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Architects and designers shape our daily lives. From sidewalks to hallways to bedrooms, design influences our experiences—and a Museum is no exception. Archtober, a month-long festival held each year in October, celebrates the importance of architecture and design in everyday life.

To shed light on how design comes into play at the Rubin, we asked John Monaco, our head of exhibition design, how he approaches creating physical spaces for visitors and the works of art housed here.

His response surprised us.

Fitting for a museum, John’s ideation process is artful. Instead of first jumping into a mathematical analysis of requirements and constraints, John starts by determining the vibe and essence of the exhibition he is designing. He often writes poems to catalog his creative process.

Photo: Filip Wolak
Photo: Filip Wolak

Our exhibition The World Is Sound posed a unique design challenge for him: Most of the artwork is invisible, and sound bounces in different directions. Below, read his poem inspired by The World Is Sound and discover how, in the minds of designers like John Monaco, the lines separating the physical, the conceptual, and the emotional can blur.

Rhythm of the Body: Designing for the Unseeable

by John Monaco

Designing for The World Is Sound begins with considering the mantra “Listen With Your Whole Body” and the encapsulation of sound with all of its unseeable qualities and mysteries. Sound, like the body, being affected by that which encapsulates it. The gallery becomes the vessel for exploration.

Photo: ZZZ

In the body, the ribcage holds and amplifies sound; its material a resonant white.

The connecting material of the body: soft to the touch, a warm absorption of low tones. Cradling sound within it.

Allowing distance to inform what is seen and what is heard near and far. Overlapping of instruments and chanting, allowing for a fully immersive experience.

Inspired by John’s approach to design? See the exhibition yourself before it closes on January 8, 2017.

About John Monaco

John Monaco graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a master’s degree in fine art/sculpture and the John Herron School of Art with a bachelor’s degree in fine art, and he has attended numerous seminars with regards to design. Prior to working for the Rubin, Monaco was an exhibition cabinetry builder/designer for the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, during the the major renovation of the 1974 building. Monaco has designed and overseen the installation of more than seventy exhibitions for the Rubin. In his capacity as a designer, he has created environments, display cases, and apparatuses specific to the Museum’s varied collection. He joined the Rubin in 2004.