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Louis Armstrong Center

Caples Jefferson Architects

Corona, Queens, New York, United States

June 29, 2023


Everardo Jefferson (Design Principal), Sara Caples (Design Principal)


Michael Behrman (Project Architect), Severud Associates (Structural Engineer), WSP (MEP/FP/Telecom Engineer), Arup (Lighting Design, Acoustics and A/V), Steven Winter Associates (Sustainable Design


The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), The City University of New York (CUNY), Queens College, and Louis Armstrong House Museum


Albert Vecerka/ESTO, Nic Lehoux


The goals of the project were to design a sustainable new building that serves as a visitors center for a museum complex that includes a house museum, an archive, and ancillary buildings; houses a 60,000 item archive—the largest centered on a single jazz artist. To also provide a multipurpose room for events and visitor enrichment, offices for the executive director, the archivist, and the conservators, and space for an enriched interactive exhibit.

As the design developed, we additionally agreed on creating a visible presence on the street, creating places for the living legacy of Louis’ music, creating ways for all ages and levels of knowledge to access Louis’ achievements, and to create a place that Louis would dig.


The Center, a place for education, entertainment, and research, is the permanent home for the 60,000-piece Louis Armstrong Archive—the world's largest for any jazz musician—and a 75-seat venue for performances, lectures, films, community events, and education. It also features an exhibition that explores Armstrong’s five-decade career.

Located across from the existing House Museum, the 14,000-square-foot Center is the final piece of a larger campus that includes the home itself and Armstrong’s garden. Designed as an interpretation of Armstrong’s infinite love of music, guests are welcomed by a large canopy and front wall, creating an inviting urban forecourt that defines the building within the community. In a neighborhood comprising modest two-story houses, the Center is in proportion to its surroundings. The urban precinct notes the singular work of the man whose music underlies so much of what people listen to today. The Center simultaneously fits in and stands out—a paradox that reflects Armstrong’s life and work—recalling both the jazz and lyricism that were Armstrong’s leading achievements.

Inside, visitors move sequentially through greeting and exhibition spaces; daylight cuts in and out through the windows. A vast archival collection of recordings, manuscripts, and personal artifacts is housed on the second floor, along with a reading room for visiting researchers, offices for staff, and a conservator's workroom with a view of the tilted plane of a flowering green roof.

The Jazz Room—a deep-red-and-mahogany music room—honors Armstrong's legacy with live performances and open rehearsals that welcome visitors in this culminating space.


The completed building packs a complex program into a highly compressed site, while providing generous filtered daylight to all spaces where people work and meet. It transforms the generic “multi-purpose” goal into a Jazz Room, appropriate for many gatherings, but especially for the live performance of music. Announcing the Center’s presence through its curving façade, the embedded custom brass mesh not only reduces the cooling load, but also reflects the joyous presence of Louis’ brass-made musical inventions.

The most important way to honor Louis was to create a building that provides moments of joy. Whether it’s through the variety of spaces, the special views, the visual richness of color and textures, the many ways that daylight is shared, or the porch that responds to Louis’ house porch, or the Jazz Room designed to provide a full, warm sound, the building is a reminder of Louis’ determination to make us all smile.

The building is scaled to the surrounding neighborhood, yet stands out as a special place. It reminds both the visitor and the neighborhood resident that the most important American music, that changed almost all music that followed—all over the world—was created in a neighborhood like this. As a neighborhood teenager told us while we were photographing the project: “When I see this building, I think I can do something special, too.”

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