Radius Gallery is a two-story contemporary art gallery in the historic heart of downtown Missoula, Montana. The gallery fronts Higgins Street – a bustling thoroughfare lined with restaurants, markets, and boutique shops. The site was the former home of the Uptown Diner, which was demolished down to the foundation. Transparency and engagement are paramount to the success of the gallery, thus the entire street façade is clad in storefront glazing to accentuate the display of art and draw in pedestrians. Indeed, large sculptural works are visible from a block away. The gallery’s glowing evening presence never fails to draw a crowd on First Friday art openings.
The design of the façade was based on a careful study of the existing rhythm of the surrounding historic buildings with the intent to create an engaging public experience while also being a respectful addition to the urban fabric. Primary exterior materials of brick, steel and glass were selected for their durability and relation to Missoula’s downtown building stock, while the clean lines and detailing look to the future. For example, the plate steel brow at the roofline can be seen as a modern interpretation of the classical cornice element found on most historic downtown buildings. The brick wall fronting the adjacent alleyway includes lighting and mounting clips for large public murals – a nod to the tradition of publicly cherished art and graffiti in Missoula’s downtown alleys and blank spaces.
Radius’ interior is defined by a hanging steel and wood staircase which organizes the galleries and becomes the one architectural focal point. Warmth and richness of material is introduced to the otherwise pristine interiors via reclaimed fir floors and skip trowel textured walls. A frosted skylight above the stair brings even light deep into the galleries and adds to the transcendent experience as one ascends to the upper level. Glass doors on the second floor may be opened to crane in large art from the street level. Custom designed glass tile patterns in the bathrooms are an abstract interpretation of mountains and lakes. Back of house functions such as offices are located at the rear of the first floor, while the basement contains long term storage for valuable art.
Photo credit: Hixson Studio
2020 AIA Montana Design Excellence Merit Award