The New Museum Plans to Double in Size With a Brand New OMA-Designed Building on the Bowery

The new design by OMA—the firm's first public building in New York—comes at a time of tension for the institution.

A rendering of the new building. Courtesy of the New Museum.
A rendering of the new building. Courtesy of the New Museum.

Sometimes, it’s easier to start from scratch than to work with what you’ve got. That’s the moral of the New Museum‘s long-in-the-works expansion, which has taken an architecturally significant turn. The museum announced today that instead of building within the existing footprint of an adjacent building it purchased in 2007, it will construct an entirely new structure from the ground up.

The building, designed by Shohei Shigematsu and Rem Koolhaas of the firm OMA in collaboration with Cooper Robertson, will serve as a porous, angular complement to the museum’s rigid, building-block-inspired SANAA-designed flagship next door. (The proposed building looks sort of like what might happen if you squished and stretched the new downtown Whitney to fit in between two existing buildings.)

News of the new design comes at a time of tension for the institution. At its summer openings last night, dozens of workers marched outside the museum to raise awareness of its fledgling union and express frustration that museum leadership had not yet addressed their demands, including updates to healthcare and benefit packages. On Twitter today, the union also pointed out the irony of the museum’s flashy expansion coinciding with its contract negotiations. (A New Museum spokesperson told ARTnews that the museum looks “forward to a positive resolution and first contract with the union.”)

According to the museum, the new plan offers a more financially and architecturally efficient solution than working within the existing footprint. The New Museum first purchased the neighboring storefront, 231 Bowery, 11 years ago, and has since used it to house exhibitions, the arts-focused incubator NEW INC, and office space. In 2016, it announced that it was working to renovate the building to better integrate it into its flagship, which has long suffered from congestion.

The new OMA design will add around 20,000 more square feet than originally planned, doubling the museum’s existing size and bringing its total square footage to 120,000. The original fundraising goal was $80 million, designed to both pay for the expansion and grow the endowment. To date, the museum has raised $79 million and has now upped its goal to $89 million, according to a statement. The new building will be named in honor of longtime trustee Toby Devan Lewis, who donated $20 million to the project, the largest donation in the institution’s history.

The new seven-story, 60,000-square-foot facility will connect seamlessly to the existing one, doubling the museum’s exhibition space and expanding its oft-crowded lobby. The new construction will also house a full-service restaurant, an artist-in-residence studio, a 75-seat auditorium, and three more elevators (welcome news for those who have waited in the long line to ascend to a top gallery).

The building boasts a winding, transparent indoor staircase that is meant to evoke the neighborhood’s many fire escapes. As Koolhaas told the New York Times: “One building is very enigmatic, and it did not seem fruitful to create an enigma next to an enigma.”

The project is due to break ground next year and launch in 2022.


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