Studio Museum in Harlem to Expand with New David Adjaye-Designed Building

A rendering of the new home for the Studio Museum in Harlem, by David Adjaye Associates. Courtesy Adjaye Associates.
A rendering of the new home for the Studio Museum in Harlem, by David Adjaye Associates.
Courtesy Adjaye Associates.

New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem has commissioned architect David Adjaye to design a new building at the museum’s current home on West 125th Street. The museum will raze its existing facility, a century-old commercial building, and expects to be in construction by 2017.

Founded in 1968 to focus on artists of African descent, and initially housed in a rented Fifth Avenue loft, the Studio Museum has grown to encompass a collection of nearly 2,000 objects and to host artist residencies and notable exhibitions. Acclaimed artists including Chris Ofili, Carrie Mae Weems, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye have had shows there; artists such as Kevin Beasley, Steffani Jemison, and Xaviera Simmons have served residencies.

The $122-million project promises an increase of almost 60 percent in indoor public space. It will span the museum’s current lot and an adjacent one. The City of New York has pledged $35.3 million.

While the museum’s current location, where it has resided since 1982, is burdened by cramped galleries with low ceilings and an uninspiring entryway, the new five-story, 71,000-square-foot design will give the museum 10,000 square feet of galleries, up from the current 6,000. According to the press release, it is to feature “a light-filled core that soars upward four stories” and a terrace overlooking 125th Street.

The museum draws about 100,000 visitors a year.

The most ambitious cultural project by Adjaye Associates, established in London in 2000, is the design of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., slated to open in 2016.

The firm is also responsible for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver (2007) and Rivington Place Gallery, London (2007). It’s not Adjaye’s first project in Harlem; he also designed the Sugar Hill Museum and housing development, 30 blocks north of the Studio Museum.

Among the Studio Museum’s cultural neighbors will be a new gallery for Gavin Brown, who is moving from Grand Street to 126th Street, and Tatiana Pagés Gallery, on Frederick Douglass Boulevard at 139th Street.


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