New Art Museum / SANAA

© Iwan Baan

Architect: SANAA
Location: 235 Bowery, , NY 10002
Client: New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City; Zubatkin Owner Representation
Project Leadership: Saul Dennison, Chairman, Board of Trustees, New Museum; Lisa Phillips, Toby Devan Lewis Director, New Museum; Lisa Roumell, Deputy Director, New Museum
Architect of record: Gensler Architects
Project Management: Plaza Construction Corporation, New York City

Structural engineers: Guy Nordenson Associates, Simpson Gumperts & Heger Inc., New York City
Lights and illumination: Arup
Constructed area: 58,700 sq ft
Year of enchargement: 2002
Year of completion: 2007
Photographs: Iwan Baan, Dean Kaufman, Benoit Pailley

© Iwan Baan

Recently Pritzker laureate SANAA offers to architects, critics and customers very sharp architectures, outstanding and internationally recognized. Most of the times, the reason of this is the simplicity and clearness of the concept, and its clean translation into construction. The New Contemporary Art Museum in New York is a precious building with clear concept and strong impact.

The location context, Lower Manhattan, with its squared blocks and buildings, can be considered as starting point for the Museum image: it replies the boxes surrounding, and stacks them one on top of the other in various sizes and heights, as the plot was a playground for a composition of cubes. By small but significant shifting of the cubes, the building gets dynamicity and an attracting shape, being different but similar to the near constructions.

© Dean Kaufman
situation plan

The program of the Museum consists of four public galleries at the first four floors, which have free and flexible spaces for exhibitions; a “white box” auditorium in the basement, Education Center at the 5th floor, offices at 6th, a multi-purpose room at the 7th. By shifting the boxes, all galleries get natural illumination, combined with artificial, and the offices and the private locals on the top floors get terraces and opening views to the cityscape.

It is in that way that the project shows its concept: by simple repeated shifting, the intention of the building is clearly readable from outside, and combines a convincing language with the need of natural light from top: all at once, with one operation, the project shows its force.

© Iwan Baan

Wanting to be a light and clean object in the massive Manhattan cityscape, the materials and the façade appearance play a relevant role. The choice of a layer of anodized aluminium mesh on top of the white walls is not new and unknown to most of architects. But in the Museum it is used as a wrapped skin on all vertical surfaces, as a continuous blurring layer, that gives different light reflections and hides the offices windows, doors and balustrades of the terraces. The result is an elegant, light and white succession of surfaces, without any interruption or contamination by other elements: a semi-transparent dress for the shifting body of the building.

© Dean Kaufman

Evidently, at night the Museum shows life from the inside with the artificial lights through the hidden openings, enhancing the gaps between the volumes and giving more lightness to the massive building.

Inside, the Museum keeps its lightness by the white surfaces and ceilings. The steel structure of the perimeter walls supports the floors and sets them free from any column. The plan, with an off- centred core and free space all around, efficient and flexible, confirms the clearness of the concept.

- Andrea Giannotti

Products in this project

Bathroom Equipment: Toto , Vola

  • Urinals by Toto
  • Faucets by Vola
  • Toilets by Toto

Construction materials, Semi-finished materials: USG, Georgia-Pacific, Starphire , Viracon, Marino Ware, Henry Company, PPG

  • Gypsum board by USG
  • Gypsum sheathing: DensGlass Gold by Georgia-Pacific
  • Glass by Starphire
  • Glass by Viracon
  • Stud framing by Marino Ware
  • Waterproofing: Henry Air-Block by Henry Company
  • Skylight glass: Solarban by PPG

Facades: US Aluminum, McGrath Inc. , Expanded Metal Company, James & Taylor

  • Aluminum curtainwall mullion by US Aluminum
  • Extruded aluminum liner panel (custom) by McGrath Inc.
  • Expanded aluminum mesh with anodized finish (custom) by Expanded Metal Company
  • Stainless steel mesh clips (custom) by James & Taylor

Floor: Tennant Flooring

  • Epoxy floor by Tennant Flooring

Joinery: Wausau Windows, JC Ryan EBCO, C.R. Laurence Co., Supersky, Michbi Doors Inc., Competition Architectural Metals Inc., Rixson

  • Aluminum frame windows by Wausau Windows
  • Doors by JC Ryan EBCO
  • Glass door handles by C.R. Laurence Co.
  • Skylight system by Supersky
  • Doors by Michbi Doors Inc.
  • Loading dock doors (custom) by Competition Architectural Metals Inc.
  • Glass door pivot hardware by Rixson

Lighting, Heating, Home/building automation: Lucifer Lighting Co., Bartco Lighting, LSI

  • Downlight by Lucifer Lighting Co.
  • Fluorescent lighting by Bartco Lighting
  • Gallery busway lighting by LSI

Mobile Partitions/Suspended Ceilings/Raised Floors: Pyrok

  • Acoustical plaster ceiling: Star-Silent by Pyrok

Staircases, Elevators, Moving walks: Fujitech

  • Elevator by Fujitech

Walls: Sherwin Williams, Bisazza, Marino Ware

  • Paint by Sherwin Williams
  • Bathroom glass tiles by Bisazza
  • Structural steel stud framing by Marino Ware

View this project in Google Maps

* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "New Art Museum / SANAA" 28 Jul 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 18 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down -7

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +8

    I totally disagree with you REM. This building and SANAA is not overrated at all. This architecture duo continues to come up with architectural forms that are compositionally appealing and functional, and I look forward to seeing more of their projects in the future

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      also very contextual for me one of the best thing that happened to New York City! Absolutely love it!

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Big fan of Sanaa’s work, but after seeing this was a little disappointed. The circulation is bizarre, did I miss something, or is there really only a freight elevator and an emergency fire stair to move people around?

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    an amazing bldg that fits perfectly into the NY streetscape. these guys are not “starchitects”, they’re just very good at what they do.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Gensler was the architect of record for this project, doing all the construction documents, much project management. Can you update this posting to reflect this? Not the greatest firm ever, but let the record/building speak for itself.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    SANAA is a great office and continue to impress me over and over again. They really think about the site and surrounding and doesn’t use a single concept for every purpose. They are innovative, fresh and have a great sense of composition and proportion. It’s funny how people always use the term “starchitect” as if it would be a good word to strengthen their opinion and/or a way to make them sound more intelligent. Personally I think that the word “starchitect” is used by people who are of some reason disappointed in their own career. We all start from the bottom and climb up the ladder of success. None of the so-called “starchitects” have become what they are without them being good at what they do. I know I’m probably going to get replies saying that “they have a good pr and marketing system and that’s why they are getting all the good deals” and yes they probably have but it’s not enough if you suck at designing.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Have been to see this several times, and can say with confidence that this is a great object, but not great Architecture.
    The spaces are fine to exhibit art in, yet are uninspired, and are have no relation to one another. The shifting volumes do not admit daylight as they are advertised. The first lobby is a nice space, as is the entrance to the terrace and the narrow staircase.

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      the play on NY set-back requirements, the ground floor is flush with adjacent bldgs, the massing, open to the street allowing nice views in for pedestrians, etc.

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        Yes the lowest boxes relate directly to the scale of the neighbouring buildings before tipping playfully over. The street level is entirely transparent letting the activity of the gallery out into the street. The boxes are abstracted forms of The entire area. I was a sceptic of this building but have just visited it and it is marvelous. Very clever circulation and variety of spaces, and obviously achieved on a very tight budget. Congratulations.

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      Why must it relate to the context? Do you think any building requires direct reference to those around it regardless of use/era/inherent schizophrenic nature of the Bowery?

      Personally, i feel we tend to compress history and imagine some form of cohesive rationale behind what came before. On the Bowery now there are buildings that just post date the Colonial era and buildings dating from 1950s. Buildings two centuries apart have as little contextual reference to each other as this does to that 1950′s building (if not more). Seeing that as cohesive context compresses 200 years into some vague clump now called “History”.

      Lately there’s been so much stress in NY about buildings distorting the context of the neighborhoods they’re proposed for. Can we please once again allow cities to behave like cities? Can NY preservationists not assume that anything not clad in brick, or “sensitive to context” is somehow an affront to the neighborhoods character.

      As an example, the Empire State Building has nothing to do with the context of the 19 century row houses it replaced, and sat amongst when it was built. Do we still lament it’s insensitivity to that context now? I would argue not.

      Let’s not leave the future only bad references to a mis-remembered past.

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    This is one of those buildings that looks great in photographs but not so great in person. The gallery spaces are cold and alienating and utterly without charm. What is shocking is how badly the building is built and detailed. It is not holding up or aging well.

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    Hello, I am trying to find architectural details for this building (superstructure, windows, doors, walls, etc). If you can help me I would be very grateful. It is for a coursework, meaning they will be used for academic purposes only.
    Thank you in advance. :)

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