Introduction to the John S. and James L. Knight Building, Akron Art Museum by Coop Himmelb(l)au

Coop Himmelb(l)au, a cooperative architectural firm (thus Coop, pronounced Co-op), originated in Vienna, Austria but now also has offices in Los Angeles and Guadalajara, Mexico. The punning name translates from German as 'sky blue' (Himmelblau) or as 'heaven construction' (Himmelbau). The design firm, founded by Wolf Prix, Helmut Swiczinsky and Michael Holzer, was one of several included in the 1988 MOMA exhibition entitled "Deconstructivist Architecture." Although some of the architects included in the exhibit have disavowed the designation (most notably Frank Gehry), many still design buildings in a generally deconstructivist style. These qualities may include fragmentation, non-rectilinear shapes, and a sense of unpredictability and a controlled chaos. Coop Himmelb(l)au designs asymmetrical structures with "open-planned, open-minded, open-ended" designs, made up of complex, undefined spaces.

This addition to the Akron Art Museum was the product of an international competition. It is the first building in the United States by this firm and indeed one of the rules of the competition was that the architect chosen could not have built previously in Ohio (thus eliminating Gehry, Eisenman, Hadid, and other notable firms). Coop Himmelb(l)au was known for adaptive reuse of historic buildings, which may have also given them an edge in the competition. The new building is 63,000-square-feet with additional gallery space, an auditorium, museum shop and café. It is joined to the earlier building, dated at 1899, which in its even earlier incarnation had been a post office. (It is the red brick, red-roofed building seen in numerous photographs here.) The addition is defined by three parts: the Crystal (lobby and adjoining areas), the Gallery-Box (space made up of several gallery areas), and the Roof Cloud (the cantilevered roof). These areas will be described further in the respective pages.

Index to Images of the John S. and James L. Knight Building, Akron Art Museum

(96 images; all of the images were photographed in September, 2009)



Views of the front and entrance


11 images

Views of the entrance


8 images

Views of the south side


11 images

Views of the north side and back


13 images

Views of the interior


18 images

Views of the interior


10 images

Views of the interior


10 images

Views of the interior


15 images



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© 2009 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. (I would appreciate being told if you find them useful.) They are not available for commercial purposes without my explicit permission.