A closer look at MIM’s composition

Seeing MIM from a different perspective reveals how the building’s design elements support the museum’s atmosphere and visitor experience.

“Architects, like musicians and composers, use tools to create an inspirational, emotional, or reflective experience. Those tools are materials, textures, pattern, form, mass, space, and light,” says MIM architect Rich Varda. “Architects can enclose you and guide your journey, they can frame vistas, invite touch, and enclose space with forms and textures that enrich sound and music.”

The concepts of musical rhythm and composition find a counterpart in details and patterns in the building’s design. Other architectural features reference both MIM’s global mission and its local surroundings.

What does Varda see when he looks back on the project ten years later? “I think the design team is most proud of the fact that the spaces of the building are comfortable, friendly, and supportive of the desired immersive experience in the galleries. Moving through the building is intuitive and relaxing. The average length of stay is almost four hours, supporting the fact that people are comfortable and fully engaged,” he says.

Here, we look at the museum with an architect’s lens, noticing the subtle but powerful ways that MIM’s architecture harmonizes with its mission.

  • MIM’s sandstone walls evoke the topography of the Southwest, while raised key shapes in the exterior stonework evoke musical notes.
  • A familiar “piano key” pattern plays across MIM’s walls in clusters of windows.
  • Patterns can be found throughout the building on staircase railings, lighting, and floor tiles.
  • The “meandering river” of the central corridor, El Río, is another reference to the landscape.
  • The rotunda’s inlaid world map is formed with stones from the world regions they represent.
  • The rotunda’s elegant curve is reminiscent of a grand piano’s shape.