“The New Museum is a combination of elegant and urban.”
The New Museum building, designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA, is intended as a home for contemporary art and an incubator for new ideas, as well as an architectural contribution to New York’s urban landscape. The New Museum rises 175 feet above street level.
This distinctive form derives directly from the architects’ defining solution to fundamental challenges of their site. They arrived at a dense and ambitious program that would allow for open, flexible gallery spaces of different heights and atmospheres within a tight zoning envelope on a footprint a mere seventy-one feet wide and 112-feet deep.
The New Museum is clad in a seamless, anodized expanded aluminum mesh chosen by SANAA to emphasize the volumes of the boxes while dressing the whole of the building like a strong body in a delicate, filmy, softly shimmering skin. The shifted-box approach yields a variety of open, fluid, and light-filled internal spaces that are different heights at every level, with different characters but all column-free.
Visitors are drawn into the New Museum by views through a nearly fifteen-foot-tall plane of clear plate glass along the Bowery, stretching across the full width of the site to include both the public entrance and the entrance to the Museum’s loading dock, on the north side of the core, where back-of-house activities and the movement of artworks are on full view to passersby. The color and buzz of the Bowery neighborhood give way here to a luminous, pale space, full of daylight washing a palette of white and silver.
Gray concrete sidewalk outside gives way to polished gray concrete floors in the grand but intimate Marcia Tucker Hall. This space contains the Visitor Services desk, ticketing desk, Coat Check, the New Museum Store (demarcated by a serpentine screen of metal mesh), Birdbath café and its open kitchen, the stairway down to the building’s lower level and Theater, elevator banks for access to the galleries above, and a luminous 1,100-square-foot gallery separated from the rest of the space by a soaring glass wall and illuminated by daylight filtering down from the shift of the structural box above.
Visitors who choose to ascend from the lobby level to the galleries above may take an elevator or use one of the staircases situated in the building’s core. SANAA has crafted a fluid, three-level zone of extraordinary galleries on the building’s second, third, and fourth floors—all freed from columns by the structural support of the core, and all characterized by unique atmospheres ranging from intimate to grand.
On the seventh floor of the building, the New Museum offers the public one of the most arresting public spaces in downtown Manhattan: an eleven-foot-high, nearly 2,000-square-foot multipurpose space for events and special programs. The Sky Room features two walls of floor-to-ceiling glass and is surrounded by panoramic vistas of the city from an outdoor terrace that runs without interruption around the east and south sides of the building.