At Design Review this morning, KPS Group presented a design for a new outdoor seating balcony for the Birmingham Museum of Art‘s restaurant, Oscar’s. While it’s exciting that this newly branded restaurant is opening up to the outdoors (facing the landscaped walk between the museum and Boutwell Auditorium), it is less exciting that–for various reasons–the Museum has not been able to move forward with expansion, either onto the adjacent Boutwell site or otherwise. Our amazing collection, considered one of the finest in the country and perhaps the best in the southeast, deserves better.
Imagine Boutwell–or perhaps the Alabama Power Steam Plant facing the Railroad Park–becoming our own version of the Geffen Contemporary in downtown Los Angeles (below), really putting Birmingham on the map for contemporary art. The soaring space, flexible layout, and “un-museum” feel would be exhilarating. Not to mention the ability to spawn other development nearby, all while increasing our tourist base and allowing more of our collection to be shown.
Or, think of the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, where an old factory building was transformed into a cutting edge exhibition, performance, and gallery space, with artists-in-residence brought in from around the world. We looked at this for a model at our Phoenix Building development, but we’re still searching for a way to bring this sort of vibe to Birmingham. The picture below proves that yes, appreciation of contemporary art can begin at a very young age.
Our Museum is City-owned and open to the public at no cost–a rarity in this country. Despite the economic woes of both the private and public sector right now, here’s hoping that in the near future we’ll have a cutting-edge expansion of this institution that’s so essential to the City’s culture.