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Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art

  • Cincinnati, USA
  • 1997 – 2003
  • The Contemporary Arts Centre
  • Built
  • 8500m2

Our free-standing building for the Contemporary Arts Center provides space for temporary exhibitions, installations and performance. Conceived as a dynamic public space, an ‘Urban Carpet’ leads pedestrians into and through the interior space via a gentle slope, which becomes, in turn, wall, ramp, walkway and even an artificial park space.

Situated on the banks of the Ohio River at the crossroads between North and South, Cincinnati is a city rich in traditions, new ideas and lively public discourse. In 1939, the city opened The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), one of the first institutions in the US dedicated to contemporary arts, and the arts continue to play a key role in defining Cincinnati’s culture and civic identity today.

We designed and constructed the first free-standing building for the (CAC) – the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art – which opened to the public in May 2003. The building provides spaces for temporary exhibitions, site-specific installations and performances, but not a permanent collection. Other program elements include an education centre, office suite, art preparation area, museum store, café and public spaces.

Conceived as a dynamic public space rather than a ‘static structure’, we created a unique ‘Urban Carpet’ to draw in pedestrian movement from surrounding areas – running from the building’s exterior through the entrance, lobby and on into the interior.

From the corner of Sixth Street and Walnut Street, the ground curves gently upwards before entering the building and subsequently rising to become its back wall. While rising it turns, leading visitors onto a suspended mezzanine ramp which spans the lobby and serves by day as ‘landscaped’ artificial park. Ultimately, the ramp penetrates the back wall, providing access to the galleries.


Zaha Hadid Architects


Zaha Hadid

Project Architect

Markus Dochantschi

Assistant Project Architect

Ed Gaskin

Project Team

Ana Sotrel, Jan Hübener, David Gerber, Christos Passas, Sonia Villaseca, James Lim, Jee-Eun Lee, Oliver Domeisen, Helmut Kinzler, Patrik Schumacher, Michael Wolfson, David Gomersall

Competition Team

Shumon Basar,Oliver Domeisen, Jee-Eun Lee,Terence Koh,Marco Guarnieri, Stéphane Hof, Woody K.T. Yao, Ivan Pajares, Wassim Halabi, Nan Atichapong, Graham Modlen

Local Firm

KZF incorporated (Cincinnati, USA)

Construction Manager

Turner Construction Company (Cincinnati, USA)

Structural Engineers

THP Limited (Cincinnati, Ohio), Jane Wernick (London, UK)


Ove Arup & Partners (London, New York)


Heapy Engineering (Dayton, USA)


Steven R. Keller & Associates (Florida, USA)


Charles Cosler Theatre Design Inc. (New York, USA)


Office for Visual Interaction Inc. (New York, USA)