The new building that will now house the collections of the Parrish Art Museum is designed by Herzog & de Meuron, two miles from the current site in the village of Water Mill, on the north side of Montauk Highway. The fourteen-acre site accommodates the 34,510-square-foot building and the existing landscape. The reserved design is respectful of the landscape and channels the natural beauty through crisp forms and simple materials, while preserving the artistic legacy of the museum.
The architects drew their inspiration from the surrounding landscape and their visits to the artists’ studios in Long Island’s East End. This was the starting point for the design of the Parrish Art Museum which began with the basic parameters for a single gallery space, using the proportions of a studio and deriving a simple house section with north-facing skylights. Two of these galleries flank a central circulation spine that produces the simple extruded form of the building.
The building has an east-west orientation to take advantage of the natural north light which penetrates the gallery spaces. A sensibility to the environment is developed through the use of large sections of glass that provide broad open views through the museum and onto the landscape, which is designed by Reed Hilderbrand Associates. It is shaped into a meadow features grasses, native wildflowers and a hedgerow of oak and evergreen trees that provide a northern boundary of the site. A shaded porch surrounds the entire building, creating a large public space for visitors.
The layout of the museum is designed so as to optimize the functionality of the museum. A cluster of ten galleries is the heart of the museum, laid out within a structural grid whose sliding partition walls can be rearranged to accommodate a wide variety of exhibitions. The total area of available exhibition space is 12,000 square feet. Public programs such as the lobby, a gift shop, and a cafe with a multi-purpose educational space are housed to the west of the galleries. The back of house functions are located to the east of the gallery core and include administration, storage, workshops and a loading dock.
Local construction methods and simple materials guided the development of the structure for the building, which is a wood post, beam and truss construction with in situ concrete walls. The grand scale of these building materials is tempered with the expanse of the open landscape and defined moments proportioned to the human body, such as a continuous bench that extends from the concrete walls to give visitors a moment of pause outside of the museum. This moment of outdoor shelter that surrounds the building emphasizes the importance of the site and its interaction with the art within.
Watch this video as it portrays the sensitivity of the architecture to the landscape. The building has a subtlety that is expressed through the expansive landscape while maintaining a strong presence of its own, made possible by the material and formal choices of Herzog & de Meuron.