Grey Matter

Lead DesignerMartin Summers
Project LinkView
Prize(s)3rd Place in Architecture Categories / Conceptual
Entry Description

Children are naturally curious, seeking opportunities to playfully explore while wondering about the magical possibilities of the world around them. Wonder and the process of discovery are fundamental to the mission of a children’s museum and our design strategy. We seek to engage the human minds potential via an innovative architectural expression that activates the senses, ignites imagination, and heightens anticipation of new discoveries revealed as you move through space. One oscillates between interior and exterior mental, physical, and conceptual limits.
The competitions campus configuration produced opportunities and issues that generated our novel urban strategy. By developing the adjacent park as a conceptual and physical extension of the museum’s atrium and roof, the building edge is blurred, allowing for increased programming flexibility while addressing a site split by a major thoroughfare. The urban lobby is accessed via the under street park path while also open at street level along Broadway and Third. This under street path increases the safety of large school groups traversing a major arterial street. Once in the urban lobby, you ascend to the fourth floor for ticketing before gradually descending via ramps back to street level.
The parks water feature and plantings become natural exhibits, and passively cool the site. This cool air is drawn through the under street entrance up through the atrium to windows along the west wall of the “cross-void” to evacuate the rising warm air. In colder months, the design collects warmer air in the upper atrium, producing a tempered zone where ticketing and entry occur. A large solar array on the south façade / roof is visible from the park, ticket counter skylight, and from the roof deck. Passive and active strategies, sustainable plantings, and integrated solar increase the overall sustainability and produce a museum that is itself a didactic exhibit.


Mr. Summers founded PLUS-SUM Studio in September 2012, to pursue projects aligned with his own vision of collaborative practice. He has 19 years experience in a variety of project types and scales, from small interior renovations to large-scale master planning. His first project for PLUS-SUM Studio was recognized the following year (2013) by the National AIA and displayed in Washington, D.C. as part of the Emerging Professionals Exhibition. In November 2014, the competition entry for the Louisville Children’s Museum "Grey Matter" was exhibited in the Korea Institute for Youth Facility and Environment (KIYFE) exhibit in Munjeong Samsung Raemian Gallery in Seoul, Korea.

PLUS-SUM uses an intensive, iterative, problem seeking design process to discover opportunities latent within a given problem and to evolve multiple, possible solutions. This process seamlessly moves from design practice to an academic context to test opportunities within each realm and progress both forward. Mr. Summers is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Kentucky College of Design; where he leads advanced studios focused on urban design, iterative digital processes, and teaches electives in High Performance Building Envelopes and Design/Theory. He is committed to education and to pursuing conditions that allow for an open and engaging dialogue around contemporary practice and processes.

Previously Mr. Summers spent 10 years at Morphosis Architects in Santa Monica, where he served as project designer on projects across all scales and rose to lead the office’s façade design and construction.
Prior to working at Morphosis, Mr. Summers participated in a diverse range of projects from residential and worship spaces to sound stages for clients such as Warner Bros., Sony, and DreamWorks SKG. He received his Masters of Architecture degree from UCLA, and his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Kentucky College of Architecture, now the College of Design.