team took advantage of the challenge of the steep terrain to script movements and lines of sight. as a sort of east / west hinge point, they inserted an ingeniously designed 175-seat boxed theater with reclined seats above the entrance hall. an adjacent theater terrace opens to the front street at roof level. a west-facing glass wall offers a view of the museum’s diagonal sweep. it can be darkened with exterior shading and interior drapery to provide an opaque backdrop for interior performances or it can transform into a dramatic screen facing the courtyard. at the right time of day, a visitor will be able to look out the window and admire the setting sun which casts a golden light on the courtyard below.
a 175-seat theater with tilted seats floats above the entrance hall
the roof of the memphis art museum will be celebrated as its fifth facade. simply developed with a habitable terrace and green plantings – and a breathtaking panoramic view of the river and the region – the expanse of the roof will serve as an announcement for the museum. it will be visible to those entering memphis from one of its two bridges or by plane, or to those in the windows of office towers.
jacques herzog, co-founder of herzog & de meuron comments: ‘we sought to design a welcoming civic landmark that, on approach, is visually explained and reminds the visitor from within where they are in relation to a legendary river and a historic city … the result will be a museum in both memphis and memphis, a landmark that couldn’t be anywhere else. ‘
the entrance is marked by a pair of double-height wooden columns, a slender metal canopy, and a brick-paved entrance courtyard
a glass wall can turn into a dramatic screen facing the courtyard