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Thread: Brooklyn Museum of Art - Entry and Plaza - by Polshek Partnership Architects

  1. #1

    Default Brooklyn Museum of Art - Entry and Plaza - by Polshek Partnership Architects

    Brooklyn Museum of Art renovations, by James Stewart Polshek:

    More pictures at the website: here.

  2. #2

    Default Brooklyn Museum Renovations

    'The design concept for the front entrance took its inspiration from the semicircular staircase originally planned by McKim, Mead and White for an east entrance to the building that was never built. *This curved form, with its radius springing from the middle of the central building section, allows the front entrance to be oriented in all directions as a universally welcoming gesture,' comments Arata Isozaki.

  3. #3
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    Default Brooklyn Museum Renovations

    I think it is going to be a beautiful addition and give the museum an entrance worthy of its reputation.

  4. #4
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    Default Brooklyn Museum Renovations

    Architecture is truly returning to New York.

  5. #5

    Default Brooklyn Museum Renovations

    I wonder how many of these projects will be realized though. There's already been several casualties.

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    Default Brooklyn Museum Renovations

    This one, at least, is nearing completion.

  7. #7

    Default Brooklyn Museum Renovations

    Brooklyn Museum of Art
    Entry Pavilion and Plaza

    Brooklyn, New York
    34,000 square feet
    Projected Completion: 2004

    This latest phase of ongoing work at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, a new entry and the redesign of the Eastern Parkway Plaza, achieves the reintegration of the building with its site. With the removal of the grand stair in the 1930s, the entrance to the Museum was shifted to grade level, and the original entry sequence lost. In order to welcome visitors and provide a communal space for its neighborhood, a significant transformation has been designed to introduce a new lobby and entry sequence, as well as new public plaza and outdoor exhibition and performance areas. When complete, this expansion will create a distinctive and inviting identity for the Museum and enhance its relationship with its community as well as with visitors. The glass addition combines the Beaux-Arts traditions of the original building with a clearly modern and transparent structure to further underscore the building's accessibility.

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    New York Daily News -

    Museum redo is work of art

    Sunday, April 4th, 2004

    Wait'll you see what they did to the Brooklyn Museum. Hardhat plunked on her head, Joan Darragh, vice president of the museum's office of planning and architecture, leads me through the back door on a $2 tour of a $63 million reconstruction job.

    The project includes a new lobby, a multistoried new front entrance pavilion and a breathtaking public plaza with dancing-water fountains, cherry trees and a "front stoop" of public seating, all of it extending a common-people-friendly welcome mat to the borough of Brooklyn.

    Darragh yanks open a door, and suddenly we're echoing through the sweeping, still-under-construction 9,000-square-foot lobby, boasting five archways that offer unobstructed views through a brand-new 15,000-square-foot sheer-glass pavilion that leads into an 80,000-square-foot plaza and the tireless rumbling frenzy of Eastern Parkway.

    A dozen support piers have been exposed to the original bare brick, a new visitor's center has been built and the whole well-lighted entrance to the museum is now some 25,000 square feet - three times the size of the gloomy original.

    "We've also built the best ladies' room on Earth," says Darragh, a gleam in her eye that her 20-year dream for this phase of the museum renovation, designed by Polshek Partnership Architects and built by Bovis Construction, will at long last be finished by what seems like an insane deadline of April 14.

    Darragh splashes into the flooded ladies' room, where she brags about the 11 stalls.

    "Women hate ladies' room lines," she says, showing off the diaper-changing area, and consulting with head plumber Vinny Impallomeni and construction manager Bill Allan about the arrival of new sinks.

    "When they were building the stalls, I sat on the toilet and told them where to put the toilet paper dispenser," she says with a laugh. "Believe me, this is important stuff."

    Back out in the grand lobby, Darragh points out the coat-check room, where the electronic information cone will be displayed, and then she cranes her head back and takes a deep breath as she sweeps her hand across the front porticos, a woman showing off her dream house.

    Mixing old and new

    'The brick support piers offer a sense of strength and might, a combination of the old mixed with the new," she says. "We removed the 4-foot-thick bearing walls, replacing them with steel beams, and it just blew the place open, with a clear view right out into the plaza and the street, and vice versa, like we're connected to the community. We want people to experience the museum in a contemporary way, while celebrating its historical facade."

    Darragh says there are three high schools in the vicinity, and when those kids walk past, she wants them to look in through the crystal-clear, iron-free glass pavilion and see people.

    "We want them to see more than another public building," she says. "We want it to look exciting and fun. We want them to come in."

    This desire to reconnect to the borough is probably why the "of Art," which had been pompously added in 1997, has been loped off and buried beneath the reconstruction debris of what is again just The Brooklyn Museum.

    "For some reason, the 'of Art' just never caught on," says Sally Williams, a spokeswoman for the museum, adding that director Arnold Lehman believes the original name "had a clarity that communicated more concisely and directly to our public."

    In Brooklyn, where less is more, it had been like renaming our beach Coney Island by the Sea. (News Flash: It also drove newspaper editors nuts.)

    Darragh leads me from the grand lobby, across the pavilion and into the public plaza. Backhoes dig, power saws roar, electric drills whine and workmen scrimmage the plaza carrying beams and pipe on a job that was funded by the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and the Friends and Trustees of the Brooklyn Museum. It got underway in 2001 and is now crushed against the hard two-week deadline.

    "Our director, Arnold Lehman, says that when people come up from the newly renovated Eastern Parkway subway entrance, he wants them to be rewarded for making the trip to the museum," Darragh says, pointing to the subway entrance. "So the MTA was kind enough to reconfigure the subway entrance to face the plaza when people exit. And here's what they'll see."

    She points to two computer-controlled fountains conceived by WET Design, which did the fountains of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. On special occasions, they can shoot water as high as the 60-foot roof. The old, underused plaza will now have flourishing cherry trees, verdant lawns and other plantings.

    Rising from the plaza is the new "front stoop" (stoops have always been very important business in Brooklyn, the word deriving from the Dutch "stoep") of wide, graded steps with Brazilian ipe-wood walkways that Darragh says she chose because they "sound like you're walking on the Coney Island Boardwalk."

    The museum will stage some programming here and will serve as a place where people can sit and read and gab on a sunny day overlooking Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's grand boulevard, for which they coined the word "parkway."

    When I was a kid, my mother taught us that if we ever got lost in Prospect Park to look around for the "bald man's head" that was the dome of the Brooklyn Museum and we'd find our bearings. That same dome has been a cultural North Star for countless millions of other Brooklynites since it was first designed by McKim, Mead and White in 1897. Within its 562,000 square feet is the nation's second largest art collection.

    Bigger and better

    This new and exciting renovation will only make the Brooklyn Museum bigger and better and more alluring than ever - a more people-friendly place that is filled with light and art and culture that helps make order of the chaos of life in the big city.

    And so it's fitting that when the new doors open, one of the first shows will be "Open House: Working in Brooklyn," featuring 300 works by 200 Brooklyn artists.

    If you haven't been to the Brooklyn Museum lately, you gotta check it out. And the best part is that the price couldn't be better. The first weekend - Saturday, April 17, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, April 18, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. - is free.

    Just wait'll you see what they did.

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  12. #12
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    It would be nice if they converted the portico outside the main entrance into a café or other outdoor space.

  13. #13


    April 15, 2004

    A museum for the people


    Slide Show: Brooklyn Museum of Art

    The Brooklyn Museum has burst exuberantly out of its limestone shell, cascading in ripples of glass toward Eastern Parkway. Ever since Arnold Lehman took over as its director in 1997, the restless, populist museum has seemed constrained by its austere Beaux Arts container. Now, where five heavy bronze doors once allowed grudging access, a new transparent entranceway beckons to the neighborhood and the world beyond.

    "We want this to be the most visitor-centered, visitor-welcoming museum in the city," said an effervescent Lehman. "We want that to take a tangible form." Bustling around the site a few days before construction workers decamped, a hard hat wobbling above his brow, the director speed-talked about what $63 million had bought: a glass-enclosed lobby surmounted by a public catwalk, a grassy outdoor plaza for sunning and schmoozing, a terraced boardwalk that he calls "Brooklyn's front stoop" and a Vegas-style fountain with computer-controlled jets of water that dance to a silent beat.

    The whole thing opens April 16 with a members-only soiree, followed by a weekend- long block party with free admission, extended hours, marching bands, dancers and a host of free performances. The fairgrounds-style festival is in keeping with the museum's intensely local mission.

    "We love having tourists, but our first obligation is to the neighborhood," Lehman said. "We want people to come here and feel that they share a more inviting, personal experience."

    No ivory tower

    Lehman's anti-ivory-tower approach is tempered by the elegance and poise of the new entrance, designed by a team, led by James Polshek, that negotiates the passage between 19th century classicism and the theatrical aspirations of the 21st century museum world.

    Polshek's firm has a resume larded with additions to New York City cultural landmarks: the Rose Center planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History; Zankel Hall, the new auditorium underneath Carnegie Hall, and the Manhattan Theatre Club's renovated Biltmore Theatre on Broadway. Few architects understand better how to translate the venerable into the spectacular.

    When the Brooklyn Museum was designed in 1893, it was intended to be six times larger than it is. McKim, Mead & White's grandiose master plan for it was truncated by the 1898 merger between the cities of Brooklyn and New York, which siphoned ambitions and funds to the other side of the East River.

    While the current structure isn't any bigger, its new face represents not just an institutional rebirth but also a full- blown Brooklyn Renaissance. A cultural district is gradually coalescing around the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and if developer Bruce Ratner and his grassroots opponents can ever work out their differences, a basketball arena designed by Frank Gehry might rise on Atlantic Avenue.

    One revamping failed

    This isn't the first time the Brooklyn Museum has tried to revamp its image. In 1934, the grand staircase from the sidewalk to the third-floor lobby was dismantled, bringing the entrance down to street level. This early attempt at populism was a dismal failure.

    "The plaza was a deadly place," Polshek said in a phone interview. "The eastern part was sunless; there was nothing on it. What we've done is to make it as user-friendly as possible, to provide as many opportunities as we could, but at the same time, keep the whole composition dignified and respectful."

    Every detail of the design interprets Lehman's notion of the gregarious museum. The entrance canopy violates the scrupulous symmetry of the facade, instead offering a sideways salute to a gorgeously refurbished subway station, encrusted with pieces from the museum's collection of decorative sculptures rescued from demolished buildings.

    Polshek's glass half-cupola, which floods the interior with sunlight, recalls the glass pyramid set in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum in Paris by his former boss, I.M. Pei. But where Pei's pyramid is angular, cool and self-contained, Polshek caps his portal with a spiked crown suspended by cables, a shorthand synthesis of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

    This is a work in motion, filled with references to the architecture of transportation. The designers drew inspiration from the soaring iron-and-glass sheds that sheltered the train quays in McKim, Mead & White's old Penn Station. The angled steel masts recall both Brooklyn's naval past and the dynamic bridges and stations designed by Polshek's peer Santiago Calatrava.

    A destination -- and more

    All these allusions to travel imply that the museum is both a destination and a point of departure. The form of transportation on which the new addition focuses most concretely is foot traffic. The pedestrian avenue that leads into the hemisphere's brilliant embrace also channels people up and around the facade: along a stainless- steel staircase, across a catwalk and into an informal amphitheater surfaced in wood planks. This stoop, Lehman said, evokes the boardwalk at Coney Island or the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights.

    Polshek's plaza and lobby strike a balance between preservation and transformation. The dome is stepped in glass risers, like ghostly traces of the vanished grand staircase. Today's visitors can simply amble down the plaza's gentle pitch into the ground-level entrance. Once inside the glass membrane, the original limestone temple-front looms through the transparent ceiling like an artifact in an exhibition case.

    It is surely this ever-present piece of the past that persuaded the Landmarks Commission to approve Polshek's radical intervention with uncharacteristic unanimity. At ground level, the veneer of masonry disappears, revealing the raw brick barrel vaults beneath, so the entrance has a distinctly post-industrial -- and very Brooklynite -- combination of proletarian brick, shiny steel and virtually invisible glass.

    If the new exterior represents the architectural manifesto of a populist museum trapped in the body of an august institution, the real work of reinvention has been going on inside. "We've created a receptacle that will make it possible to do all sorts of crazy things -- and dignified things," Polshek said.

    Reinstalling the collection

    For several years, in the decorous galleries beyond the new lobby, curators have been reinstalling the collection, department by department, trying to achieve a balance between seriousness and pizzazz. A year ago, the museum reorganized its Egyptian collection, one of the most important in the world, hauling works out of storage and arranging some in chronological order, others in thematic groups.

    Lehman does not rely on art to articulate its own appeal. Instead, he places enormous faith in the exhibition designer's ability to make objects speak by surrounding them with boldly painted walls, videos, interactive computer screens and wall texts in English and Spanish. The most recent makeover wrought by the museum's chief designer, Matthew Yokobosky, is the Hall of the Americas, which reopens this weekend with objects that have been mostly out of sight for the past three years.

    The colonnaded court is now awash in purple, midnight blue, gold and orange. Each column sports a polychrome coat of paint and the walls are splashed with murals evoking an assortment of Indian tribes. As the eye pans across the gallery, it travels from brilliant sunrise at one end to dusk at the other. No dusty dioramas here; in Brooklyn, American Indian artifacts perform in a set piece of extravagant theater.

    In keeping with its good-neighbor policy, the museum is also mounting "Open House: Working in Brooklyn," a showcase of 200 local artists. This is not the museum's first foray into the borough's artistic thickets, but it is by far the most ambitious. "The scope of the show reflects the commitment of the museum to Brooklyn's art scene and the growth of the art scene itself," said Charlotta Kotik, chief curator for contemporary art. The museum has had the good sense to recognize that, as an established institution in a burgeoning borough, it can serve as both receptacle and catalyst.

    To put together "Open House," Kotik and her assistant curator, Tumelo Mosaka, trooped around to hundreds of studios in Red Hook, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Bedford Stuyvesant and Sunset Park, often guided by artists who recommended each other. Mosaka pointed out that, unlike Manhattan, Brooklyn really does have a community of artists, rather than an agglomeration of isolated egos. Their camaraderie reinforces the sense of the Brooklyn Museum as a neighborhood fixture, fostering the borough's creativity and attracting a walk-in crowd.

    While Lehman has encouraged -- make that ordered -- the curators to act locally, Polshek clearly has the more magniloquent ambitions of the late 1800s in mind. No amount of right-thinking liberalism could turn the limestone temple on Eastern Parkway into a jolly community center, and the architects didn't try. Instead, they crafted a new sort of monument, a weightless antechamber leading from the street to the sanctum and introducing the present to the past.

    Copyright 2004 Newsday, Inc.

  14. #14


    April 16, 2004


    Brooklyn's Radiant New Art Palace


    Discovering a new public space: Brooklyn Museum's sweeping new entrance pavilion resembles a cascade, with steps of glass spilling down to a landscaped plaza.

    Inside the Brooklyn Museum's new entrance pavilion, which was designed by James Stewart Polshek.

    Panoramic Image: Outside the New Brooklyn Museum

    Panoramic Image: The Interior of the New Brooklyn Museum

    LATERAL growth — the social transformation of New York beyond Manhattan — is likely to be the most important urban development in the city for the foreseeable future. This weekend, a milestone in that development will be reached. With the completion of the Brooklyn Museum's new entrance pavilion, the city has gained one of the most attractive public spaces to be found anywhere in town. It will be fascinating to watch as the neighborhood discovers how to use it.

    This building makes its own splash. New York is not a great town for fountains, but it has just come by a spectacular one. Created by WET Design, which is based in Southern California, the new fountain is the apotheosis of that delightful bygone genre of the department stores, dancing waters. Come for the fountain. You might even stay for the art.

    The entire sweeping pavilion, designed by James Stewart Polshek of Polshek Partnership Architects, resembles a cascade, actually, with steps of glass instead of water spilling down. The design is not flawless. The brushed satin finish of the addition's steel framework dulls the impact of a structure that ought to pop you in the eye. But the project is more nuanced than Mr. Polshek's other recent addition to a landmark Beaux Arts building, the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History. The pavilion, which officially opens tomorrow, has got a precise if not wildly imaginative grip on its place in urban history.

    That is not intended as faint praise. Because Mr. Polshek adheres to the view that architecture is best spoken in a vernacular dialect, his work is destined to be undersung. But the Brooklyn design makes a good argument for the validity of that view. The McKim, Mead & White museum itself, opened in 1897, embodies the Beaux Arts conception of classicism as a common tongue. Mr. Polshek gives form to that idea's 20th-century descendant, the adoption of engineering as the basis of a vernacular style.

    The juxtaposition of these vocabularies is a history lesson, in other words, and a literally revealing one. The McKim, Mead & White building is a steel frame structure, not the masonry monument it appears to be. And this discrepancy, or rather the lack of integrity it was once thought to symbolize, became the ethical rationale for a modern aesthetic Mr. Polshek continues to embrace. The design's sensitivity to its surroundings, however, is uniquely his.

    Four out of five Beaux Arts buildings prefer a symmetrical setting. The Brooklyn Museum is the fifth. Washington Avenue slices the site into an irregular shape. The new design turns the irregularity into a strength. It mediates between the classical formality of the museum's facade and the agreeably disordered cityscape. Deference is the design's keynote. It takes its scale from the McKim, Mead & White central portico.

    The project breaks down into a three-part sequence, though the parts happily blur together into a flowing threshold condition. The plaza in front of the building has been entirely reconstructed, with impeccable landscape design by Judith Heintz Landscape Architecture.

    The plaza now resembles a semicircle of concentric arcs radiating outward from the portico. The entrance proper, marked by a glass canopy supported by cables attached to four metal masts, has been shifted to the portico's right side. It is approached along a paved, wedge-shaped promenade that narrows as it stretches toward the facade from the Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum subway stop. (A newly remodeled station is part of the design.)

    The stepped roof of the pavilion fills in an area once occupied by a vertiginously high monumental staircase. Removed in 1939, the ceremonial flight was double the height of the stairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or at the American Museum of Natural History. Hello up there! The exaggerated altitude will remind the historically minded that the Brooklyn Museum was originally intended to be six times the size of the present institution. That was before Brooklyn was annexed into New York City, and before the federal income tax dealt a death blow to Gilded Age excess.

    The Polshek design has its own grandeur, however. Those looking for a monumental stoop to perch on will be handsomely accommodated by rows of seating that ascend in a broad arc along the left side of the pavilion. Intended as an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and other performances, this concrete riser provides the ideal vantage point for gazing at that magnificent fountain.

    The Gilded Age produced nothing like this aquatic show. Water gushing from a row of concealed jets can be manipulated into different heights and configurations, from low gurgle to Old Faithful. The fountain gets it about gravity. Rising up in pulses, the water seems to hang in the air, as if captured by strobe photography, before crashing to the ground in a percussive, drenching splash.

    To enter the pavilion, you can cross over the roof, on a curving elevated passerelle, or walk back across the plaza to the paved promenade. Three revolving doors spin visitors into the new structure's interior, which is potentially the best new public space New York has seen in years. In effect a winter garden, or orangerie, this is crystal palace architecture. It descends from the same Victorian moment that produced the recycling of period styles.

    A trick of scale helps account for the delight. From the outside, seen in relationship to the facade, the pavilion appears to hug the ground. Inside, it soars. And the semicircular shape gives the space a dynamic horizontal sweep. Cafe tables and chairs are promised. Trees should be tall and plentiful, the Wi-Fi reliable, the coffee hot. If this is dumbing-down, I'm all for it. But it looks to me like civilized pleasure.

    From the pavilion, visitors progress into the museum lobby through a striking brick colonnade. Four massive square columns are in fact the pedestals for the properly dressed Ionic columns of the portico above. The brick itself is the fire-proofing for the steel structure that supports the entire building.

    The robust, archaeological look of the exposed brick columns and walls conveys the primitive impression that the architect Aldo Rossi aimed for but seldom achieved. Except for the thickness of the bricks, this could be an excavated portion of the Aurelian Wall. The effect reinforces and enriches the classicism of the original design.

    Then you're in. Four fat white columns define a tall, neutral space with an information desk and coat check. Beyond is the entrance for school buses. A modulated but unbroken flow of space extends from the subway through the building and out the other side: the design amplifies access.

    Access should not become a dirty word. It is the concept that culture revolves around today, according to the social critic Jeremy Rifkin. In this sense Polshek's design is as vibrantly contemporary as the most flamboyantly Baroque museum architecture of our time.

    Access is a Baroque idea, actually: think of St. Peter's Square. No movement was more populist, and it changed the way Romans and others thought about and used their cities. The influence of that inclusive impulse is felt today.

    On a recent visit to the Brooklyn Museum, I had a sudden flash of the impromptu outdoor cinemas that Romans set up in the summer, with makeshift screens and folding chairs. Let's book "Three Coins in the Fountain" for Brooklyn's new amphitheater, and make a wish for free headphones, for the neighbors' sake.

    Dancing waters in the new fountain.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

    Brooklyn Museum Seeks an Audience

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