Opened in 2012 on Michigan State’s mostly Tudor and cinderblock campus, the Broad Museum (pronounced “Brohed”) is so astounding and unexpected that you might have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s real. Right across from Taco Bell and Dunkin Donuts is one of the country’s most pivotal pieces of architecture designed by Zaha Hadid, a renowned London-based architect.
It’s a bit difficult to imagine that anyone but Hadid could have created this soaring spaceship of a project. A local construction company installed the ribbons of glass and long pleated rows of steel. The exterior resembles a shark, or maybe an armadillo, and downward-facing strips of metal make the astoundingly light and airy interior a surprising contrast. As with other structurally striking museums (like the Milwaukee Museum of Art or the Getty Center in Los Angeles), the building itself becomes, in a sense, its own installation. According to Hadid, the idea was to “create curiosity while never fully revealing.” Mission accomplished. There's nothing predictable about this museum—a glimpse from one angle scarcely reveals what might lie elsewhere.
With materials donated largely by MSU alumni and noted art collectors Eli and Edythe Broad, the museum’s displays focus on rotating contemporary exhibits and the university’s collection. A small coffee shop serves some sustenance for visitors, but sadly, there’s no decent place on-site to dine and discuss. On the upside, admission is free.