David Adjaye’s Ruby City

David Adjaye’s Ruby City

Sir David Adjaye’s visionary sparkling crimson design for San Antonio’s newest museum creates yet another reason to venture to Texas. Opening in October and aptly named Ruby City, the museum is the architect’s first project in Texas, and is informed by art collector Linda Pace’s fanciful colored pencil sketch. Keen to learn more about the design process and inspiration behind Ruby City, the 10,000 had the chance to spend a moment with David Adjaye. Our brief Q&A, below:

This is the latest of many notable museum designs for Adjaye Associates. How does Ruby City differ to previous projects?
Ruby City fits into a narrative that is incredibly important to me, making civic and social spaces that are about bringing in diverse constituents from the city and its visitors, a socially constructed architecture that can edify the community. When taking on this project, I could see the incredible opportunity it had to elevate the experience and give back to the city.

Ruby City is your first project in Texas. Tell us about the design elements of the museum?
The building’s texture and floor plane are a meditation on both pre-Columbian style and the idea of earth-bound architecture. Even when paired with the juxtaposition of its cantilever it’s still connected to the ground. The same coloration is on the ground and forms the entire building. Where you can touch the building, you can feel this deep texture and materiality, and where you can’t, it has an incredible sparkle, a connection to the sky. It’s always working towards this relationship and connection with the human experience. As you move around it, the building is constantly changing. It looks different from every angle, and that’s part of the dynamism of it. Re-contextualizing and reframing its narrative, the design works as a kind of loop, an ambulatory loop that takes you through a sequence. You know where you began and you know where you end and you see the end and the beginning right at the first moment and then it magically unveils beautiful things to you.

What or who inspired the design and unique color of the museum?
Linda Pace dreamt of this Ruby coloured crown, she drew it and it translated as a dense poem, or hieroglyphic, an image loaded with information. I deciphered from it the aspiration of the entire brief. The red comes from this form that would rise from the earth, which possesses an ethereal magic, an almost crystalline quality. Then we have a series of chambers, with a vast spectrum of volumes and articulations and forms.

What are some of the key benefits of employing the specific materials used to build Ruby City, given San Antonio’s notoriously hot climate?
The building is a ruby red, directly related to Linda’s sketch and vision and that makes sense because that’s related to the idea of this oxide rich earth. This manifested its way into the materiality, although it’s a complex idea, this piece of architecture and its construction, we needed to answer how do you color a stone? It’s concrete, we worked hard to source aggregates and we found the incredible skill we needed in Mexico. They worked with the concrete and this aggregate color fastening that would give the longevity and durability needed. The sun is so intense that normal dye would fade very quickly. We did numerous tests, putting it in the environment for long periods of time to make sure we got it right. This exquisite craftsmanship allowed us to realize this vision to create a building that had this beautiful coloration, these subtle tones of red, but also had an aggregate mix, that we added glass to so it would catch the light and create a sparkle as you moved around it and the sun moved around it.

How did you merge the needs of the Linda Pace Foundation Trust with the cultural needs of the city of San Antonio?
Linda embodied this incredible vision and scope for the collection, her ideas went beyond traditional expectations and aspirations. Her reach, her philanthropic work, her place in the city, her overall contribution continually led back to the importance of place and making landscapes for citizens and communities. With Ruby City we were able to transform and reimagine the landscape, from the relationship to the water creek to the relationship with the infrastructure. The everyday areas that are so vital and possess a quiet, noble and powerful nature. The contribution of Ruby City, where her collection is generously displayed and free for all is an incredible endowment for San Antonio and its future generations.

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