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Museum without walls

Boundaries between inside and outside are blurred by the pixelated and translucent façade of this art centre in Marseille. 

The exterior of the Fond Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) in Marseille is a double-skinned façade. Designed by Kengo Kuma, its inner skin includes a smooth expanse of glazing. Its outer skin is suspended from an aluminium frame and appears at first like a pixelated plane of white plates.

The ‘pixels’ that make up the exterior façade are actually rectangular panes of recycled glass melded with enamel. The 1,500 individual panes were produced by hand at the workshop of master glassmaker Emmanuel Barrois and measure 63 cm x 26 cm each. Every glass panel has a different opacity and they are all set at different angles to each other. The result is a spectacular diffusion of Mediterranean light. While light and life easily filter into the building, this chequerboard façade also shields interior spaces from direct sunlight and harsh reflections.

The 5400 m² centre contains a museum, conference rooms, artist residences, offices and a café. Kuma’s design for the façade was inspired by the famous French writer and politician André Malraux who fantasised about the idea of a ‘museum without walls’ and the accessibility of art to the public. Kuma’s double-skinned facade cloaks and protects the art centre’s interior while eliminating strict boundaries and walls between interior and exterior environments. The façade’s composition and translucent material qualities allow for interaction with the public by offering glimpses of the centre’s inner workings. You can read more about Kengo Kuma and the FRAC building here.