The Bronx Museum Of The Arts
The new museum building marks the beginning of an ambitious plan to expand and eventually replace the existing Bronx Art Museum.The design of the museum emerges from the sidewalk as an irregular folded screen.
The first phase of the project includes new galleries and administration spaces and an outdoor sculpture court. The proposed mid-block structure is part of a larger plan for which Arquitectonica has designed additional galleries, classrooms, an auditorium, a children’s art center and a residential tower that will anchor the corner at 165th Street where the museum currently sits.
Arquitectonica’s first phase design emerges from the sidewalk as an irregular folded screen made of fritted glass and metallic panels. The panelization into diagonal components emphasizes the depth of the crevices. The resulting vertical zones of metal and glass angle and twist like an architectural origami, demystifying the wall on the street and making it permeable.
One can peek into the ground floor community gallery through the slivers of semitransparent glass that face the approaching pedestrians in their diagonal position.
This curtain-like geometry dramatizes the vertical dimension of the otherwise modest structure, turning it into an unexpectedly monumental surface. The lack of expression of the interior floor levels renders the facade scale-less giving it a bold, graphic reading from the open long distance approach, a strategy characteristic of other Arquitectonica work.
The temporary side brick walls, expected to meet the future expansions, are treated as final yet economical designs. An intricate pattern of black and white block turn these walls into geometric canvases intended to convey the value of craftsmanship traditions. The walls recall the ubiquitous side brick walls of Bronx row houses and commercial buildings. The complex weave and brick-by-brick scale encourages close examination and sharply contrasts in scale with the front facade.
Internally, the galleries rise together with the steep and impenetrable solid-rock site. Ramps and stairs lead to a series of simple, austere spaces. Concrete floors and ceilings, steel cable railings, and a sleek exposed lighting system, by renowned French lighting designer Herve Descottes of L’Observatoire, create neutral functional spaces.
The pure orthogonal geometry of the galleries is violated only by the expression of the folded front facade on one side.
The upper gallery opens to a walled-in sculpture garden, surprisingly set on grade more that 30 feet above Grand Concourse.
The open arrangement of galleries, visible upon arrival, is intended to convey a message of accessibility. The community gallery is visible from the street as well as from the lobby, cafe and shop and is passage to the ramp that leads to the other galleries.