UNA BV » Medellin Modern Art Museum (2022)

The project to expand the Museum of Modern Art in Medellin seeks to link the institution to the city’s daily life from an urban public space.
The new building is configured as a volume that overlaps the current Museum of Modern Art to create unity and reinforce the integration of qualified collective spaces. It starts from the Plazoleta in front of the building; passes through the interior of the museum (through its most significant space, which is the central hall for large format exhibitions) and unfolds in a large square protected by the new construction; extending, finally, to the linear park, proposed by the urban plan.
The possibilities of use of this new public space come from the shade generated by the new building that mitigates the thermal sensation generated by the hot and humid climate of Medellín. Thus, one can imagine parties, outdoor exhibitions (so favorable to contemporary art), staging of shows, unexpected uses, both day and night. A museum that is alive and open to all.
The intervention presupposes the effective integration between the two wings, new and old. The idea of a stronger museum, visible as a whole, guides the project. Faced with a certain oppression caused by the neighboring buildings, an operation that equates the volumetry of the whole becomes necessary, so that the museum can guarantee its presence on the site.
It is not a matter of distinguishing, by constructive bias, the suspended block from the current building. The new volume merges its supports in the existing building, and thus floats above it. The tension between the two is clarified and potentiated in successive relationships. As if architecture relies directly on the mechanisms of the arts to redefine place.


From all sides, including the Avenida de los Industriales, the intervention becomes perceptible. The use underlines this fusion, since the access to the new activities happens through the extremities of the current building, a single route for the visitor. The entrances are enlarged. Where before there was a front (Carrera 44) and back (parking lot) to the museum, now there are two qualified and converging accesses. The underground parking lot directs visitors to the eastern entrance.

Distribution of Uses

The predominantly horizontal spatial arrangement allows for optimization of services and inter-relationship of the new activities. Above, on the first floor, are the technical reserves, the three exhibition rooms and the suggestion of a new room for audiovisuals. The set of reserve rooms and technical workshops are concentrated in order to guarantee the functionality and safety of the pieces handled. All these rooms are protected from sunlight and have temperature and humidity control. The restoration and production ateliers face a sheltered courtyard, with controlled natural lighting. They can, however, be seen by the public circulating through the museum, revealing these activities.

The exhibition rooms can be unified in a large hall, where metal trusses divide three wings. They have temperature and humidity control, and modern security and fire fighting systems, monitored through a control center located on the roof.

On the upper floor, the mezzanine floor, there are the administration offices, the training workshops, and the foyer of the cinema-auditorium with capacity for 250 people, translation and projection booths. The training workshops can be unified to become a single room.

The suspended plate determines two large roof terraces, animated by a café/restaurant on one side and a bookstore on the other. This open space, 25 meters off the ground, relates to the mountains that make up the valley that forms the city of Medellín and provides an understanding of the scale of the landscape.


Due to the height, the circulation will preferably be done by two large elevators (common to vertical museums), which are also dimensioned as freight elevators. The larger pieces will be lifted by hoists fixed to the structure of the new block and unloaded directly at the level of the exhibition floor, through openings inside the volume. The covered plaza now provides an event when transporting these pieces. Elevators and safety stairs connect the five floors of the building: basement for parking and services [including loading and unloading]; entrance level of the current museum; new exhibition wing and technical reserve; mezzanine for cine-auditorium and administration; and, on the roof, the terraces. The technical reserve and administration were each provided with internal circulation and restricted to employees.


The subsoil acts as a foundation block to anchor the construction and provide stability to the overhang structure. Its connection to the foundation blocks will be made through dampers, already anticipating the occurrence of possible seismic tremors. The support of the suspended metallic plate is concentrated in this central tower. A strategy for the execution of the work is planned so that the intervention does not cause disruption to the museum’s operations. The basement will be built in an external area, adjacent to the existing building, and will be connected to the tower, which needs only two meters beyond its perimeter to be executed. The roof will be removed in this section, to make way for the construction of the tower, built with sliding concrete forms. This is the only interference in the old building, because the upper steel structure will be built using successive cantilever techniques, common to bridges, and totally independent from the existing building.

The upper volume is composed of parallel metallic trusses eight and a half meters high, which project 36 meters to each side and counterbalance each other. The floor and roof planes, in turn, also balance each other, and form a 42-meter-wide plate. The very construction of the building can be imagined as an event of public demonstration of technique and transformation of place.

Resource Savings

Solutions for saving the building’s maintenance resources were considered. The first floor and mezzanine programs are grouped in loose internal volumes with independent façade enclosures. This solution allows the temperature and humidity conditioning to be specific to each environment and the circulation spaces to have permanent air exchange, generating enormous energy savings. Due to the large horizontal surface, it is possible to collect a large volume of rainwater that will be stored underground and reused for appropriate uses. In addition, the new block shades the old one, acting as a sun shield, improving the thermal conditions of the current museum on hot days. Reforestation wood slats cover the entire building and assume different qualities: drainage floor on the terrace, continuous lining for the plaza and brise soleil for the facades.

All the constructive and finishing solutions adopted contribute to guarantee the building’s good thermal inertia, the main condition for the adequate control of temperature and humidity in the exhibition rooms and technical reserve, with minimized energy resources and maintenance of the environmental conditioning equipment.

All of the exhibition rooms have total control of natural lighting, adapting to the most demanding indexes, 50 lux, in the case of sensitive objects, in accordance with international conservation standards.

The artificial lighting will work basically with two mechanisms. Diffused light, homogeneously distributed through indirect light from a large recessed plane about 1.5 meters away from all walls. As a complement, electrified rails parallel to the walls guarantee punctual illuminations. The entire system will be controlled by a dimmer.

Urban Impacts

The geometry and materiality of the project seek to create a new unity that reveals in negative terms the original construction, through the void, or the access square. By day, an opaque volume, and at night, a lantern that indicates the new use.

The building strategically houses the requested program in a suspended horizontal plate that multiplies the public and convivial spaces. It wants to join the large number of interventions that have been happening with great success in the city of Medellin.

Project start date



UNA arquitetos: Cristiane Muniz, Fábio Valentim, Fernanda Barbara e Fernando Viégas + Opus Estudio_Carlos Andrés Betancur, Manuel José Posada, Carlos David Montoya


Ana Paula de Castro, Carolina Klocker, Fabiana Cyon, Gabriela Gurgel, Silio Almeida, Miguel Muralha


Rodrigo Naves, Nuno Ramos, Elisa Bracher

Structural Engineer Consultant

cia. de Projeto - Heloísa Maringoni

Conservation Consultant

Gedley Belchior Braga

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