High Museum of Art

A prominent landmark for Atlanta that reinterprets the museum typology through a sensitive engagement with its context.

The High Museum creates a major new destination within Atlanta, responding to both the city’s progressive building tradition and its role as a developing cultural center. Occupying a prominent corner site at the junction of Peachtree and Sixteenth streets, two miles from downtown Atlanta, the museum is placed at an important location within a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood with good access via public transportation.

The project’s parti consists of four quadrants with one carved out to distinguish it from the other three; the missing quadrant becomes a monumental atrium at the heart of the museum. The extended exterior ramp is a symbolic gesture reaching out to the street and city, serving as a foil to the interior ramp that is the building’s chief formal and circulatory element. Throughout the building, natural light—both direct and filtered—is used as a symbol of the museum’s role as a place of aesthetic illumination and enlightened cultural values.

The ceremonial center of the museum is a monumental, light-filled atrium inspired by the central space of the Guggenheim Museum. As in the Guggenheim, the ramp mediates between the central space and the art itself. In the Guggenheim, however, the ramp doubles as a gallery; in the High Museum, the ramp has been reinterpreted as a dedicated circulation space. The separation of the ramp from the galleries allows the atrium walls to have windows that flood the interior with natural light and offer framed views of the surrounding city.