Andrew Berman Architect
Long Island City, NY, USA
Andrew Berman Architect, PLLC
Gilsanz Murray Steficek LLP (Structural Engineers) AltieriSeborWieber LLC (MEP Engineers)
Mary Ceruti, Executive Director and Chief Curator at SculptureCenter
We initiated a holistic review of the museum’s needs and spaces after evaluating the initial program for a fire stair and elevator. The process led to a refined evaluation of SculptureCenter’s goals and ambitions, informed by their ten years of working and programming in the space. Through an iterative design process we developed an efficient strategy for providing a new addition in the adjacent un-built lot that would both add program space and transform the use and experience of the existing building. We designed a new entry building for ticketing and orientation, a bookshop, elevator and stairs, and interior and exterior exhibit spaces. This structure serves as the nexus between arrival and the galleries. New space for exhibiting work was formed by bounding exterior space between the new and existing buildings. The galleries in the vault spaces under the main hall were renovated to become accessible exhibition spaces. The introduction of natural light and use of robust materials that speak to the existing building and industrial neighborhood were used to extend the distinct atmosphere of SculptureCenter. The new entry sequence allows for arrival, orientation, and a slow, curated revealing of the art, culminating in the spaces of the original building. In this manner, the full potential of the adaptive re-use of an old industrial structure is allowed by the nuanced and calibrated interventions and support spaces of the new building.
Founded by artists in 1928, SculptureCenter is a not-for-profit arts institution dedicated to experimental and innovative developments in contemporary sculpture. SculptureCenter commissions new work and presents exhibits by emerging and established, national and international artists. Our design honors and compliments the original robust steel and brick structure, a former trolley repair shop. Built in 1908, this building allowed for trolleys to be driven inside on tracks for repairs. A twenty-ton gantry allowed for the hoisting of the trains and their components. A subterranean catacomb of vaulted spaces was built to support the trains and allow for access of the chassis from below. The SculptureCenter purchased the building in 2001. Maya Lin provided a light and sensitive renovation of the building with the understanding that a later expansion would be necessary to fully meet the institution’s needs. After assessing the request for a fire stair, we initiated a discussion with the SculptureCenter to better understand their larger goals and ambitions. The intent was to have this stair anticipate future planning requirements. As the discussion evolved, it was determined that the SculptureCenter needed improved, discrete entry and reception space, and better circulation through available gallery spaces, to assist in the installation and experience of art. The fire stair, and an elevator, were just components of their larger needs. Design ideas were explored and tested, arriving at an efficient strategy for providing an addition that would both add program space and transform the experience of the facility while maintaining its unique atmosphere.
The design developed from a close reading of the site and existing building. A series of sixteen-foot high Cor-Ten steel panels form the façade, assert the building’s street presence and address the need for clear entrance, with a strong and iconic street presence. Behind this facade, a new court and entrance join the new building and the existing structure. The new building contains a lobby, ticketing area, bookshop, coatroom, restroom facilities, and gallery spaces. The addition increases SculptureCenter’s programming space by twenty-five percent and provides handicap access through a new elevator and new egress stairs. These modifications enable the cellar-level vault spaces to be used as gallery space. A 1,500 square foot courtyard also provides SculptureCenter an outdoor exhibition and event space. Long Island City, home of SculptureCenter, was once a vital industrial neighborhood of New York City. It was the site of much of the manufacturing and maintenance work required to keep the metropolis operating. As the industrial base of New York City has left, many of the quality spaces of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century have been repurposed for studios and exhibition spaces for the arts. And the Arts have in turn helped to revitalize and anchor a transition to new vibrant neighborhoods within the City. SculptureCenter’s 11,800 square foot renovation and expansion helps to solidify the Center’s role as a point of encounter for the City’s arts community, and is a cornerstone of the evolution of Long Island City toward a new economy.