A Museum of Stored Art in Chelsea
An urban lot on a side street in Chelsea is the site of an art storage and display facility.
The need for this building type became evident to us as we began to design spaces for art collections of our clients. During our research, we visited a few art-storage facilities that house un-advertised but potentially significant collections of art. Such facilities made us wonder, what may be contained in them? And how wonderful it would be for the public to be able to see curated shows that cross-reference art-work between various private collections.
Working on a 50’ wide by 90’ deep lot, zoned C.6, close to the ‘Highline’, we explored the multiple design facets of such a building and the issues that straddle the boundary between private art collection and public art viewing.
The project studies the nuanced and often challenging needs of storage of significant works of art and the delicate but rewarding benefit of publicly displaying both the ‘art of storage’ and the stored art. As such, the storage components of the building are visibly integrated on each floor with gallery or display spaces. In particular, immediately upon entering the building at the top of the rotated ‘stoop’, the museum-goer will see a compact storage area, through secure glass. On upper levels, the boundary between the storage areas and the gallery areas can be both adjusted and manipulated to serve fluid programs and intents. The work of art is always in close and visible proximity to where its stored.
Urbanistically, the building makes accommodations to its street and neighborhood. Its facade is both slightly rotated away from the front property line, and slightly tilted down, creating a sliver of space that draws one in and transitions into a rotated ‘stoop. Upon entering the staircase, one notices its high vaulted ceiling: the staircase becomes a public space and a place of public activity. Ascending it, one slowly disconnects from the noisy urban realm to the quiet within. Right before entering, only ones feet are visible from the street.
Navigating into the building, the first three floors are open to the public and connected with a staircase and passenger elevator. The top of this public stair terminates with a coffee shop, a place to sit and view street activity, and semi-public office spaces. The basement and ground floor, no longer able to contain mechanical equipment due to hurricane Sandy, are now given to a publicly accessible auditorium. Both passenger and freight elevators are accessed separately and securely from the ground level, on either side of the auditorium.
Typical rectangular introverted ‘white-box’ gallery spaces are punctuated with slivered openings that infuse the rooms with filtered natural light and allow glimpses of the architecture of the neighborhood. The elevators in the rear are similarly bordered with windows that both frame ones location within the block and allow natural light to be brought in.
The building facade, ground level, and front public areas are made of raw, roughly finished, poured-in-place concrete.
The overlap of particular socio-economic tides — the rise of a shared economy that harnesses unattended markets, the proliferation of art collections, the lack of sufficient spaces of public and communal activity, and the general democratization of art-viewing— has foster an environment wherein our proposal, we hope, is necessary and timely.