Environments: CMOA Project

Step 1:

To introduce this project we examined both the digital and physical thresholds of the Carnegie museum of Art. In order to map the digital threshlds we used a technique called wire-framing, which blocks out seperate areas of information on a webpage in order to see what is a content and what is a portal or threshold to something else.

I navigated the web page by starting at a home page of an event and then from there clicking on different tabs or sponsors that would direct me to another page on the website. I documented the wireframe of each page and this is what it looked like.

The red indicates an area meant as a threshold to take you to another page and the gray indicates an image. As you can see on these four pages, they are all very similar. They have a top navigation tab, and image under, information on the left hand side, tabs on the right, and then information and links on the bottom. This formula is used throughout the site.

This formula can becomes repetitive and can create problems with long informationless pages. I noticed that half of a page is usually used as threshold to direct you to another page. So when you’re entered into this environment you focus may be on information but in your periphery something alse is trying to grab you attention and pull you into another direction.

The home page is different because every box and segment of this page acts as a thrshold to get you where you want to go in the website or maybe make you go somewhere you weren’t expecting. It uses a lot of linked images and short descriptions. This page doesnt follow the formula of every other page but that’s because this acts as the organization and directional part of the site

The website achieves its purpose of telling you about exhibits and upcoming events/shows. It however follows this basic formula that becomes old as you navigate the website. This formula also doesn’t work sometimes. When there is a small amount of information and a lot of promo tabs that stretched to the bottom of the page. Lots of white space is left that feel awkaward an unfinished. The website also lacks art. It may have one image for every bit of information but there’s no where you can get a taste of a gallery or exhibit online. Maybe this is to keep the work obscure and makes you want to go see it, but in a world where accesability is a major factor in popularity, a bit more of a taste for a gallery or event or show would hopefully benefit their online viewers.

Step 2:

Next I went to evaluate the physical threshold that occur when you approach the Museum. Questions like ‘where does the major divide between museum and public space?’ “When do you see the building?’ ‘what is the transition from outside to inside like?’ ‘What problem are there?’ are what I thought about when I assesed the environment. This is what I came up with.

I first see the museum on the intersection of Craig and Forbes. I cross the street and ofter I pass a bus stop I see a divide between concrete and stone and the entrance to the museum. On the way there, there is signage to point out the museum but it still takes you a bit off gaurd becaus it is a bit hidden if you coming from the East.

Panoramic drawing of the space.

This drawing contains five main aspects of the CMOA entrance that imrtant to the trransition in the musuem and aspects that pose as distractions. The five are the steps, clocks, fountain, overhang, and the glass doors.

Stone Steps: I first notice the museum when I come to the crosswalk. I look to the left and see the entrance to the parking lot and then continue to the large structure across the street. After you cross the street and pas the bus stop you’re greeted to a large open space with square stone ground and thin stair steps down. This is one of the major divides between the public space and the museum space. Although, the transition into the museum space comes in levels.

Timer that took a panorama every 5 min

The Clock: Once you walk down the steps of the museum, you are greeted by many distractions and changes. There is a sculpture and flowers in a bowl to look at as well as a towering sculture you can enter and a clock with instructions. I’ll come back to this later but as a class we all axamined these interactions before considering entering the museum. The clock is actually a timer with a camera inserted that takes a panorama ecery five minutes. So while waiting for the clock to strike we examined the tower instalation that you could enter. Almost everyone pulled out their phones and snapped a couple pictures inside. We gathered as a class and stood infront of the clock so that we could be in the picture. This made us want to go inside to tee the photo the clock took.

shift under the overhang

Overhang and Water Feature: The next level of transition comes when you walk under the overhang. Suddenly it becomes significantly darker and the noise from the water feature becomes very present because of the echo. Now I felt as if I was already inside the museum because of the change in lighting but the sound reminded me that this was a outdoor environment. Their are tables to sit at but this seems as more of a solitary place to sit than one with many people because of the noise from the water.

Glass Doors: Next you enter the museum through two thick glass doors. Once you enter, you’re in this vestibule and then you open another set of doors to enter the actual museum. Something about seeing the inside through the doors and putting an effort into opening the doors amkes it rewarding and exciting to enter the museum and makes you wonder what you’ll discover. Once your inside you’re able to see the recent and past panoramas shot from the clock outside. Our class went straight for the screens to see our class photo.

There are two sets of double doors in th front of the CMOA. In class we discussed why they designed it this way. Other believed that it was a way to diffrentiate an entrance and an exit. I see why one would think this, but people still went through rows of tables and chairs to go through one side than the other. I toned in and explained how it could be to differentiate the Cafe from the museum because I know it’s a popular spot for meeting to happen.

Walls are consistent material inside and out.

Also once you enter the building there are changes as well as consistencies. The sound from the water feature goes away and the temperature changes as well. This indicates that you’ve entered the actual museum. However, the walls don’t change material and go into the museum seamlessly from the outside. With the glass doors and wall, It makes it feel like the outdoor space is continued and makes that rather skinny hall much larger.

What I observed was that where 3 main levels of transition into the museum; The initial change from concrete to stone and the steps down, the overhang and the sound from the water fountain reverberating of the ceiling and walls, and the heavy glass doors to actual enter the museum. One of the problems I found was that there where many distraction before I could enter the museum. This could be a good thing because it would attract people walking by, but for someone going to the museum focused on seeing something, this could be a bit distracting. From the interactive sculpture, clock, screens inside, and the water feature, plants, and places to sit all would have distracted me if I was going to the museum for a certain gallery or event.

Step 3:

For step three, we where instructed to visit a certain piece in the Carnegie Museum of Art and document the process it took to get to that space.

gordonparksfoundation.org Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem

I chose to visit this image of Ralph Ellison peeking out of a sewer grate. This was shot by Gordon Parks and is one of my favorite images by him. I had seen his entire gallery in Amsterdam but I dont believe I’d seen this particular one yet.

I entered through the north side and got my ticket from the front desk. Once you’ve gotten your ticket, you’re led into the museum and you realy have to directin you can go in. I walked a bit until I realized I had no idea where to go. Apparently I needed to take a map from the side of front desk that looked like this.

Carnegie Museum of Art Map

The map was a bit difficult to figure out but that is not the point of this assignment. the maps where facng away from you when you exit the front desk which makes it unclear to take one. There is also no signage at all so you have no option but to look for a map.

I find out which direction I need to go and I procede to search for the piece. From the front desk I take a right and go up the stairs. The stairs are fixed to the left wall and are quite long in width and length. This makes it awkward because you can’t really only take one footstep per stair-step. They are the same material as the wall in the entrance and contrast wiht the colorful wall. The walls now change into a colorful print of squares to (I'm geussing) suggest your going in a direction that will lead you to art/creativity. On the left the entire wall is glass and you look out into the courtyard. It almost makes one feels like their still outside.

‘lobby’ infrot of gallery.

Once you get to the top of the steps you enter another transitional space that consists of a large table with loads of art books on it and more creative wall designs. While I was in the exhibit, which you enter through a set of large glass doors, I saw a class sit at the large table while listening to their teacher. So I believe this place acts as a bit of a warm up for people before they enter an exhibit. They dont even necessarily have to stop and look at the books, but just their presence prepares one mentally that their entering a creative viewing environment.

Entering the actual gallery space was the biggest transition. All of a sudden I went from a colorful space with a dark and rough ground to a completely white environment. It became very quiet and the only thing i could hear would be the slow shuffling of peoples feet.

The floors are a white pebbled marble, the walls are white, and even the accents on the bottom are white. The ceiling is glass but covered to create a darker and uninteresting part of the room behind the lights. The only real contrast is the shadow the little overhang the wall has and the artwork itself. I think this worked quite beautifully because it not just highlighted the pretty dark work but made it stand out more.

The piece I was looking for was directly on the right when I walked in. I looked at it closely to see all the detail and then I walked back to view it on this vast white wall. It was the only piece on this wall so I believed it looked very prominent and important where it was placed.

Gordan parks Photo of Ralph Ellison

What I noticed is that the museum made it so that diffent material communicate different spaces. The rock on the walls and ground represent outside. When you aren’t in the gallery, they want you to feel like your outside with the glass windows and the continuing material. The white walls and polished white floor are inside. This communicates that you are inside. This also comunicates that one must carry themselves properly and that they’re not as free like they would be outside. This is why people walk much slower and it becomes eerily still and quite once you enter the glass doors. Also the presence of the security gaurds enforces the fact one needs to be well behaved and respectful in this space.

Once you exit the space your put into this vast greek themed room that looks quite grand. It still goes with the white theme and does not have the stone material used in the lobby or anywhere else in the museum so you get the sense that this is also a serious space. You are still “inside.”

The next part of step three was to find a Secret door in the museum. I did’t bother looking at the map and I asked someone who worked there where it might be. They pointed me in the right direction and I made my way up this grand staircase/space. It remind me of an entrance but it’s in the middl eof the museum and acts as a way to get people up and down from one exhibit into another. The grandness came from the high ceiling and the marble everywhere. I enjoyed walking through it. I got to the third floor made my way to the bird exhibit where this “secret door” was apparently located.

Entrance to the Bird exhibit.

I get to the entrance and it’s a stark difference to the staircase. This dark, low, claustrophobic and uninviting tunnel is presented which houses the birds. When you walk through you’re hit with sounds of all differnet types of birds that are on display. I guess if they wanted to make us feel as if we were in the jungle, claustrophobicly packed in an area with bird sound all around, then they succeeded.

The secret door came up on the left and was marked with “SECTION OF MYSTERY.” As shown in the picture the door was proportionally quite small in order to commonicate that its probably not meant to be gone through. There are noises coming from inside and once you open it’s a image of a bird in a tiny room that shows up with information about it. We met the woman who created the space and she explains every time you open and close the door a new bird shows up. I poked my head in and felt even more claustrophobic and tight. The sounds is all-encompassing and the darkness makes the diim lit hallway seem bright.

The threshold is that inital archway into this cavelike corridor. It doesn’t look that inviting but it does mae you wonder what is down this dimly lit, low hallway. This sense of wonder and mystery attracts you and rewards you once you see this door you’ve found at the end of the hallway. The halway also leads to another exhibit farthe into the museum.

Problems with this section are that it seems more as a transitional hallway than an exhibit. People don’t stop to look at the birds, but glance at them while walking down. Some people went down this hallway solely to get to the other exhibit. It’s dimly lit, claustophobic, noisy and ultimately unrewarding. I can see if they where trying to recreate a forest environment but that failed because it feels like an afterthought to the hallway. The birds are packed together in these cases without any natural elements to suggest this is a natural environment. It would make more sense if they put this there to not loose people attention while they walked down this long hall. The Secret Room in novel but ultimately feels redundant to the room and leaves you wanting more or something else. I felt better once I walked out the hallway.

Step 4:

The physical and digital environments have very differing values. Whereas the physical environment values look and feel, the digital environment values navigation and organization.

By documenting aspects of both spaces, I can apply strengths from both environments and incorporate them where thair appropriate to try and alleviate the problems. From the physcial environment, it was clear that they took transitions through thresholds seriously, from continuos form and material to constant elements like light and nature help lead one through the space. I would take elements like these and incorporate them into the website.

In the above image I have two columbs, the left indicates the home page and when you select a category it will move you through the space and to information or more categories. The background indicates that I would include elements of the museum (nature, light, transition) in the webpage to give the viewer a more accurate view of the museum.

In the museum however I would improve navigation and organization. After one leaves the front desk they could be confronted by signs or even projected paths on the floor to indicate direction, and as one moves throught the museum the signs will narrow down untill they reach their destiantion. The museum is not as sterile as the website but the simple navigation throughout the website is something the museum could benefit from.

The digital environment lacks in comparison to todays standards of web experiences. An succsful website (in my view) conveys the necesaary information while at the same time creating an experience that promotes the ideas or product(s) the website wants to reinforce. The CMOA website may provide the necessary information one will eventually find, but the sterile image and the furmulaic pages makes it nothing more than information. Improving transitions and the impression the museum wants will provide that experience that gets viewers excited to visit the museum.


one of the first things I noticed about the museum in contrast wiht the website/app was the transitions. The website has harsh and jarring movements from page to page, whereas the physical space excels in using subtlety to transition ones experience from one space to another.

The next thing I noticed, as previuosly mentioned, was the diference in values that each environment conveyed. the museum prides itself on its image and feel while the website focuses on it’s navigation and organization.

Lastly an interesting aspect I noticed was discussion. Discussion (as observed) is always limited to ones peers or groups visiting the museum. There is no space for public discussion to occur, which I believe is important to create a depth and further understanding to a gallery or even a single piece of art. I don’t believe that discussion should be immediately be presented with a piece. But if something such as a digital aspect (like the image bellow) like screens that display past comments (disclaimer would warn that inappropriate comments would be excluded) would add a new dimension to the exhibits.

An important aspect of the physical environmets was the constants that occured during transitions. This made it so that threshold between spaces would blend into another and the type of harshness that occurred in the website, wouldn’t in the physical space. These liminal spaces included material subtlety as well as other factors such as light to create smooth transitions. The website lack this subtlety and therefor lacks a smooth experience. Online the material that stay the same are the white background and the format which don’t have the same subtlety as the more natural aspects that the museum applies.

Floor plan:

20/20 Gallery floor plan


North Ground view
South view looking at the door
West view
East view.
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