Common Sky

Buffalo, NY, USA 2019–22

Common Sky reflects the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s vision of a twenty-first-century art institution that is open and inclusive for all, and honors the connection between the gallery and the surrounding park that motivated Gordon Bunshaft’s extension of the 1960s and the new OMA-designed master plan and building. Reflecting the museum’s ambition to be more inclusive and invite anyone in with open arms, the design offers a communal space within the museum where visitors can gather to view art or simply spend time in a stimulating environment.

Inspired by the weather of Buffalo and the lush surroundings designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the artwork resembles a natural form more than an architectural addition. Eliasson and Behmann add a light canopy of glass and mirrors to the courtyard of the Bunshaft extension that reaches down to the ground at a single point of support – maintaining the asymmetry of the space. This funnel-like column marks the spot where the lone tree, planted in the sixties, stood – providing a memorial to what came before. It also creates a connection to the outside by allowing nature to extend into the courtyard through its hollow trunk, where rain can fall and snow can collect in the winter.

From outside the museum, the visual impact to the building’s silhouette is minimal, especially from the east, where it is draped in the park’s foliage. From the west, the structure will be more visible, greeting visitors approaching from Elmwood Avenue.

The various angles of the mirrors create complex, kaleidoscopic reflections that frame unexpected views of the visitors and surroundings. The panels cast patterned shadows on the floor and interior of the courtyard that change throughout the day in accordance with the weather and lighting conditions outside. The funnel-like column, constructed in the same way as the roof and extending down from it, creates a link between the canopy above and the viewers below, as well as between the inside of the museum and the outside.

Client: Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
Date: 2019–22