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The Pulitzer Arts Foundation is a building at 3716 Washington Boulevard that uses visual relationships between the different aspects of the architecture and the art inside to play off each other, creating energy as one. Just as William Curtis said, “Architecture is above all harmonizing relationships.” Visitors are able to experience new viewpoints and perspectives that bring art and people together. The idea of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation originally came about in the early 1900’s as a place where husband and wife, Emily Ruah Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer Jr., grandson to the famous Joseph Pulitzer who the Pulitzer Prize for literature is named after, could show off their private art collection. This collection consisted of many pieces including artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, Kiki Smith, Claude Monet, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and more. Eventually, they bought the property of an abandoned automobile factory in St. Louis’s Grand Central Arts District with the intent to spark the interest and creativity of the once very popular entertainment district.
When they were looking for an architect to renovate the second floor to install some of the larger works in their collection, they came across some the work of Tadao Ando, a Japanese architect who was self-taught and highly revered. The couple immediately knew that they wanted him to create their space, so they commissioned him in 1991. He accepted, and although he had done some work in the United States already, it was his first freestanding, public building here. The two also commissioned artists Richard Serra and Ellsworth Kelly to complement the architecture of the building. Kelly created a piece named Blue Black while Serra would create the sculpture titled Joe as a tribute to Joseph Pulitzer Junior died during the design phase of the building.
After four years of construction, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation finally opened in 2001, where over a ten year period, the building gradually became a museum of art, presenting art outside their private collection. Since then, the building has displayed hundreds of special exhibitions and programs as well as contemporary art from around the globe, presenting pieces from both ancient and modern times. In 2015, the workers even expanded the lower level by fifty percent to create more space for exhibitions. The programs offered by the building have reached over several different areas such as art art, architecture, and design, but as well as urban planning and humanities in social work and science.
When Tadao Ando undertook the challenge of the building from Emily Ruah Pulitzer, who is also the current president of the building, he never expected it to be a project that “made him long to see it completed and which has given him such a delight.” From the outside, the building looks massive and closed in by using a horizontal design with rectangular structures and small openings. Its edges and corners are very defined by its smooth steel darkened by shadows. However, inside the building seems spacious and transparent with its architectural aspects of vertical structures and composed windows allowing natural light to fill in. The building is structured as two parallel rectangles with a central court between them, and in this court is a long pool filled with water.
Water, believed by Ando, represented the visible and invisible forces in the natural world: winds and currents, the cycle through the seasons, and the constant switch between night and day. The building had a west wing filled with offices and meeting rooms and an east wing that contained its art galleries. The two wings joined at the north end of the building where stairs lead up to a rooftop terrace. Past the west wing, stood a sculpture court outside in the open air. In the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Ando, similar to previous projects, used simple materials and forms like concrete, glass, wood, and steel to create spaces that feed into our emotions. He believed the space between objects were just as important as the objects themselves, so he concentrated on the images of object and void, figure and ground, and shadow and light.
Tadao Ando’s architecture in the Pulitzer Arts Foundation “touch the mind, body, and memory on subliminal levels and provide fleeting glimpses into an ideal landscape of the imagination.” The sculpture Blue Black by Ellsworth Kelly was a twenty-eight ft. high by five ft. across panel, separated in half by two prominent colors: top half blue and bottom half black. This separation possibly might symbolize the horizon of sea and sky, but whatever the symbol, the artwork was never supposed to be interpreted by itself. It was designed for that specific place and position on the back wall. Above it is a narrow skylight that changes the appearance of the painting and the room by the time of day, so it is described as a “constant play of illusion involving size, surface, visual weight, and depth.
” Artist Richard Serra created the other sculpture Joe, also known as the Torqued Spiral, outside at the lowest and largest platform in the southern end. He used five plates of steel that were rusted golden brown, overlapping each other in a continuous band, wrapping tighter and tighter the closer to the center, which left the resemblance of a propeller. The sculpture, being around twelve feet high and forty-feet across, are tilted and curved inwards and outwards in dramatic ways, contrasted to the horizontal and vertical aspects of Ando’s architecture. The steel plates look quite thin but actually are extremely strong when discovered that the sculpture is self-supporting. Joe is an “active diagram of visual and physical forces, including gravity, resistance, and weightlessness.” The Pulitzer Arts Foundation became more than a museum, but rather a house of inspirations in which the visitor’s experience of moving through the building is constantly intensified, redefined, and transformed. “It became a place of possibility, a place of mutual discovery.”