Muhammad Ali Center

Art in architecture Louisville / United States / 2005

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When North American architects began to rethink what had become a dogmatic relationship between form and function, they saw many familiar materials in a new (or rediscovered) light. Perennially valued for its durability and cost effectiveness, ceramic tile has re-emerged as a possibility-rich medium for artistic expression. It has figured prominently in many recent renovations and new construction projects, for reasons that range from its inherent sustainability, toughness and ease of installation and maintenance, to the vast palette of colors, formats, and textures that it offers. In Louisville, Kentucky, the birthplace of the boxer and human rights champion, Muhammad Ali, who famously proclaimed himself “The Greatest,” Agrob Buchtal’s KerAion® ceramic tiles proved to be the ideal medium for a larger-than-life artistic statement. The 8,920 m2 Muhammad Ali Center, designed by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LL P and Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership and completed in 2005, contains a museum, a center for tolerance and understanding, a sports hall of fame, an archive and a learning center. New York City-based artist Glenn Cummings, of 2x4, used nearly ten thousand 12 x 24 inch ceramic tiles in nine solid colors to create exterior murals based on Howard L. Bingham’s iconic photos of Ali in his heavyweight prime. Prominently situated on a riverbank in the downtown core, the Ali Center has become one of Louisville's signature buildings. From a distance, its clearly figural murals capture attention, but as one approaches the building these pixilated images dissolve intriguingly into abstract patterns.

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    When North American architects began to rethink what had become a dogmatic relationship between form and function, they saw many familiar materials in a new (or rediscovered) light. Perennially valued for its durability and cost effectiveness, ceramic tile has re-emerged as a possibility-rich medium for artistic expression. It has figured prominently in many recent renovations and new construction projects, for reasons that range from its inherent sustainability, toughness and ease of...

    Project details
    • Year 2005
    • Work finished in 2005
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Multi-purpose Cultural Centres / Museums