Morphosis completes Orange County Museum of Sculptural Art

American architecture studio Morphosis has completed a terracotta-covered art museum in Costa Mesa, California, which includes extensive gallery space and a multi-story atrium.

The 53,000-square-foot (4,924-square-meter) museum features a set of galleries wrapped around a large outdoor terrace with public steps leading up from the sidewalk.

Morphosis designed the Orange County Museum of Art in Costa Mesa

The multi-story Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) is located at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts – an arts complex in Costa Mesa.

Los Angeles-based Morphosis, which was founded by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne, designed the structure to have a “gradient of architectural intensity, from the complex shapes at the museum’s entrance to the rectilinear and flexible forms in the galleries”.

Morphosis Terracotta Museum
It is covered with terracotta

Morphosis chose to wrap the structure in a sculptural façade of white glazed terracotta paneling punctuated occasionally with windows that bring light into the galleries.

The concrete and steel structure has been exposed at times, with massive support beams crisscrossing from the ground to support the upper levels.

View of the museum with surrounding buildings
A grand staircase leads to a central terrace

The main level surrounds the entire block and houses most of the gallery spaces. Part of this gallery space has been set up as a “showcase” according to the studio in order to open up the experience to the street and passers-by.

This level also includes the entrance hall with a mezzanine and the large atrium lit by windows.

Walkway with terracotta paneling
Concrete, glass and steel are also visible in the design

At the main entrance, a massive staircase leads to a large public plaza that sits above the main level. The staircase is designed as a public space and passes under part of the facade.

The studio compared these steps to those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Spanish Steps of Rome.

Terrace of the Orange County Museum of Art
The terrace leads to the museum’s galleries and café

“Connecting the museum to the arts complex’s Argyros Plaza and adjacent performance halls, the staircase will become an inviting gathering space for pedestrians and visitors alike,” Morphosis said.

The plaza level spans almost the entire museum, and the company noted that it is equivalent to almost 70% of the building’s footprint.

Orange County Museum of Art Atrium
The multi-story atrium is above the lobby

The space was designed to accommodate a sculpture garden, be an extension of the galleries and host outdoor events. A café and a museum shop will be accessible from the terrace level.

“OCMA’s design represents a new model for museums based on public, urban and communal spaces with strong connections between indoors and outdoors,” said Brandon Welling, lead partner at Morphosis and Mayne.

From the open space rises an asymmetrical, sculptural wing that contains the upper levels of the entrance atrium.

At the top of the atrium is the Education Pavilion, which will contain spaces for educational programming and a performance space that overlooks the terrace level through floor-to-ceiling glazing.

Orange County Museum of Morphing skylight atrium
Windows bring light into the atrium

The museum – founded in 1984 – will hold a variety of temporary exhibitions that feature the works of artists, architects and designers as well as a permanent collection.

The designs for the museum were proposed in 2015 and construction began in 2019. The museum opened in October 2022.

Other Morphosis projects include an asymmetrical skyscraper in Shenzhen and the Emerson College campus in Los Angeles.

Photography is by Mike Kelley, unless otherwise noted.

Project credits:

Architect: Morph

General contractor : Clark Construction Group

Structural engineer: John A. Martin & Associates

MEP & sustainability engineer: Buro Happold

Civil engineer: KPFF

3Lighting designer: Lighting Design Horton Lees Brogden and TM Light

Fire safety engineers: Simpons Gumpertz & Heger

Cost Estimator: Dharam Consulting

Landscape architecture: OJB landscape architecture

Signage / graphics: Follis Design & Weidner CA

Acoustic engineer: Newson Brown Acoustic

Audiovisual / IT: Waveguide

Facade: Walter P. Moore

Features: Construction estimate inc.

Commissioning: Integrated commissioning solutions

Projection: VT-Pro

Geotechnical engineer: Leighton Council

Structural concrete: Coan Construction CompanyElectricity / Telecom /

Fire alarm: AJ Kirkwood & Associates Inc.

Mechanical and plumbing: Pan Pacific Mechanical Framing / Drywall /

Plaster: Infinity Drywall Contract

Ceilings: Built-in martin

Textile ceiling: fabric crafts

Steel fabricator: Southwest Steel & Beck Steel

Steel erector: Pro Steel Erectors, Inc.

Waxed concrete: Shaw and sons

Glazing: Roschmann Group

Terracotta / metal panels / roofing & waterproofing: Best Contracting Services, IncOrnamental Metals & Railings & Misc.
Metals: Washington Ironworks

Landscape & irrigation: American landscape

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