Cutting-Edge in Winston-Salem

Places / July 20, 2010

While Raleigh’s North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) has been commanding the headlines since the new wing there opened in May, its counterpart in Winston-Salem has been quietly undergoing a transformation of its own.

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) opened on July 15 with a new look and feel, thanks to the capable and thrifty work of Philip Szostak, FAIA.

Known as the risk-taker of the two state-owned museums, SECCA has no permanent collection, but exists solely to show new work. Modern artists have been exhibiting there since the 1950s.

Szostak, the Chapel Hill architect, was called upon to renovate the museum’s 35,000 square-foot gallery space and its exterior, on a challenging budget of about $1.8 million.

“We wanted to give them a better place for exhibits,” the architect said. “The old space was one big gallery, kind of like an aircraft carrier. We broke that up into five different spaces.”

They took up aging carpet, and ground down the concrete floor below. Some basic housekeeping items were taken care of as well, including waterproofing the basement and installing a new climate control system.

Outside, he thought about re-skinning the exterior walls, but decided to paint it a bright white instead. Square panels supporting the roof have been smartly accented in green to play thoughtfully off the lawn and the walls as well.

“We wanted to reposition it as a contemporary art museum,” Phil said. “We took the old bones and skin and painted it. It’s much more contemporary than it ever was before.”

And with about a tenth of the budget of the NCMA, the architect still found a way to give the museum a new look for the 21st century . “We wanted to say that this is a cutting edge space,” he said.

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Michael Welton




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