The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis opened in September 2003, designed by Brad Cloepfil, principal architect of Allied Works Architecture of Portland, Oregon. Cloepfil was chosen after a nine-month selection process. At the time, Cloepfil was not the most recognizable name on the committee’s shortlist, but since the Museum came into being, his stature has risen dramatically, with designs that have received international recognition, including the Museum of Arts and Design and Eleven Madison Park in New York City, the National Music Centre in Calgary, and the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver.
“In making space for contemporary art,” Cloepfil said in expressing his initial ideas for CAM, “the architect must first serve the artist; not by attempting to render a ‘background’ for art, but by providing the artist with a specific spatial presence, an intentional vacancy that achieves meaning through the art itself.” And serving the artist is what the structure has done since 2003. The 27,200 square foot, two-story space, provides both flexibility and transparency. The building offers variations in scale, opportunities for enclosed and open spaces, and a diversity of lighting conditions for curators to entertain. CAM is both an enclosure and an invitation, with street windows that present parallel perspectives of the work on exhibit, whether one is looking out or looking in. The ribbons of concrete and the steel mesh intersect and weave throughout the inner and outer, elements that are the signature of the structure and of the idea of the Museum itself.