One of the most controversial, new buildings in the United States is in Lansing on the campus of Michigan State University–the Eli and Edythe Broad (pronounced Brode) Art Museum. It opened in November, 2012, and Ruth and I visited in August, 2013. We both thought it was a spectacularly innovative, 5 Compass design. But many call it an eyesore or a disgrace.
The building’s architect is Baghdad-born Zaha Hadid who has said, “I don’t design nice buildings.” Because her vision for The Broad exclusively used the diagonal, the line of action in art and architecture, the building seems to be forever lifting-off from the ground like a Boeing 747 taking off. Without right angles to anchor it and make it more traditional, it appears to float. This is a neat architectural trick since the building is basically made of concrete and steel.
Alumnus Eli Broad, the founder of 2 Fortune 500 companies, is a serious contemporary art patron. He and Edythe began their collection in 1972 when they bought a Van Gogh for $95,000. I learned this from a Lansing newspaper called City Pulse that devoted an entire issue to The Broad when it opened. It’s still, for now, available. Eli donated $28 million, the largest gift from a single donor in MSU’s history, to kick-start the project that eventually cost up to $45 million.
The Broad will be different every time Ruth and I are privileged to visit. What’s currently displayed on The Broad’s 3 levels will be changed every 3 to 4 months and is, at least for now, rather sparing so that visitors can pay as much attention to the building as the art. I have never seen a better match of building design and contents.
I suspect that The Broad will favor younger artists despite the fact that there’s a scattering of Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and Frank Lloyd Wright currently on view. My favorite painting was by Andrew Kuo–“The More You Know About Me, The More You’ll Think Twice Before Calling”. Born in 1977, Kuo’s vivid squares inside squares have a color coordinated personality key at the bottom that’s both serious and funny.
As is fairly typical of attractions on campuses, The free entry Broad has no visitor parking lot. Its official address is 547 East Circle Drive, but there’s apparently no parking on this street. Through trial and error, we discovered a reasonably priced parking structure sort of across busy East Grand River Avenue from the Museum, which stands out shockingly from nearby, traditional university buildings.
And for many, this is a reason to complain. One critic said, “The architecture does not fit with that of north Campus nor that of East Lansing.” True enough. Students passing by as I took photos told Ruth that The Broad has caused accidents on Grand since drivers become distracted by this extreme design and crash.