Ruby City.
Architectural Digest has named Ruby City, designed by Sir David Adjaye, one of the 14 most anticipated buildings of 2019. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Legendary architect Sir David Adjaye will visit San Antonio on Tuesday to celebrate the completion of Ruby City, the contemporary art center he designed for philanthropist, artist, and art collector Linda Pace to house her substantial art collection.

Adjaye will speak from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Trinity University’s Laurie Auditorium The event is free and open to the public.

“He’s going to talk about his interactions with Linda and their conversations, and how the building came to fruition,” said Kelly O’Connor, head of collections and communications for Ruby City and the Linda Pace Foundation.

Aptly titled Ruby City: A Living Legacy, Adjaye’s lecture will address Pace’s vision for making her collection of more than 800 works of contemporary art accessible to the public. Pace died in 2007, after establishing her foundation to carry on her vision of art as a “vital social force.”

O’Connor said Adjaye will also speak about the architectural details of the building, including initial studies on how natural light enters the space, inspired in part by his visits to the San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site. Window rows placed high along the galleries’ walls, referred to as “light cannons” or lanterns, allow balanced natural light into interior spaces, augmenting electric lighting.

Sir David Adjaye Credit: Courtesy / Ed Reeve

Adjaye will also lend insight into how Pace’s collection of contemporary art shaped the architecture, she said.

Mike McGlone, founding principal of Alamo Architects, the San Antonio-based lead architect for the project, said, “I’m really interested in his telling of the story. We don’t think about buildings as telling stories, but they do.”

As is often noted, the vision for a ruby-red arts city came to Pace in a dream in 2003. British artist Isaac Julien, a 1999 Artpace international artist-in-residence, introduced Adjaye to Pace in 2006. Adjaye had designed the art studios of Julien and American artist Lorna Simpson, and his sensitivity to the relationship between art and architecture was a major part of what attracted Pace to his design sensibility, O’Connor said.

As plans for Ruby City developed, Adjaye achieved great notoriety and international fame for his buildings, including the much-attended Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington. Its 2016 opening was named the “Cultural Event of the Year” by The New York Times, and Adjaye received his knighthood in 2017.

The interior of Ruby City, named one of the “Most Anticipated Buildings of 2019” by Architectural Digest, will remain unknown to the public for now.

Though completed on schedule and on its $16 million budget, the building will go through a dormant period to allow its materials to properly outgas, O’Connor said, and to allow the atmospheric systems inside the building — crucial to maintenance of artworks and described by her as on the level of artificial intelligence — to adjust to San Anonio’s climate. The planned date for the grand opening is Oct. 13.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...