SAHARA Highlights: Museums, Part 1: The Americas

by Jacqueline Spafford and Jeffrey Klee, SAHARA Co-Editors | Mar 03, 2020

This month’s Highlights feature the first sampling from SAHARA’s collection of museum architecture and design. After the editors examined the incredible breadth of this subject they decided that this topic will be a series. The span of museum-related content is truly global and diverse, covering everything from the grand and imposing to the humble and homemade, from purpose-built to adaptive re-use. This month we offer a selection of museums in North, South and Central America. Thank you to our contributors, as always.

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Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

Paul Philippe Cret, and Fellheimer and Wagner Architects, Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1929–33. View of rotunda, the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere, and the Winold Reiss mosaics representing local industry. Photograph by Peter Clericuzio, 2012.


Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Gordon Bunshaft, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 1966-74. Photograph by Richard Longstreth.


Museo Diego Rivera de Anahuacalli
Juan O’Gorman and Diego Rivera, Museo Diego Rivera de Anahuacalli, Mexico City, 1944–64. Interior exhibit display view, showing the Mayan and Aztec-influenced building design. Photograph by Amber Wiley, 2014.


First Nations Hotel and Museum
LEMAYMICHAUD Architecture Design, First Nations Hotel and Museum, Wendake, Quebec, 2007-8. The hotel design was inspired by Iroquoian longhouses, while the conical museum evokes an Algonquin smokehouse. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2013.


Broad Art Museum
Zaha Hadid, Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, Michigan, 2012. Photograph by Kevin Harrington, 2013.


The Canadian Museum of History
Douglas Cardinal, The Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization), Gatineau, Quebec, 1989. Photograph by Aliki Economides, 2017.


Contemporary Art Museum, Niterói
Oscar Niemeyer, Contemporary Art Museum, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1991–96. Photograph by Barbara Boifava.


LSU Rural Life Museum
LSU Rural Life Museum, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This mid-19th century slave house was formerly located on the Welham Plantation in St. James Parish. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2012.


Museo Soumaya
Fernando Romero, Museo Soumaya, Mexico City, Mexico, 2011. Detail of the 16,000 aluminum tiles that make up the cladding. Photograph by Amber Wiley, 2014.


Museum of the Atacama Desert
Coz, Polidura & Volante Arquitectos, Museum of the Atacama Desert (Huanchaca Ruins Museum), Antofagasta, Chile, 20009. The museum is built on, and commemorates, a 19th century silver foundry. View of the museum ramparts with foundry rooms behind. Photograph by Sarah Rovang, 2018.


Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610