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UC Davis chooses teams to compete for art museum design and construction

November 30, 2012

A half century ago, a team of young artists, including Wayne Thiebaud and Robert Arneson, arrived at the University of California, Davis, to help build a new art department — and changed the art world.

The university is honoring that legacy today by tapping three innovative architect-contractor teams to compete in the creation of a design for the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art — a planned museum whose vision is as bold as Thiebaud’s pop imagery or Arneson’s irreverent ceramics.

“Our slate of architects reflects the founding philosophy of the UC Davis art department, built by untested individuals who rose to prominence with the work they made here,” said Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “We are thrilled to name these three visionary teams who will honor our distinction as an international center of innovation and propel us into the future.”

The teams that will compete to build the museum near the campus’s south entrance are:

  • Contractor: Kitchell; design architect: WORKac; executive architect: Westlake Reed Leskosky.
  • Contractor: Oliver and Company; design architect: Henning Larsen Architects; executive architect: Gould Evans.
  • Contractor: Whiting-Turner; design architect: SO – IL; executive architect: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

“These are innovators who are defining the discourse in architecture today,” said Jessie Ann Owens, dean of the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies. “The competition and the museum embrace the spirit of experimentation that has been an enduring tradition at UC Davis.”

In what is believed to be the first design-build competition for an art museum in this country, each team will have four months to create a design and prepare a bid for the museum. Design-build describes a process in which architects, engineers and builders team up on a single contract for new construction.

The charge to the teams is to design a building in which faculty can teach art and from which they can teach architecture. The building is envisioned as a center for instruction that will promote multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research and teaching.

The competition will culminate in public presentations and an announcement of the winning design.

“UC Davis' artist faculty and alumni are renowned for the spirit of experimentation that defines their art, be it work made in ceramics, photography or conceptual art,” said Museum Director Rachel Teagle. “We celebrate that spirit by launching the first design-build competition for an art museum in the United States. This proven project-development model is new to the world of art museums where aesthetic concerns predominate. It introduces to the design process a transparency and openness that is deeply aligned with UC Davis' mission.”

Thiebaud and Arneson were among the early founding faculty of the UC Davis Department of Art. Arneson, who died in 1992, was known for transforming ceramics into high art. Thiebaud, who continues to teach occasional classes at UC Davis, is regarded as one of the most important painters of his generation.

Each of the teams represents the best of the field’s up-and-coming talent and celebrates innovation. Two have reputations for redefining traditional assumptions of what museums can and should be. The third represents the birthplace of Scandinavian design and the currently vibrant architectural scene in Denmark.

Kitchell, WORKac and Westlake Reed Leskosky

The New York City-based WORKac firm, a past winner of the Museum of Modern Art’s Young Architect Program, is currently designing a master plan and museum for a new cultural center on New Holland Island in St. Petersburg, Russia, and recently completed an addition to the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, as well as a new space for the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City.

Kitchell’s California Headquarters in Sacramento is partnering with Westlake Reed Leskosky, based in Los Angeles, Cleveland, New York and Phoenix, to build the Sacramento Community Center Theater.

Westlake Reed Leskosky has engaged in many fine arts museum projects, including a large-scale renovation of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium, completed this year.

Oliver and Company, Henning Larsen Architects and Gould Evans

Oliver and Company, Henning Larsen Architects and Gould Evans bring a mix of California, arts, education and international design expertise to the project. HLA is a globally recognized architecture design firm based in Denmark. Their projects are characterized by spaces that promote a sense of community and social engagement. Past work includes significant cultural and university arts projects such as the Umeå University Arts Campus. In 2012 alone, two of their projects were nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award, and the office’s founder was awarded the Praemium Imperiale, often referred to as the Nobel Prize in the arts.

Oliver and Company dedicates fully half of their work to nonprofit and cultural organizations. Museum experience includes the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC Berkeley and The Oliver Ranch, which accommodates a world-renowned collection of site-specific sculpture on 100 acres in Sonoma County. Owner Steve Oliver is the past chairman and president of the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the past chairman of the California College of the Arts. Oliver and Company and Gould Evans have collaborated on several projects, including the recently completed 750 Second Street Residences in San Francisco.

Whiting-Turner, SO IL and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Contractor Whiting-Turner has teamed with two recognized design firms, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson from San Francisco and SO – IL from New York.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is well known as the architect of Apple Stores worldwide, including the much-photographed glass cube on Fifth Avenue in New York City. BCJ has also designed Pixar Animation Studios, Seattle City Hall, and many noted educational and cultural facilities throughout the country.

SO – IL, winner of the Museum of Modern Art Young Architects Program, has been lauded for its large-scale intervention in the Frieze Art Fair in New York City and the innovative Kukje Gallery in Seoul, Korea. The firm’s founding architects also designed the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

Whiting-Turner, a national construction firm with offices in Folsom and Pleasanton, Calif., is currently constructing the Burton and Deedee McMurtry Building for art and art history at Stanford University and has collaborated with BCJ on many projects, including a large expansion of a new Creative Campus in Southern California for an entertainment company.

Selection process

Applicant teams were evaluated based on a number of criteria, including art-exhibition experience, design ability, familiarity with UC Davis, understanding of the art world and the academic community, and team cohesiveness and creativity. Also important was a demonstrated ability to advance the standards for sustainability in art museums and extend UC Davis’ leadership and expertise in this arena.

“The teams we are working with are committed to not only meeting the University of California’s green building standards, but surpassing them,” said UC Davis Design Museum Director Tim McNeil, who served on the selection committee that chose the three finalists.

The museum at UC Davis is named in honor of Jan Shrem, proprietor of Clos Pegase winery in the Napa Valley, and his wife, arts patron Maria Manetti Shrem. In 2011, Jan Shrem gave $10 million to the university to establish a museum that would be a new teaching and cultural resource for the region.

“Maria and I are excited to see the design process unfold at UC Davis," said Jan Shrem. "We believe the competition will produce the best new ideas and we applaud the collaborative nature of the design-build approach."

The museum will be constructed on a 1.6-acre site adjacent to the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, the UC Davis Conference Center and Maurice J. Gallagher Jr. Hall, home of the university’s Graduate School of Management. It is slated for completion in 2016, and will be the capstone of a planned “arts district” at the university’s new front door alongside Interstate 80.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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