Navigating The North Carolina Museum of Art

The North Carolina Museum of Art or the NCMA has two main buildings; the East building that houses its more temporary exhibitions and the West building that plays home to some newer pieces and the permanent collection along with outdoor sections and a park that boasts beautiful views and sculptures. The outdoor section between the entrances to the two buildings is beautiful and its only downside is the lack of directional signage, but this only serves to broaden one’s desire for exploration. The east building is a tad lackluster, comprised mainly of bricks and sporting few windows; however, the surrounding area has been designed well enough that you’d never guess it was once part of a prison. In stark contrast, the section of the museum I plan to focus on is the west building, who’s simple but inviting modern entrance can be seen above.

Once you go through the main entrance the area to the right offers seating as well as refreshments in the form of a small coffee shop called Sip and the famous Iris Café. But to the left of the entrance is what people come for. This is the beginning of the museum’s permanent collection that starts with Classical art as seen above. I recently went on a short docent led tour of some of the pieces on display here and I learned quite a lot about the building and some of it’s more famous pieces. The skylights, windows, and shading are on an automated system that is constantly adjusting to admit as much natural sunlight into the building as possible. The floors are floated so that you feel light and allow for extra hours of walking without fatigue. The two main colors you see the most are the light tan of the hardwood floors and the creamy white of the walls. This simplistic color scheme allows for little distraction from the art that museum-goers come to see.

All of the aforementioned aspects of the museum’s west building serve to enhance the user experience of the space. This experience can best be described as a relaxed, yet engaging feeling that seeks to envelop you in its intrigue. The background colors never change as you endlessly walk from section to section, piece to piece; once you drip into the pool of the west building it becomes difficult to determine where you are and what you have and have yet to see. In this respect the space can be both a wonderful adventure away from time and place where one can get lost in their love of art and a lengthy confusing maze to the young, the uninitiated, or the uninterested. While it has its drawbacks, they only apply to those who are apart from the target audience, art lovers. Overall, I agree with the design choices of the space. They focus on the user’s ability to see and experience the art from as many angles as possible and create the opportunity for hours of endless wandering surrounded by some of the most notable fine art that North Carolina has to offer.