Noticing Environments: Step 3, Plan & Elevations
Visiting and Drawing an Exhibit Space
For this portion of the project, I went back to the Carnegie Museum of Art, but this time with an intention of viewing Jasper Johns’ masterpiece entitled Bread. I’d heard about it from a friend and was interested in seeing it myself. Before even going to the museum, I tried looking it up online to see if it was on the CMoA website. After clicking around the collections and even desperately searching “bread” in the website’s search bar, I just accepted the fact that my piece wasn’t going to be found on the website. I checked the app briefly as well but as I expected, since it only features a tiny fraction of pieces, it wasn’t there either. A little bummed, I made my way to the museum with hopes of finding the piece nonetheless.
After I got my ticket at the entrance, I encountered these stairs (left) on the way up to the exhibit.
1st Environment: Stairs
The change in lighting from the ticket counter to the stairs was drastic. While both are lit by natural light coming in through windows, the light shining on the ticket counter was darker due to the overhang above the main entrance. On the other hand, the natural light around the stairs was bright and worked to light up the colorful wall to the left, making the area seem more fun and cheerful. In a way, it further invited me to go up and explore the exhibits.
Furthermore, on the way up the stairs, I only encountered a couple people at most. In the ticket area, however, there were lots of people, some standing around waiting for others, some in line, some wandering around.
The stairs are vertically inefficient but are aesthetically pleasing and go with the laid back, thoughtful atmosphere of the museum. Perhaps I would not have noticed quite how inefficient they are if I had just been wandering around rather than racing to find the exhibit.
While the ticket area was used mainly as a waiting area where people gather, the staircase was used for relaxation and to get to the exhibits. Therefore, the threshold from the ticket counter to the stairs (the exact spot I identified as the first stair) was mainly defined by the change in lighting, atmosphere, and purpose.
2nd Environment: Area at the top of the stairs
Once at the top of the stairs, I immediately entered an L shaped area where one side led to the 20 20 exhibit in the Heinz Galleries and the other lead to the Scaife Galleries. I identified the threshold between the stairs and this area as the last stair.
This area was much darker in terms of light and was slightly quieter. Light from the massive window next to the stairs leaked in, but especially in the 20 20 area, the light was mostly artificial. As for sound, the only people around me were looking at books on the table so I heard no talking.
3rd Environment: Fork between Scaife Galleries and Gallery One
After going through the glass doors, which I identified as the threshold to this area, I entered an area characterized by dark lighting and almost eerie quiet. This area was a sort of liminal space between the last environment and the exhibit.
There was no signage whatsoever on the right telling me where to go. On the left, there was a relatively small sign saying the name of the exhibit and a sideways sign saying “Gallery One” that I only noticed when looking through my photos back on campus. There was a welcome message on a wall but I didn’t read it because I didn’t think it would help me navigate the space.
Here’s an actual map of the area that I found online:
4th Environment: Gallery One
Once I entered through the doorway to Gallery One, which I identified as the threshold, I noticed that there was brighter lighting, white and gray walls (a change from green and white in the last environment), and different wooden flooring. The walls jutted out to separate the long, narrow space into rooms.
I quickly found Bread in the second “room”.
At this point, I stood in the gallery space, taking notes, taking photos, and observing the area. I saw a couple of my classmates and multiple other visitors, but for the most part, I had the area to myself.
I thought about sitting down after climbing all those stairs, but wasn’t sure at first if the chairs to my left were part of the exhibit or if they were there for visitors to sit on.
I eventually concluded that, because there was an electronic tour guide right next to the chairs, that they were in fact for visitors to sit on. However, I decided to play it safe and stayed standing.
“Secret” Exhibit in the Bird Wing
The Bird Wing is characterized by a long, narrow hallway featuring very dark lighting, bright cases containing the birds on one side of the hallway, and loud bird noises projected from speakers that echo through the space.
When trying to find this “secret” exhibit, I pulled on a couple doors, seeing if they also contained something cool inside. Unfortunately, I found that they were all locked. Perhaps this helped feed my curiosity and excitement when I actually found the secret door.
Finally, I found the small door labeled “Section of Mystery”.
I identified the threshold to the “secret” exhibit as the door labeled “Section of Mystery”. While the visitor can’t climb into the exhibit (unfortunately I’ve tried) because the depth in the space is created by mirrors, I think the viewer is in the environment once they open the door and experience the display. Likewise, I think they have left the exhibit once they close the door.
There could be another, less physical environment at play here, which is the mystery of this display. After finding it, I’m likely to tell others about about it and encourage them to take a look as well. In a way, this is like the Banksy video we saw on the first day in which the excitement about and mysteriousness of the art added tremendously to the experience of finding and viewing the art.
The first problem spot I identified was the stairs and their inefficiency. They always aggravate me because they are just about the length of 1 and a half of my regular steps so I have to vary between stepping once or twice on each step.
The stairs outside the entrance are similar but are better fitted to my paces, so I’d prefer if the stairs were at least more like those in terms of length. Ultimately, when it comes to stairs, I prefer to have efficiency and comfort.
The next issue was the signage. At the top of the stairs, I saw this sign saying “Scaife Galleries” but that no indication what exactly were the Scaife Galleries. In fact, because the exhibit I entered was behind the doors closest to the sign, I believed that it was also part of the Scaife Galleries. It was only until I got back to campus and looked up the exhibit online that I discovered that it was actually in Gallery One, not Scaife Galleries. Clearer signage would have helped me understand the names of each gallery.
Further signage in the 3rd environment (liminal space before entering Gallery One) would also have been helpful in terms of navigation. I mentioned that I only noticed the sideways “Gallery One” sign once I looked through my photos after my visit, so wasn’t useful to me when I needed it.
Another case of unclear communication, I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to sit in these chairs. I’m used to seeing plain benches in museums, so when I see chairs like this, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to touch it or not.
Perhaps I’m also especially afraid of sitting on a chair I’m not supposed to in a museum because once when I was younger, my father unknowingly sat down on a chair that a famous artist had hand carved a century ago.
Looking back, I realize that I have a difficult time telling what’s an environment and what is considered a liminal space. In my mind, a liminal space is an environment in itself with the purpose of transitioning the user to another area.
For reference, here is the plan with some different labels to orient the viewer in terms of the way I drew the elevation drawings.