Davis Art Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College

Davis Art Museum

Jose Rafael Moneo Arquitecto and Payette Associates, 1994

Harleston Parker Medal, 2000

This was Priztker Prize-winner and former Harvard Architecture Department chair Rafael Moneo's first project outside of Spain, and it has a distinctly European sensibility. Its fortress-like brick blocks surround an austere paved plaza wrapped with a wall of concrete marking the entry. In reference to Paul Rudolph’s associated Jewett Art Center next door, critic Paul Goldberger suggested Moneo “mated a beefy bodyguard with Mr. Rudolph's nimble dancer.” Yet the strips of windows, projecting bays and sawtooth skylights have their own quirky charm, and suggest the richness inside the “treasure box” Moneo said he was designing.

Within the main block of the museum, stairways rise up through four floors of stacked galleries to meet the light cascading down from above. Their flanking maple clad walls provide a momentary retreat from the art – which is then revealed from a new perspective at each new landing. The cycle of compression and expansion, austerity and abundance, creates an exhilarating spatial experience without overwhelming the artwork. It culminates at the top where the walls drop away and the light creates Moneo’s version of heaven.

Goldberger’s complete review can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/31/arts/architecture-view-sensuous-spaces-armored-in-brick.html