Since its inception in 1980, the Blues Foundation has inducted more than 140 performers and dozens of non-performers into the Blues Hall of Fame. For the first time, the Hall of Fame is a physical place where blues legends can be honored for their work.
archimania designed the space to create a memorable experience for visitors as they delve into the rich history of blues music, while also spotlighting foundation programs that ensure the future of one of the great cultural contributions to the world.
Temporarily housed within a space that had been a storage facility, The Blues Foundation set out to transform the street level and basement into a memorable experience that communicates the art, culture, and history of blues music. The design solution needed not only to define and organize spaces, but also conceal building systems for the rest of the three-story building. Three white planes suspended from the ceiling conceal the systems while signifying the first floor public program: retail and reception, lobby, and rotating gallery. The rotating gallery and lobby space serve multiple functions and can be transformed into an event space to accommodate the foundation’s programs and gatherings. Large openings were carved into the south wall and floor of the building to provide access to the lower level hall of fame exhibit and to allow natural light into both levels. The plane over the central lobby leads visitors down to the exhibit by way of the grand staircase clad in wood salvaged from the demolition. A restrained material palette mixes the ‘white box’ art gallery feel with reclaimed wood and weathered steel, paying homage to the vernacular architecture of the delta region.
On the exterior, a cantilevered canopy projects from the historical façade, announcing entry and opening toward the National Civil Rights Museum. This canopy contains signage, provides shelter for tour groups, and emanates a blue glow that, along with the bronze sculpture of Little Milton, have become a landmark within the arts district.
The Blues Foundation raised nearly $3 million, two-thirds of which came from fan donations, to renovate 11,524 square feet in a building across from the National Civil Rights Museum in the South Main Historic Arts District. The Hall of Fame is expected to draw 20,000 to 30,000 visitors in its first year, and is a short drive from other music destinations such as Graceland, Stax Records, and Sun Studio. The two-story space houses an interactive database of artists’ biographies, photos, videos, songs, and album covers, as well as clothing, paintings, bronze busts, records, and magazines.
The Blues Hall of Fame is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students. Blues Foundation members get in free.
From the Commercial Appeal:
"Overall, the hall’s best feature maybe be its aesthetics: It’s a well-designed space, with an abundance of natural light upstairs, while the downstairs museum allows you to get lost in the story, with a cocoon-like feel to the galleries and easy-to-navigate historical narratives and displays. In general, the design itself makes the hall feel special and substantive.
“Some of these touches — the wood, the canopy, the blue lights, the neon sign — make it beautiful. The point of all that beauty … yes, it is inviting for people to come in, but it also says, ‘Man, someone is taking this seriously.’ It shows a respect for the music and the performers in the hall of fame that they deserve a space like this.”
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