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Architect David Adjaye Unveils Plans For Revamped Art Museum In Harlem

The Studio Museum’s $122 million new home indicates a shift into the mainstream.

The Studio Museum in Harlem has announced plans for the construction of a new $122 million building designed by the British architect David Adjaye.

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The substantial expansion will give the art museum a space on par with other major museums in the city. For an institution dedicated to showcasing black artists otherwise ignored by major institutions, this signifies a significant shift into the mainstream.

Photo: Flickr user Edward Blake

The Studio Museum is currently housed in a former bank building on West 125th Street in the heart of Harlem. The new building is expected to occupy the same lot but will give the museum more than 70,000 square feet–up from the current 60,000 square feet–including 1,000 square feet of gallery space.

Adjaye’s design features a wide, front-glass lobby that the museum hopes will become a public gathering place, as well as a bleacher-like staircase to the lower level that can also be used as seating for public programs. The design also incorporates a cafe and a roof area for events.

Image: Adjaye Associates via the NYT

Adjaye told the New York Times that he drew inspiration from the museum’s surroundings, particularly the brownstone homes and large, airy churches that characterize the neighborhood.

The museum chose the Tanzanian-born architect because of his “sensitivity toward the artists as well as to the neighborhood,” the Times reports. Adjaye conducted a 10-year architectural study of the capital cities of Africa, and his past projects include the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, which is now under construction. He’s also working on several projects in Africa, including a design hub in Lagos, Nigeria, and cultural projects in Ghana, Gabon, and Rwanda.

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The city of New York is contributing $35.3 million to the Studio Museum’s new home and the Ford Foundation also donated $3 million. The remainder is to be raised through other sources.

Construction is scheduled to start in 2017 and expected to be completed by 2019.

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About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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