How The Momentary combined one building’s history with contemporary art
It was once a 63,000-square-foot cheese factory in Bentonville, Arkansas. Today The Momentary is home to the arts. The adaptive reuse project was completed by Chicago-based firm Wheeler Kearns Architects in collaboration with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in early February 2020.
But even before it was home to a factory the land served as a hunting ground for the indigenous Osage nation. The design team at Wheeler Kearns wanted to preserve the physical structure of the building while also honoring the people who came before it.
“Instead of trying to smooth over those layers of history, we tried to look at each space in terms of what the other layers would support—in terms of cultural programming that was going in there,” says Calli Verkamp, Wheeler Kearns’ lead architect.
Wheeler Kearns worked to uncover every material used in the building’s five renovations since the original structure was built in 1947. Nearly 80% of the building was preserved. “The biggest design challenge was how to keep these five layers of the building and weave them into a single cohesive experience as the Momentary,” Verkamp says. Additions focused on creating accessible space, adding insulation to the roof, and updating to more energy-efficient heating and cooling.
The Momentary stands out from other museums and artistic spaces in that it intends to include every type of person—not only artists and art lovers. Often museums are regarded as formal spaces but Crystal Bridges is different. “We wanted The Momentary to be a hub where anyone felt like they could wander in and have a new interaction with contemporary art and the community—to feel like a neighborhood place rather than a museum,” Verkamp says.
The fluidity of contemporary art is also mirrored in the design of The Momentary; the outdoor and indoor spaces flow into one another and the glass allows direct sunlight and natural engagement. More than 60% of the concrete paving in the courtyards existed prior to the project.
Project: The Momentary Location: Bentonville, AR Completion: February 2020 Size: 60,500 square feet Architect: Wheeler Kearns Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti MEP/FP IT Engineer: McGuire Engineers Contractor: Flintco Interior Designer: FODA (Interiors / Branding / Signage)