Long Overdue, Modernized NYC Museum Evokes City's History

Event: The Museum of the City of New York: New Building Addition
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.24.08
Speakers: Susan Henshaw Jones — President and Director, Museum of the City of New York; James S. Polshek, FAIA — Senior Design Counsel, Timothy P. Hartung, FAIA — Partner, Joanne L. Sliker, AIA — Associate Partner, Polshek Partnership Architects
Moderator: Ann Marie Baranowski, AIA — Co-Chair, AIANY Cultural Facilities Committee
Organizers: AIANY Cultural Facilities Committee


The new glazed gallery pavilion at the Museum of the City of New York.

©Polshek Partnership Architects

New York’s museum has languished without attention for much of its lifetime. Situated on Fifth Avenue across from Central Park, the Museum of the City of New York had to wait from its construction in 1929 as designed by Joseph J. Freedlander until 2005 for its first modernization. Today, it is set to open Phase One of its renovated and expanded gallery space.

Polshek Partnership Architects has worked in phases. First came the addition of HVAC and updating of the building’s infrastructure, then the gallery addition and other expansions. These next phases will redistribute spaces within the landmark building, bringing gallery, administrative, and storage spaces up to par with current design and technology. In the vacant plot east of the building, Polshek’s team, led by partner Timothy Hartung, FAIA, has created a new gallery space and expanded subterranean storage area to add 20,000 square feet to the museum’s original 90,000.

The new glazed gallery pavilion offers a double-height exhibition space open to an outdoor patio. Its sun-filled space can be darkened for presentations and lectures. A drop ceiling creates a light pocket around the top seam of the gallery.

Below the new gallery, a storage expansion will give the museum a new haven for its over 1.5 million objects and images. Relocation from the previously crowded attic levels will relieve the building’s space crunch and allow the curatorial and administrative staff to breathe in two newly opened floors of interconnected, sky-lit office space.

Central to the scheme within the existing building is a renovation of the entry court rotunda that previously connected the north and south wings and allowed access to the second floor “Marble Court” via a spiral stair. The rotunda and the stair will remain as designed, save for a new connection and window below the stair providing access to the new east pavilion. Hartung hopes the final decision to create two centrally oriented openings and preserve the original stair will integrate the new east pavilion to the circulation order. The rotunda will include a new bookshop and café. Galleries on the first three floors now offer unfettered spaces devoted exclusively to exhibitions.