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 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

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

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

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

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

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

Floor: Tennant Flooring

  • Epoxy floor by Tennant Flooring

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

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

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

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

Mobile Partitions/Suspended Ceilings/Raised Floors: Pyrok

  • Acoustical plaster ceiling: Star-Silent by Pyrok

Staircases, Elevators, Moving walks: Fujitech

  • Elevator by Fujitech

Walls: Bisazza, Marino Ware, Sherwin Williams

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

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 28 May 2015. <>
  • REM

    Such an overrated building…really not to it.

  • Pingback: New Museum, NYC « FrankUpdates

  • Albert

    Another soulless creation from fancy starchitect.
    I think most starchitects’ projects are seriously overrated, this job is just another example…

  • Rchard

    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

    • josep

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

  • @fariatomas

    Leveza impressionante.

  • m

    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?

    • Loïc Desiron

      If you look at the floor plans you can clearly see there are 3 staircases per floor.