Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center

Construction year: 2003
Address: Walnut Street and East Sixth Street | CINCINNATI-OHIO | United States | Visit Website
Latitude/Longitude: 39.1027, -84.5117

The first free-standing building for the Contemporary Arts Center, founded in Cincinnati in 1939 as one of the first institutions in the United States dedicated to the contemporary visual arts. The new Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art provides spaces for temporary exhibitions, site-specific installations and performances, but not for a permanent collection. Other program elements include an education facility — the Sara M. & Patricia A. Vance Education Center: The UnMuseum — offices, art preparation areas, CAC Store and public areas.

Urban Carpet

To draw in pedestrian movement from the surrounding areas and create a sense of dynamic public space, the entrance, lobby and lead-in to the circulation system are organized as an “Urban Carpet.” Starting at the corner of Sixth and Walnut, the ground curves slowly upward as it enters the building, rising to become the back wall. As it rises and turns, this Urban Carpet leads visitors up a suspended mezzanine ramp through the full length of the lobby, which during the day functions as an open, daylit, “landscaped” expanse. The mezzanine ramp continues to rise until it penetrates the back wall, on the other side of which it becomes a landing at the entrance to the galleries.

Jigsaw Puzzle

In contrast to the Urban Carpet, which is a series of polished, undulating surfaces, the galleries are expressed as if they had been carved from a single block of concrete and were floating over the lobby space. Exhibition spaces vary in size and shape, to accommodate the great range of scales and materials in contemporary art. Views into the galleries from the circulation system are unpredictable, as the stair-ramp zig-zags upward through a narrow slit at the back of the building. Together, these varying galleries interlock like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, made up of solids and voids.


The building s corner location led to the development of two different, but complementary, facades. The south facade, along Sixth Street, forms an undulating, translucent skin, through which passersby see into the life of the Center. Offices – organized along this side to provide daylit working environments and views of the city – provide the facade with human animation. The east facade, along Walnut, is expressed as a sculptural relief. It provides an imprint, in negative, of the gallery interiors.

⇒ Architecture Guide to CINCINNATI-OHIO
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