Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments


Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion (2006)

Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) , Architects

2445 Monroe Street, Toledo OH 43620

Map and Aerial View

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Visited May 31, 2011

Designed by the Pritzker Prize winning architctural duo Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (who’s firm is known as SANAA), this glass pavilion fittingly houses the Museum’s world renowned glass collection.

What initially appears as a “simple” glass box, square in plan with curved corners, is actually a very skillful study in minimalist aesthetics with a complex mechanical and structural design. The facade is a continuous  glass enclosure from the edge of the floor platform to the edge of the ceiling plane. The glazing is inset into the floor and ceiling plane with butt jointed side connections, providing a frameless and  nearly invisible joint instalation.

Contained within this glass box is a series of glass rooms, also with curved corners, arranged within the enclosure so that the room’s perimeter comes only as close as a couple feet of the exterior glazing.

Structurally there are very few slender columns and solid wall segments which emphasises the transparent glass box effect. The roof plane appears as a fairly slender white plane with only recessed lighting and recessed curtain tracks interrupting the ceiling. The mechanical system is mysteriously invisible. There are no rooftop units visible, and therefore no rooftop screens needed to “hide” them. On the interior the supply and return grilles are continuous slot diffusers in the floor, or a couple simple white rectangular boxes with circular diffusers. All of the HVAC system is delivered from a remote building and runs invisibly underground to the pavillion. Therefore the pristine glass pavilion does not have any of the ugly rooftop units or grilles/vents or operable windows in the facade.

Although I appreciate (and was amazed at) all of the obvious lengths they went through to accomplish this minimalist facade, standing back and looking at the Pavilion I thought it almost looks a little too “Simple”.