David Adjaye unveils brownstone-inspired design for The Studio Museum in Harlem

In designing the five-story, 71,000-sf building, Adjaye took cues from the brownstones, churches, and bustling sidewalks of Harlem.

July 09, 2015 |
David Adjaye, Africa, Art, Black, African American, Harlem, Studio Museum, New York City, Thelma Golden

Rendering courtesy Adjaye Associates

For decades, The Studio Museum in Harlem has nurtured up-and-coming artists of African descent and brought them to prominence. Museum director and chief curator Thelma Golden told The New York Times that the museum has “outgrown the space” it currently occupies.

“Our program and our audience require us to answer those demands,” she adds. Hence, the museum has commissioned British-Tanzanian architect David Adjaye to design its new home, slated to begin construction in 2017 for a 2019 completion.

The museum intends to file plans for the building’s conceptual design with the Public Design Commission of the City of New York on July 14.

A press release from The Studio Museum describes Adjaye’s design as “the first home designed expressly for [the museum’s] program.” The public-private initiative, supported by the city of New York, will build the museum, a five-story, 71,000-sf building, on Manhattan’s West 125th Street.

The new scheme takes cues from the brownstones, churches, and bustling sidewalk of Harlem. A public lobby not only will bring grandeur that the museum’s current building can’t offer, but it will also act as a “living room” for the Harlem community and its visitors, thanks to a light-filled core that soars four stories.

Adjaye was selected out of several other architects because of “his sensitivity to artists as well as to the neighborhood,” Golden told the New York Times.

“For generations, artists living and working in Harlem have had an enormous impact on the character and sensibilities of this country. And for the last 50 years The Studio Museum in Harlem has been a pillar for this community, studying, promoting, supporting, and contributing to the cultural fabric of this extraordinary neighborhood and amplifying voices of artists of African descent for an international audience,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “The City’s investment in the future of this organization signals our commitment to helping the Studio Museum grow, engaging a wide audience and maintaining New York’s position at the center of American spirit and identity."

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