Brooks + Scarpa carved a canyon under a museum building in Utah

Cedar City, United States – Wind and water have carved the rocks of Utah into some of the most spectacular natural sculptures in the world. That inspired Brooks + Scarpa, a Los Angeles firm noted for their frugality and restraint, to unleash their creative potential. They've designed an art museum (SUMA) for the Southern Utah University campus that appears far more impressive than its modest 2500-sq-m. It anchors an arts complex that bridges the campus and downtown Cedar City: a learning environment for students and a cultural resource for the public. 

The sheer exterior walls of SUMA are clad in precast concrete panels, ridged to catch the light, which contrast with the smoothly rounded cement plaster of the underside. A glass-enclosed entry foyer leads to an open reception area and galleries that exhibit the work of regional artists. Study and service spaces are wrapped around two sides of the galleries.

Sustainability is a mandate for Brooks + Scarpa. The roof is cantilevered 36 m on the west side, providing a shady gathering place, and protecting a glass façade from glare and heat gain. More than a fifth of the museum is thus opened up to a sculpture garden, drought-resistant plantings and views of the surrounding mountains.

An allée of trees shades the south side from the fierce sunlight. The roof is an angled bowl that directs storm water and snow melt into canyon-like fissures at either end of the building, from where it is channelled into concealed drains and down to the aquifer. On-site rainwater collection is no novelty, but it has rarely been achieved with such drama.

This piece was originally featured on Mark 71. You can purchase a copy here.

Location 13 S 300 W, Cedar City, UT 84720, United States

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