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Lobby Renovation 2015

Raphaela Platow is the Alice & Harris Weston Director of the Contemporary Arts Center.

We are embarking on an exciting project: the redesign of our Kaplan Hall lobby.

When I arrived in Cincinnati in 2007 to become director of the Contemporary Arts Center, I immediately dreamed of bringing our beautiful lobby space to life. I envisioned a pulsating, welcoming, buzzing place, one that invites people to make connections with others and encourages people to connect with the art of our time.

Zaha Hadid, the architect of the Center, realized a daring vision for both our lobby and for our building in general that was based on the concept of the urban carpet. This idea facilitates a back-and-forth movement of energy between the streets downtown and the global, contemporary art inside the building. We want to renovate the lobby in the way that Zaha imagined it: as the most vibrant, public space in Cincinnati.

Over the years, we have installed many artistic projects and celebrated many events within our beautiful lobby. The tenth anniversary of the building last year and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the CAC as an arts institution this year is the perfect occasion to kick off a re-imagining of the experience that we want to offer you, our guests, from the moment you walk through the lobby doors. Our ambition is for you to immediately enter a welcoming, artful and vibrant social space that you will not want to leave. 

So, this January, we are entering the construction phase of a new vision that we have spent more than a year developing. The welcome desk will be moved so that staff can directly greet everyone who enters our home. The store, which will occupy a more central location, will feature the best artist and artisan-created items available in the city. A long-awaited café will offer delicious coffee and tasty breakfasts, lunches, and evening treats. There will also be communal tables, intimate and generous seating areas, comfortable lounge chairs, oversize sofas, terrific lighting, and, of course, an astonishing ongoing series of art installations that will make the experience utterly unique. Lastly, there will be new way-finding and signage in general to help visitors better navigate our spaces.

When we open our new lobby, it will feature the artworks of three different artists and artist groups. It is always our desire to provide our guests with a rich, layered and, ultimately, diverse art experience, so we thought very carefully about the different artistic voices that we are bringing together in our Kaplan Hall lobby space. Assume Vivid Astro Focus is a collaborative artist group whose two founders involve at times numerous people in the different projects they execute all over the world. Eli Sudbrack, a Brazilian artist based in New York City and Christophe Hamaide-Pierson, a Frenchman based in Paris, have been working together for over a decade to create vibrant, colorful environments that, at a second glance, deal with pressing issues of our time. They are creating expressive wallpaper and wall paintings for us and we are also discussing a massive mural on the outside of our building.

Our very own Matt Kotlarczyk, whose thoughtful and carefully crafted works can be found all over our city, will create two enormous, beautiful chandeliers for the CAC that resemble clouds and stars. The works will add a layer of dreamy reflection to our new lobby environment.

Erwin Redl, an Austrian based in Bowling Green, Ohio, has dedicated his artistic practice to immersive and massive light installations for art centers, public buildings and corporations. His work is generally meditative and transforms the medium of light into a tangible, sensuous experience. Erwin is developing an impressive yet subtle installation for us that will, for the first time ever, cover the entire urban carpet from the lobby up to the sixth floor. It will consist of hundreds of little LED lamps activated by miniature fans that will cast white dots of light across the vast expanse of the urban carpet and turn it into an ever-changing ballet of dancing lights. The biggest challenge has been to figure out how to install this piece since the installation of scaffolding behind our staircase is almost impossible. Our inventive installation team has come up with a brilliant solution and we will give you insight into the process as soon as the piece goes up. So, stay tuned!

I cannot say we will be an unrecognizable CAC, but we will certainly be transformed by adding a lot of opportunities for delicious, delirious fun, or contemplative experiences.

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