New Museum

by | 06. Aug 2012

Cultural | Project | Skyscrapers

Photo: Christian Richters


A glimmering metal mesh-clad stack of boxes shifted off axis in a dynamic composition.

The New Museum is located on the Bowery at a pivotal geographic and cultural intersection where generations of artists have lived, worked, and contributed to the ongoing cultural dialogue of the nation.

The building, a dramatic stack of six rectangular boxes, is clad in a seamless, anodized expanded aluminum mesh to emphasize the volumes of the boxes while dressing the whole of the building with a delicate, softly shimmering skin.
With windows just visible behind this porous scrim-like surface, the building appears as a single, coherent form that is nevertheless mutable, dynamic, and animated by the changing light of day.


Photo: Christian Richters

The distinctive form derives directly from the architect’s defining solution to the fundamental challenges of their site and an ambitious program, including the need for open, flexible gallery spaces of different heights and atmospheres, that had to be accommodated within a tight zoning envelope on a 71 feet wide and 112 feet deep footprint.

In order to address these conditions without creating a monolithic, dark, and airless building, SANAA assigned key programmatic elements to a series of levels (the six boxes), stacked those boxes according to the anticipated needs and circulation patterns of building users, then drew the different levels away from the vertebrae of the building core laterally to the north,
south, east, or west.


Photo: Christian Richters


The solution of the shifted boxes arrived quickly and intuitively. Then through trial and error we arrived at the final, ideal configuration. Now we have a building that meets the city, allows natural light inside, gives the Museum column-free galleries and programmatic flexibility, and expresses the program and people inside to the world of New York outside.

Visitors are drawn into the New Museum by views through a nearly 15 foot-tall plane of clear plate glass stretching across the full width of the building.
The lobby area, a transition from the color and buzz of the Bowery neighborhood, is a luminous, pale space with polished gray concrete floors.

This grand but intimate Marcia Tucker Hall contains the New Museum Store, defined by a serpentine screen of metal mesh, the Café.


Photo: Christian Richters


Photo: Christian Richters

The Joan and Charles Lazarus Gallery is separated from the rest of the space by a soaring glass wall, and illuminated by daylight filtering down from the shift of the structural box above.

A floating dropped screen of metal mesh softens and abstracts the largely visible functions of the ceiling above it, filtering light from a grid of glowing but delicate florescent tubes.


Photo: Christian Richters

From the lobby level visitors may choose a variety of paths upward or downward through the building.

The 182-seat Peter Jay Sharp Theater, a “white box” theater with a pre-function hall that doubles as a gallery for special projects, is located on the lower level.

The galleries on the buildings second, third, and fourth floors are all freed from columns by the structural support of the core. The light in all the building’s galleries can be controlled through a system of shades beneath the glass.

With the galleries in this building, we tried to play with dimensions and the way daylight falls in the spaces. This allows the visitor to experience art in slightly different conditions on different visits, at different times of the day, in different spaces, without impeding the qualities of the art.

Photo: Christian Richters


Photo: Dean Kaufman

An open stairway, running 50 feet upward along the building’s north side, connects the third and fourth floors.


Photo: Christian Richters

The structural steel makes frequent appearances throughout the building. The diagonal structural beams of the exterior, appearing at interludes, are rendered white with spray-on fireproofing material.


Photo: Christian Richters

On the seventh floor of the building is the Toby Devan Lewis Sky Room for events and special programs. Floor to ceiling glass offers panoramic vistas of the city and an outdoor terrace runs without interruption around the east and south sides of the building.


Photo: Dean Kaufman


Sejima and Nishizawa have conceived an ideal home for the New Museum of Contemporary Art – a place that will encourage dialogue and creativity, catalyze community interaction, and spark a constant exchange of insights and information.

They have truly given form to our passionate commitment to the importance of art to everyday life. On the Bowery, the New Museum will continue our exploration of new art and new ideas with the same energy, openness to experimentation, fearlessness, and pure excitement that brought us to this remarkable milestone in the institution’s history.

/Lisa Phillips, Director

Setting precedent for exhibitions that will occupy its entire building, the New Museum inaugurated the new building with “Unmonumental,” an international survey on all three main gallery floors that openened with sculpture by 30 artists from around the globe, then will expand over the course of five months into a dense, teeming environmental experience through the addition of layers of collage, sound, and Internet-based art.


Model photo courtesy SANAA



Drawing courtesy SANAABasement Plan



Drawing courtesy SANAASecond Floor Plan


Drawing courtesy SANAASixth Floor Plan


Drawing courtesy SANAASeventh Floor Plan


Drawing courtesy SANAASection