The Minneapolis Institute of Art renovates the multilevel lobby in its Kenzo Tange–designed wing to create flexible, technology-infused spaces for a variety of uses

VJAA, a firm highly regarded for its sensitive updates and additions to landmark modern architecture, devised a series of light-handed enhancements that invite visitors to hang out—whether or not they’re there to view the collections. The redesigned entry experience includes, among other amenities, a new coffee shop and craft beer and wine bar, an array of comfortable, contemporary furnishings, and VJAA-designed welcome and information bars whose lines echo those of the lobby’s dramatic open staircases.

“Mia asked us to create a more welcoming environment. Before, visitors would stop at the ticketing counter, but they weren’t spending time in the lobby spaces. Tange had conceived the lobby as a civic space. So we studied it and diagrammed patterns of circulation, highlighting elements that obstructed the flow of people and undermined Tange’s idea. We simplified the spatial flow and created points of interest—sculptural elements that support visitor engagement and wayfinding, open spaces in which to work and socialize—that would encourage people to spend more time enjoying the museum as a public space.”
—VJAA principal Jennifer Yoos, FAIA

“We were fully confident in the excellence of our collection and our existing architecture. But by designing for a better mix of community, culture, and commerce at the entry we could create a welcoming visitor experience and encourage people to linger. Maybe it’s just for 15 minutes to grab a coffee or buy a gift, or maybe it’s bringing your laptop for an afternoon and taking inspiration from the surroundings.”
—Mia venture innovation director Hunter Wright

Architect: VJAA
Size: 9,000 square feet
Completion: Summer 2015