Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Machado & Silvetti Associates

March 18, 2002 /

Salt Lake City, USA

Photo: Michael Moran

The project evolved into a continuous succession of stepping prismatic volumes that wrap around as they ascend and culminate in the tall central space. This organization creates a spiral-like crescendo of discrete volumes, each one associated with specific and distinct programmatic elements.

Thus, the lowest corresponds to the auditorium, the next to the entrance and public services (such as the restaurant and bookstore), followed by art education, permanent galleries, etc. These terminate in the Grand Gallery, an icon against the dramatic natural setting, which dominates the ensemble and is crowned by a halo of green glass that marks it by night and day from the inside and outside as the building's centerpiece.

To reinforce this strategy, each of the volumes is distinguished from the others by a distinct and subtle combination of two different colors of brick, creating a unique pattern for each volume.

Photo: Michael Moran

During the competition stage for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, our ideas developed within the guidelines provided by the master plan. For us this implied more than just following established specifications for the building's placement: it required that the architecture of the new museum acknowledge and exploit its privileged location at the terminus of the campus mall and its unique condition as a free-standing artifact seen against the spectacular backdrop of the Wasatch Mountain Range. These potential attributes also suggested that the museum could afford visitors and users unique views out of the building in all directions, a condition rare to museums.

As for its architectural context, the reverse was also true: the campus area surrounding the site offered little in terms of architectural features that may either impress or inspire our design. In addition, given the museum's stated programmatic intentions, we decided early on to make the proposed Grand Gallery the centerpiece of the project, its tallest and most representative space - indeed to make it a powerful, singular space.

/Machado and Silvetti

3-utah_museum_of_fine_arts.jpgPhoto: Michael Moran

4-utah_museum_of_fine_arts.jpgPhoto: Michael Moran

Photo: Michael Moran

This results in a gradation of five different tones for the five volumes - from darkest (for the auditorium) to lightest (for the Grand Gallery). Large protruding window volumes inset at the outer corners intensify the thrust of these volumes' centripetal and upward movement. From all sides and perspectives, the museum appears as a commanding, dynamic, and abstract composition of articulated volumes, colors, and light.

Photo: Michael Moran

Photo: Michael Moran

Inside, the visitor is also drawn into this dynamic play of volumes and light by the tension developed between the easy, straightforward, and well-scaled circulation system that follows the organization of the galleries, and the Grand Gallery's powerful diagonal force created by the relationship between the entry point and the over-scaled corner window.

The visitor is thus constantly challenged by two realities: first, that of the exhibition spaces which are entirely subordinated to the display of the collection; and second, that of the Grand Gallery's distortions of all normal parameters of light, scale, and function.

Model photo courtesy Machado and Silvetti Associates

Drawing courtesy Machado and Silvetti Associates
Site Plan

Drawing courtesy Machado and Silvetti Associates
Floor Plan 1

Drawing courtesy Machado and Silvetti Associates
Floor Plan 2

Drawing courtesy Machado and Silvetti Associates

Facts about Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Total area:

73,792 ft2

Design architect:
Machado and Silvetti Associates


Jorge Silvetti

Consulting principal:

Rodolfo Machado

Project architect:

Peter Lofgren

Project manager:

Theodore Touloukian

Project coordinator:

Max Moore

Senior designers:

Steven Chung, Michael Yusem

Project team:

Mario D'Artista
Chris Dagg
Andrew Grote
Sarah Holmes
Ben Karty
Adam Omansky

Architect of record:

Prescott Muir Architects, Salt Lake City

Structural Engineers:

ARW Engineers

Mechanical Engineers:

Van Boerum & Frank Associates


BNA Consulting Engineers II


Great Basin Engineering

Landscape architect:

Garr Campbell Associates


University of Utah
Utah Museum of Fine Arts

General contractor:
Layton Construction Company
Layton Construction Company

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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