Image courtesy Studio Museum/Adjaye Associates

The Studio Museum in Harlem will replace its current facilities with a proposed building by David Adjaye.


To ring in its 50th anniversary, the Studio Museum in Harlem has unveiled the design for a new home by architect David Adjaye.

“[This project] is about a powerful urban resonance, drawing on the architectural tropes of Harlem and celebrating the history and culture of this extraordinary neighborhood,” Adjaye said.

The Studio Museum, founded in 1958, is one of the most important institutions for contemporary African American art. In order to keep pace with the evolving Harlem neighborhood and to expand its programming, the museum trustees opted to tear down its existing facility—a 19th-century building renovated by the late African American architect J. Max Bond Jr.—with an entirely new one. They unanimously chose London-based Adjaye and Associates after an international search last year.

It’s a fitting choice: just over a mile away, Adjaye completed the Sugar Hill affordable-housing development last year. The architect also is the lead designer of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, opening in 2016.

Image courtesy Studio Museum
The existing museum is located in a 19th-century building renovated by J. Max Bond Jr.
Adjaye’s proposal is composed of dark monolithic volumes—a style for which the architect is known—and, according to the museum, takes cues from Harlem’s brownstone houses and churches, with a staggered facade and soaring atrium. The 71,000-square-foot building will increase gallery space by more than 50 percent and include a 199-seat “inverted stoop” for events, as well as a glazed lower level on 125th Street to welcome the neighborhood in with art visible to passersby. New York–based Cooper Robertson will serve as executive architects and program-planning consultants.

The project will cost an estimated $122 million, with $35.3 million donated by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, the City Council, and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President.

“For the last 50 years, the Studio Museum in Harlem has been a pillar for this community,” said de Blasio. “The city’s investment in the future of this organization signals our commitment to helping the Studio Museum grow.”

The museum submitted plans to the City of New York on July 14, and its officials expect it to be under construction in 2017.