What is a museum?

In July 2012, bndr, llc (formerly MW Bender Architecture) and Single Speed Design of Cambridge Massachusetts and New York City was short-listed to compete in the National Design Competition for the Cade Museum of Creativity and Invention. 25 national firms submitted qualifications, our team was one of six to be shortlisted. Our design entry was ranked second of the six competing firms. The competition jury included both local and national membersSee SsD’s Cade page too.

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Aggregated interlocking abstract volumes create connection within the museum and around the museum.

The Cade Museum program asked for something different from an ordinary museum. It was to be an interactive container for ideas. Our team agreed that the building the Cade Idea occupies cannot be ordinary and must be thought of as a tool for shaping the mind. The way we experience space is tied dynamically to the shape of our thoughts. The history of the mind is a history of technologies; symbolic communication, orality, literacy, information, systematics… not to mention the many machines we have developed to accessorize ourselves. Architecture embodies the technologies of the day. Norman Doidge in his book, The Brain That Changes Itself, suggests that we engage in redesigning the brain. A scientist may change brains to sharpen perception and memory, increase speed of thought, and heal learning problems. Are scientists the only ones who can train affects on the brain? We think not. Architects can. Our design for the Cade Museum accepts this challenge and seeks to arm visitors with not only new knowledge but with new methods of thinking. We envision the Cade museum as a literal instrument of change.

Employing a strategy of intersection, we envisioned the diverse programs of the Cade Museum as interlocking units of a whole. The diagram below demonstrates the process of aggregating and interlocking abstract volumes. This strategy maximizes available space and paradoxically provides the framework for freedom. Choices and views are multiplied through both axial and diagonal paths through the building. The joint at which different volumes intersect is the moment their respective seals “break”. This break provides productive “leaks” for both the architecture and its program. This technique helps us achieve controlled instability as well as cross-building connectivity. The “leaks” can be either positive (where one volume’s walls physically intersect another) or negative (where the joints of intersection are “cut” to provide views and intellectual migration).

The diverse programs of the Cade Museum as interlocking units of a whole
The diverse programs of the Cade Museum as interlocking units of a whole

Tall and short volumes provide a sense of progression from one space to the next so that we can generate our own narratives. Strategically placed windows and skylights fold the dynamism of natural light into the experience of the interior so that the building undergoes subtle transformations throughout the day.

Diagonal Section
Diagonal Section
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On the eastern side, covered terraces and voids intersect the museum with the landscape and its activity.

While a museum is a destination it is not simply a standalone object. It can be embedded in its specific site, and it can also generate it. We conceived of our open-ended system to take in and to define the site. Just as creativity thrives from contingencies, the porous configuration of our boxes encourages alliances with the existing landscape, urban edges, and the site’s narrative histories.

Spatial Flexibility/Operable Walls

Within the Cade Museum, we seek to obtain the delicate balance between program flexibility and curatorial control. To do this we designed a system of pivoting opaque glass walls that can swing in plan and lift in section. They can enclose the lobby for a special event or they can open and serve as a filter to and from the outside. Visitors can watch movies on them, or staff can use them as ad-hoc demonstration areas. It is important to create conditions where even very intelligent people can become ignorant in the right kind of way.  “People tend to take on the characteristics of a room… They feel glamorous in a glamorous space, and rich in a rich space.” (Lehrer “the discredited”, Disruptive Design) Wouldn’t they feel intelligent in an intelligent space? Or baffled in a baffling space? We want people to suspend their intelligence and be baffled to open up the world of the invention; thoughts that don’t always make sense, but just might make progress.


SsD: John Hong  AIA, LEED + Jinhee Park AIA (principals in charge)
Mark Pomarico, Evan Cerilli, Adam Molinski, Eva Valdecantos, Quentin Leroy, Lily Wube

associate architect
MWBa: Stephen Bender AIA, LEED AP (competition team manager), W. Brian Smith, Michael Richmond, Yufeng Zheng, Jeff Skoda-Smith

structural design
ARUP, Boston: Patrick McCafferty

structural engineer
Wayland Structural Engineering, Gainesville

energy and sustainability
Ravi Srinivasan, Gainesville

landscape architect
Buford Davis + Associates, Gainesville

mechanical engineer
Campbell Engineering of North Florida, Gainesville