As society enters a new century, many cultures have recond to an age of globalisation and, in turn, are embracing the idea of contemporary living. This results in the development of cutting-edge technology, new methods of communication, and the rapid growth of cities, causing indigenous culture of cities to increasingly blend. The desire to embrace this dynamic compels many architects to consider ways of creating architecture truly representative of a wide range of humanity. These new advances create city growth, impacting on urban form and the design process of the public institutions, including museums, which is what this dissertation will primarily explore. The result is to extend the range of materials, forms, cultural references and social thinking available to museum architecture. But does this create an uninspired sameness, where some identities are being ignored and/or distorted? Where the notion of cultures integrating really means the identity struggle between the dominants and the dominated? One could speculate that now, more rapidly than before, the architecture of the museum and the city simultaneously evolve to meet the cultural identity of the people. But are these buildings, in fact representative of the national identity of a city or the individuality of the architect?
This dissertation investigates the architect’s role in designing museums, establishing to what extent the design reflects or stems from the cultural identity of the city. The relationship between the museum and the city in which to belongs is complex. In order to establish an understanding, the study consults a wide range of resources that address issues of cultural identity within a museum’s national and civic perspective. Additionally, the research made reference to economic and political issues regarding museums, the study of how globalisation is reflected within a cultural and affects architecture, and case studies to support the statement that architects may intend for their museum designs to be representations of a cultural identity within the city.
There are now new ways of experiencing, interpreting and remembering. The contemporary architecture of museums are a strong medium of cultural memory, developing from the museum’s traditional forms as monuments symbolising the power of key individuals within a society, into an expressive entity that creates dialogue between its contents and urban context. The otherwise conventional manner of designing develops into a world of contradictions, assorted rhythms and new ideas of beauty in the design of museums. The physicality of the building represents that of theatrical effects, incorporating contemporary elements of architectural form as a method of entertainment, whilst engaging the interest of the city’s individuals and of those from further afield. Millions are drawn to what is no longer a dying institution, but a visual destination for the public, in a form that encompasses the society’s identity. One can assume this is influenced by the cultural pluralism within the building’s city context, and considering the many identities as a plural identity.
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