Museum Architecture

One of the first aspects of a museum that a visitor will see is the building itself. Although I do not want to advocate judging a book by its cover, or in this case, a museum by its structure, some of my favorite museums are in really cool buildings. Additionally, the way a building is designed can have huge impacts on the way exhibitions are designed. Having interned at a design museum this past summer, I am more aware than before of design in various areas of life, including architecture. Below are some of my favorite buildings I have visited.

(1) Le Centre Pompidou- Paris        

Photo by Karen Cunningham

The outside of the Centre Pompidou building is just so cool. The building was designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano (you may have heard of him because he is the real deal in museum architecture). You can see all these tubes on the outside of the building itself. The building was completed around 1971, which is much later than I would have guessed.

(2) Milwaukee Museum of Art

Photo from Flickr user


The Milwaukee Museum of Art is composed of three buildings: the Calatrava building, the Kahler building and the Quadracci Pavillion. The museum is along Lake Michigan and the views are stunning. I usually use my own photos but did not have a photo that captured the amazing entranceway and lake view, so there is one included above. This article gives a little more insight into the design and design process of the museum.

A little more information on design process from

3. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum



As I mentioned in my post about Cooper Hewitt, the mansion was the home of Andrew Carnegie. I love this building as it is really unlike any other museum I have visited. The fact that it used to be a residence makes it very different, but the history in the building is notable. When Cooper Hewitt renovated the museum, they added in all sorts of interactive technology, and the juxtaposition between the high end technology and the historical building makes for an awesome experience. In the photo above, there is a shot of what is called at Cooper Hewitt “the Process Lab”, highlighting different processes of design. Over the summer, there was an exhibition on Pixar’s design processes which included a lot of video with interviews of Pixar designers. This photo also gives you a glimpse into the historic elements of the building.

(4) The Art Institute of Chicago


Runway for the School of the Art Institute’s fashion show at the Modern Wing in May 2010.

Having grown up outside the city of Chicago, I have visited the Art Institute many times. And I will continue to visit it because it is a top notch museum. This photo shown above is from right when you walk into the Modern Wing. I love all of the Art Institute, but the Modern Wing is probably my favorite. The Art Institute has a generous collection of Asian Art as well as American and Renaissance art. If you haven’t been to Chicago before, it may help to think about the scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day off when they are at the Art Institute. It is a very popular movie, so if you haven’t seen it, please stop what you are doing and watch it, or have it cued up on Netflix ready for you to watch after you finish reading this post. 

The other photo I have included is from a fashion show I attended at the Art Institute’s Modern Wing in 2010. The pieces on the runway were all designed by students from the School of the Art Institute were all very sculptural and out of the box, but amazing. This was a very cool space for a fashion show due to all the white, glass and clean lines of the space.

(5) The Guggenheim Museum


The spiral shape of the museum is its defining feature. The modern feeling of the building definitely matches the modern art work. There are exhibition spaces off to the side, but there is usually one main exhibition that takes up the spiral area as you go up. It is such a fun place to take photos because on each floor there is a new perspective and the shape of the building lends itself to appealing photos.

Overall thought:


All photos by Hanna except the two noted above.


  1. Beautiful pictures on a beautiful site – really clean. The more you can do to space everything out, the less the post will look cluttered. Consider using similarly sized and formatted pictures, breaking up texts and multiple pics in a row, and using shorter paragraphs. That’ll help improve an already clean site. Great post!


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