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An Ivy League Addition

An Ivy League Addition

Starchitect Sir David Adjaye Will Expand The Princeton University Art Museum, Allowing More Artwork To Be On Display

Sir David Adjaye is adding a new chapter to the long history of the Princeton University Art Museum. The architect, who is known the world over for his design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, has unveiled plans for a stone, bronze, and glass structure that replaces the existing building in the heart of the Ivy League university’s New Jersey campus.

Adjaye’s eponymous firm, which has offices in Ghana’s capital city of Accra, in London, and in New York, is the project architect. His team is working in collaboration with Cooper Robertson, the project’s executive architect. The new building, which Adjaye called a “campus within a campus” in the September announcement about the project, nearly doubles the square footage of the museum. Dynamic and interactive, the new building, Adjaye said, “is a space of genuine inquiry where the exhibition of diverse practices, learning as a synthesis of knowledge, and cross-cultural connections weave together into a singular experience that encompasses a multiplicity of ideas and people.”

In announcing the new plans, museum director James Steward noted that Adjaye, an “architect with an artist’s vision and sculptural ability,” produced a design that “will give us a building that fosters new modes of investigation, reflects and deepens our commitment to equity and inclusion, and affords new moments of aspiration.”

The museum required an expansion, Steward said in a statement, with around 200,000 annual visitors now expected. The new design increases educational spaces by 76%, exhibition areas by 38%, and visitor amenities by 80%.

Adjaye’s design, according to the announcement, “embodies the museum’s longstanding commitment to serve as a hub and a gathering place, a nexus for the arts and humanities—a metaphor for the college campus at its best—that affords encounters with cultures past and present from around the world and seeks to foster stronger citizenship among its university, local, and global communities.”

The updated Princeton University Art Museum, whose renderings
The updated Princeton University Art Museum, whose renderings.

The 54-year-old Ghanaian-British architect, who is the RIBA Royal Gold Medal winner for 2021, conceived a three-story, 77,000-square-foot building of traditional materials that complement those of its neighbors—the university’s Department of Art and Archaeology and the Marquand Library, a research center for the humanities.

The exterior’s alternating rough and polished stone surfaces, which are sculptural in quality, create an undulating rhythm that beckons visitors from all four sides. There is no front or back to the building.

Two key pedestrian “art walks” connect with major campus pathways and offer glimpses of the galleries even when they’re closed. And outdoor terraces are designed to accommodate 200 to 2,000 people during events.

The building comprises seven interlocked pavilions that are woven into the campus landscape and that contain many of the museum’s new galleries. The double-height grand hall, which has 18-foot ceilings, is the heart of the museum complex. Featuring artwork embedded in its floor, it will be a venue for lectures, performances, and events.

The building also includes several classroom spaces, two so-called creativity labs, and a rooftop cafe. Under the new plan, the museum’s collections, which number more than 110,000 pieces, will be exhibited on the second level, allowing visitors to encounter them in different ways.

Include more room for exhibitions, lectures, performances, and events.
Include more room for exhibitions, lectures, performances, and events

Adjaye has received numerous honors. He was knighted by the British crown in 2017 for his services to architecture. It was his third royal award: In 2016, he received the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and in 2007 he was awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). The firm also is working on several other projects, notably the U.K. Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London and the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra.

Cooper Robertson’s portfolio includes projects for the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber said the Princeton University Art Museum’s new building, scheduled to open in late 2024, “meaningfully achieves our goals of placing art at the core of the campus experience, strengthening the university’s mission of teaching and research, and serving as a welcoming gateway for all visitors to this storied campus.”

Include more room for exhibitions, lectures, performances, and events
Include more room for exhibitions, lectures, performances, and events.

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