New Design for Museum for African Art UnveiledFebruary 8, 2007
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced plans to build the first permanent home for the Museum for African Art, the only independent museum in the United States dedicated solely to African Art. The first new museum building on New York's Museum Mile since the completion of the Guggenheim in 1959, the Museum for African Art will be a place for art and also a gathering place for the vast African diaspora and for the vibrant cultural community that is New York City. The museum will stand at the corner of 110th Street and Fifth Avenue where it will create a cultural gateway to Harlem.
The museum, designed in close conjunction with the 19-story residential tower that houses it, will provide the museum with 90,000 square feet on three floors above grade and two below. Its L-shaped plan will cradle a plaza on the circle that faces west toward Central Park. The strong character of the trapezoidal windows with bronze-painted aluminum mullions set into stone panels on the museum's north and west facades suggests – in an abstract way – woven patterns inspired by traditional African art. While the rhythm of the museum facade is carried upward to the residences above, the museum will maintain its own distinct identity within the larger structure.
Visitors will enter the museum through a glass entry vestibule off Fifth Avenue into a 44-foot-high lobby with one wall and ceiling composed of a continuous curving expanse of etimoe wood, a sustainable wood from West Africa. The lobby will lead to the gift shop, ticketing and information, an auditorium, a café, coat rooms, and toilets, as well as to an interactive room for orientation and an arts workshop.
The grand stair will be embraced in a circular perforated-metal drum with diamond-shaped apertures in a spiral pattern, which will glow like a lantern. The second floor will provide 16,000 square feet of flexible gallery space, typically to be organized as three temporary exhibition galleries and two galleries for the permanent collection that can be experienced individually or in a loop. The public spaces of the museum will culminate on the third floor with a gracious event space that will include a roof terrace offering dramatic views west over Central Park.
Administrative offices will also be housed on the third floor, along with the library, the boardroom, the auction room, and catering kitchens. The two levels below grade will accommodate conservation, documentation, and collection storage.
SLCE Architects is the associate architect for this project.
(Rendering by Neoscape)