New design renderings revealed for Adjaye's huge Studio Museum Harlem extension

We have sought to create spaces that celebrate the rich heritage of the institution, its relationship with artists and its role as a pillar of Harlem’s cultural life
– David Adjaye

Sir David Adjaye's US$175m (€148.7m, £131m) vision for Harlem's Studio Museum will break ground next year, marking the institution's 50th anniversary.

Since 1982, the museum – which celebrates the work of contemporary artists of African descent – has operated out of the former New York Bank for Saving, being adapted by late African-American architect J. Max Bond Jr following the move.

New design renderings for the museum showcase a planned five-storey extension, designed by Adjaye Associates in collaboration with Cooper Robertson. According to design brief, the architects were tasked with creating an extension “that expresses the museum’s core values of openness and engagement.”

Undertaken as a public-private initiative in partnership with the City of New York, the 82,000sq ft (7,600sq m) building will rise on West 125th Street on the site of the current facility. It will provide approximately 115 per cent additional space for exhibiting art, and the outdoor areas will also almost double in size.

The extension's design evokes the brownstones, churches, and bustling sidewalks of Harlem, and the new building will have a sculptural facade that contrasts with the surrounding commercial buildings. Niches on the facade on both the 125th and 124th Street sides of the building will display outdoor sculptures, and artworks will permeate the entire interior of the building.

Facilities will include temporary and permanent galleries, a welcome centre, educational spaces, a café, a roof terrace spanning the entire building, and a tiered public hall – likened to an “inverted stoop” that invites people to step down from the street into a multiuse space used for presentations and gatherings.

A closer look
Adjaye Associates explain the design

The masonry-framed windows of Harlem’s vernacular architecture find an echo in the rhythmic composition of the facade, with its textured, precast concrete and windows of varying proportions. The radiant, soaring volumes of Harlem’s sanctuaries find a counterpart in the top-lit central hall, with its ample wall area for large-scale artworks and its switchback stair, which provides multiple lookout points from its landings. A wide set of pivoting glass doors, which can be opened in differing configurations, draws directly on the convivial bustle of West 125th Street by establishing a transparent secondary entrance that leads directly to the descending step/seats of the tiered public hall.

Sir David, Adjaye Associates founder, said the extension will “build on the museum’s incredible legacy and deepen its relationships with the local community and an expanding global audience.”

“We have sought to create spaces that celebrate the rich heritage of the institution, its relationship with artists and its role as a pillar of Harlem’s cultural life,” he said. “Inspired by the architectural character of the neighbourhood and featuring various scales of gallery space that speak to the diverse needs of contemporary artists, the design seeks to ensure that artistic dialogue remains at the heart of the museum.”

In addition to the release of the design plans, a public capital campaign has also been launched for the project, with the museum’s board of directors aim to raise the US$175m sum to meet hard and soft construction costs, provide an operating and capital reserve, and build endowment. Seventy per cent of this figure has already been raised by private individuals, foundations, corporations and the City of New York.

Explaining his support for the project, city mayor Bill de Blasio said: “For nearly fifty years, the Studio Museum has been a trailblazer in the cultural conversation, fostered the careers of emerging artists of African descent, and served as an anchor in Harlem.

“We’re excited about the unique potential that the museum’s new home brings with it. As they embark on creating a one-of-a-kind space to serve as a platform for the creative work of the artists from around the world, the Studio Museum is poised to have an even greater impact on the Harlem community, the City of New York, and the global cultural conversation.”

Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the museum, and Raymond J. McGuire, chair of the board of trustees, have announced a range of education and community programs for 2018 that will be organised as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations and “ensure that the Studio Museum remains a vital presence in Harlem and throughout the art world during the construction period.”

Studio Museum in Harlem  New York  David Adjaye  Bill de Blasio  Thelma Golden  Adjaye Associates  Cooper Robertson  architecture  art  design 
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Sir David Adjaye's US$175m (€148.7m, £131m) vision for Harlem's Studio Museum will break ground next year, marking the institution's 50th anniversary. Since 1982, the museum – which celebrates the work of contemporary artists of African descent – has operated out of the former New York Bank for Saving, being adapted by late African-American architect J. Max Bond Jr following the move. New design renderings for the museum showcase a planned
The extension is designed to be porous and welcoming at street level / Studio Museum in Harlem
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