The Manetti Shrem Museum of Art is a focal point for the University of California, Davis. As an overarching gesture, a 50,000 sq. ft. 'Grand Canopy' clad in precast concrete panels extends across the building over a public plaza, connecting the university to the city and the surrounding Central Valley beyond. Creating informal opportunities for learning and interaction, the design supports the museum's mission to allow visitors to become students. This project offers a model for the museum that is neither isolated nor exclusive but open and inviting; not a fixed monument but a constantly evolving public event.
Supporting the canopy and forming the framework for the flexible programming, precast concrete panels cladding the pavilions were used as a design solution and a result of understanding the University's setting. The quilted farmlands and rows of crops surrounding the museum inspired the geometry of the canopy and the exterior cladding of precast concrete panels. Precast concrete is widely used on campus due the university's emphasis on resilience and cost-effectiveness.
The Manetti Shrem Museum of Art was named one of the top 25 museum buildings of the past by ARTnews. The museum is the only museum affiliated with a public university and only one of four in the United States to be featured on this exclusive list, which also includes world-famous institutions like the Guggenheim, Louvre, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, and more.
The Merit Award and the Architecture Green GOOD DESIGN Award have also been awarded to this project.
CTU Precast created custom-designed, repetitive, and reusable form liners that give the corrugated precast concrete panels an irregular, fabric-like patterning. Iterative mockups were used to test coloration and achieve a smooth finish with minimal evidence of seams. Focusing on key details, this process elevated the techniques and materials familiar to the rural culture, producing artfully considered textural effects and ensuring long-term functionality.
While a single-story building, the three pavilions rise to the height of the topographic canopy and are primarily windowless. The resulting walls are 32 feet tall at their maximum and a slope in alignment with the canopy - making no two precast panels identical. Working with a nominal 12-foot-wide precast bed size width, the walls were panelized, and the corrugated form-liner was distributed to incorporate the panel joints as part of the vertical pattern, making the pavilions read as monolithic volumes. At the corners of the pavilions, where the exposed side of the panel is visible, a reveal is incorporated to continue the vertical pattern.
CTU Precast planned the shape and corrugation of the 127 unique panels using BIM software. To elevate the material expression and produce a final result that would accurately reflect the museum client, CTU Precast painstakingly labored over several essential details.