The MAC Belfast: building and thinking

Belfast’s contemporary art gallery, the Metropolitan Arts Centre, affectionately known as The MAC, designed by Hackett Hall McKnight, is an interesting building, opened in 2012 it sits on a site that is strangely shaped, wedged between existing buildings but this gives the building a dynamic feel. There are two parts to the building, auditoria for performances and galleries for exhibitions. One gallery, sunken, a few steps down from one of the ground floor entrances, the rest piled on top of the auditoria. A vertiginous lobby bisects the building, offering views from the upper storeys to the public spaces on the ground floor below. An installation of rainbow coloured wires by Belfast artist Mark Garry, which is suspended in this area, plays on the prismatic nature of the space.

Our visit, during Belfast Design Week, coincided with the opening of the MAC International, which is a a bi-annual art competition that attracts entries from around the world. There were thirteen artists on display showing a range of contemporary artwork which included installations, photography and video. The winner of the exhibition, Nikolaus Gansterer from Austria, rang a chord with us as designers. His work was a blend of installation, drawing and video that explored the links between drawing, thinking and action. His drawing on the black gallery wall, mapped his thinking and process showing the iterations and loops of thinking and the influences on his thought. His installation gave this a 3D form and three video screens, showed, filmed from above, various experiments with capturing and drawing unexpected things such as the movement of a slug, the random shapes of ink between glass plates. The whole installation was intriguing and held the attention of the viewer. Gansterer’s intention to explore how the act of drawing can become a score, which notates perceptions and communicates them, leads me to think about the embodied intentionality behind each mark that is made during a design project and the value of conscious reflection on the act of drawing and communicating.

More about the building design:

More about Nikolaus Gansterer’s work






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