The National Cowgirl
Museum and Hall of Fame
This is the story of cowgirls from their origins to the present day. A notion that is broadened and defined through women who have contributed to the progress of the American West. Located in the heart of the cultural district of Fort Worth, the institution is neighbour to several architectural masterpieces including Louis Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum, Philip Johnson's Amon Carter Museum and Tadao Ando's Modern Art Museum.
It was necessary to design a new museum by rehabilitating the existing building, creating nearly 2000 m2 of permanent exhibition space and reception areas, with an external reception structure. Our mission was very extensive, from the architectural restructuring and complete spatial reorganisation, to the scenography and specific production of audio-visual media.
Our proposal was inspired by the sensitive, geometric and material imagination of the original cowgirl universe, without falling into clichés or a literal transcription. Curved lines, patterns and thick or rough material blend with portraits, voices, films, clothes and objects originating from the world of cowgirls and federate the two levels of the building. The spatial boundaries are treated in a specific way, as panoramic openings onto the linear and extensive landscape of the American West. The horizon is thus omnipresent in the visitor's journey.
The project uses sensual curved lines, inspired by the landscapes painted by Georgia O'Keeffe and also as a way of marking its identity in an environment dominated by elegant and very orthonormal museums. The landscapes of the American West are vast horizons carrying the view far away. We decided to bring this immensity into the museum. A museum whose boundaries are not mere opaque walls, but filmed and projected horizons that evolve over time. The furniture is designed to adapt to multiple contents: on the lower level, large curved showcases whose contents can change easily, and on the first floor, large islands capable of hosting different types of exhibitions. A strategy that is both sustainable and specific for the museum.
Decompartmentalise and create large open spaces structured like an archipelago.
Play upon curved shapes like the landscapes painted by Georgia O'Keeffe
A museum whose boundaries are not mere opaque walls, but filmed and projected horizons that evolve over time. The furniture is designed to adapt to multiple contents: on the lower level, large curved showcases whose contents can change easily, and on the first floor, large islands capable of hosting different types of exhibitions. A strategy that is both sustainable and specific for the museum.
The evolutionary horizon of the far-west and the metamorphosis of the landscapes based on the cycle of the sun, projected onto the entire perimeter wall of the museum.
The project was phased in two stages. First the Wild West Gallery and the temporary exhibition spaces on level 0 built in 2015. Then the large permanent exhibition on the first floor in March 2019. To date, all the permanent exhibitions have been refurbished.
The first challenge was to design very large curved showcases, which were made in Italy and transported in containers. We created holograms of Annie Oakley, restoring her character digitally, resulting from the fusion of the bodies of two actresses and the voice of another. It took one year of shooting and calculation for 5 minutes of reconstitution.
The 50-metre-long projection was a technical feat: shooting landscapes and horses trained for the occasion, in two American states, with several 4K cameras.
Living a human and cultural adventure to the full for 7 years, travelling through the territory, seeing the geographies of a vast world and allowing ourselves to be surprised by the changes of scenery; managing a design team but also media production, filming, casting, dressage and special effects; rehabilitating an architecture, making an exhibition and a film at the same time to merge them into the same place; orchestrating a journey through space and time; imagining the exhibition as a theatrical play or a film: the desire to make and live the project was the main driver that gave us the strength to take our mission as far as possible.
In 2012, we discovered a museum made of sets and pastiches. Today it displays a new face, elegant and refined, expressing emotion and unpretentious softness. It impresses by its singularity. It is modern and baroque, it is hybrid and unique, a breath, an opening on the horizon of the Great West.
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
USA, Fort Worth
Projectiles, architect-museographer + scriptwriter (project manager)
Christophe Dupuis, multimedia production
Panni Demeter, graphic design + signage
Abraxas concepts, lighting design
Bennett, Benner & partners, All building trades architect
The projects group, project and programme management + Scheduling, Steering, Coordination
The National Cowgirl Museum
CONCEPT DESIGN 2012 → 2016
CONSTRUCTION 2017 → 2019
IN USE 2019
© Dror Baldinger