Cooper Robertson's Erin Flynn explains MOMA's "3D puzzle" of creating space

It's a phasing programme – this space needed to move over here in order to make room for carpentry to move over and all that. So it was really like a three-dimensional puzzle, trying to maximise the area for exhibition and planning.
– Erin Flynn

Plenty has been written about the newly opened Diller Scofidio + Renfro expansion of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, but there's been work going on behind the scenes too.

With 38,000sq ft (3,500sq m) of new gallery space and 21,000sq ft (2,000sq m) of new public space, there's much more for visitors to explore.

But front-of-house spaces need new back-of-house spaces to support them and that was commissioned as a project in itself for long-time MOMA collaborators Cooper Robertson.

Among the work they have delivered for MOMA, the New-York-based studio authored a 25-year masterplan in 1996 and supported Yoshio Taniguchi's renovation of several galleries in 2004.

For this latest expansion, the firm was tasked with helping to renovate the Taniguchi galleries and renovating, reconfiguring and reordering the back-of-house spaces including storage, carpentry and framing workshops, locker rooms and break rooms – work that for the most part, unbeknown to most, is only just getting underway.

Erin Flynn, whose promotion to partner at Cooper Robertson was announced earlier this week, explained to CLAD: "We couldn't do the construction while the expansion was going on because all efforts were going towards that project. So, now that museum is back open and there's a minor break in the exhibitions schedule, we have a window of opportunity to do the construction."

"MOMA is such an iconic museum. They have such a wide range of modern art and they have a really aggressive exhibition schedule, so they are constantly racing to change exhibits and new installations. It's great for visitors because the museum's always new, but it's tough on the building."

Despite this work just commencing, Flynn explained that Cooper Robertson were planning it for close to a year because it's not just a programme of construction, but one of timings too.

"It's a phasing programme – this space needed to move over here in order to make room for carpentry to move over and all that. So it was really like a three-dimensional puzzle, trying to maximise the area for exhibition and planning. Carpentry and framing, for example, if their work hasn't doubled it's close to doubled with the expansion."

Offices that had otherwise been scattered throughout the museum are to be consolidated in the museum tower that was part of the Taniguchi expansion and a subcellar was discovered during the back-of-house study that will be cleared out and repurposed.

Ultimately, the project is one of making better use of spaces, reconfiguring spaces themselves to be more efficient and, on occasion, finding new spaces.

Cooper Robertson's work is due for completion in early 2020.

Cooper Robertson  MOMA  Erin Flynn 
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Plenty has been written about the newly opened Diller Scofidio + Renfro expansion of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, but there's been work going on behind the scenes too. With 38,000sq ft (3,500sq m) of new gallery space and 21,000sq ft (2,000sq m) of new public space, there's much more for visitors to explore. But front-of-house spaces need new back-of-house spaces to support them and that
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Flynn, now partner at Cooper Robertson, explained that the work had to be fitted around MOMA's aggressive exhibition schedule
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Cooper Robertson's Erin Flynn explains MOMA's "3D puzzle" of creating space
Plenty has been written about the newly opened Diller Scofidio + Renfro expansion of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, but there's been work going on behind the scenes too.