Bronx Museum of the Arts calls on architects to design redesign of South Wing

Earlier this month, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) on behalf of the Department of Cultural Affairs issued a request for proposals for the latest overhaul of the half-century-old Bronx Museum of the Arts: a new south wing atrium and entrance to the southwest corner of the acclaimed cultural center, adjacent to 165th Street and Grand Concourse. According to the NYCEDC, the current atrium space will be demolished and replaced with an “iconic new multi-story entrance and lobby.”

As detailed in a press release announcing the RFP, the planned major renovation calls for the creation of a “spacious entrance hall with seating, a gathering space and large walls facing the street for the works of art. “. The new art display space is designed as an extension of the sidewalk, connecting with the community, enticing passers-by to visit the museum and “providing multiple opportunities for art and public programming to be visible from the street” .

“As we celebrate our 50th anniversary and look towards the next 50; this project provides a unique opportunity to envision and achieve what a 21st century, community-based, globally-spanning museum should be, ”said Klaudio Rodriguez, executive director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, in a statement . “The renovation will strengthen our ability to meet the needs of our community, by amplifying our ability to educate, engage and welcome our visitors. The project will simultaneously reflect our values ​​and priorities, including our commitments to accessibility, fairness and transparency.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts is one of the few museums in New York City to have “removed economic barriers to entry and participation in programs” by offering free admission. Introduced in 2012, the new admissions policy made it possible to quadruple attendance in just a few years. The museum opened in May 1971 in the art deco rotunda on the first floor of the Bronx County Courthouse and a series of satellite galleries across the borough. In 1983, the museum’s current home in the former Young Israel Synagogue, a mid-century structure designed by Simon B. Zelnick in the Concourse section of the South Bronx, opened to the public following a multi-million conversion. of dollars. Five years later, the expansion of the south wing anchored in the atrium designed by Castro-Blanco, Piscioneri & Feder was completed to accommodate the museum’s growing collection. However, the sleek addition of glass and steel, later described as “awkward” and having “the feel of a suburban mall” by New York Times the critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, clearly lacked new exhibition space.

Another expansion followed in 2006, this one led by Arquitectonica of Miami. The new three-story north wing debuted with a second-story sculpture garden, new gallery space, dedicated education spaces, and an idiosyncratic pleated aluminum facade compared to an accordion. Reactions to the north wing of Arquitectonica have been largely positive. “[…] the addition is a reminder of how architecture can have a profound public impact when its values ​​are in the right place, ”Ouroussoff wrote in his same review for the Time. “And it shows how simple it can be to bridge the gap between art and its audience at a time when much larger and more prominent museums and their ultra-wealthy boards of directors can seem bewildered by their roles. cultural. “

Street view of the South Wing Atrium / Entrance to the Bronx Museum of the Arts. (Jim Henderson / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain)

In May 2016, it was announced that Mónica Ponce de León, the architect of Venezuelan origin and dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University, would lead a project to redesign / redevelop the atrium of the The $ 15 million South Wing envisioned as the first phase of a larger $ 25 museum. facelift. The project was slated for completion in 2020. Although the museum has pledged to move forward with the planned atrium redesign following a controversial internal upheaval that came just three months after the campaign was announced funding, these exact plans, of a similar global scope to those just announced, never materialized. Ponce de León’s involvement is not mentioned in the latest fundraising redesign / update announcement.

With over 2,000 works in its permanent collection, the Bronx Museum of the Arts is widely recognized for its interest in the presentation of contemporary and 20th-century art, particularly works produced by artists based and born in the Bronx. , artists from Africa, Asia and Latin American ancestors and other creators “not typically represented in traditional museum collections,” according to the NYCEDC. Current exhibitions include group exhibition Born in Flames: future feminists and America. God bless you if it’s good for you, an exhibition of new works by the artist based in Harlem Wardell Milan.

“The Bronx Museum is a true gem of our borough and one of our city’s most important cultural institutions,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “This new proposal will allow for very significant expansion. expected from this important creative space. for our community. As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts will play a vital role in this process, which is why I am proud to have allocated more than $ 2 million in funding to this project. “

Requests for proposals submissions from interested parties can be submitted no later than August 2.

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