Expansion plans for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery have gone in a new direction. To the northwest in fact. Plans now call for a new building at the northwest corner of the campus along Elmwood Avenue. Under the revised plan developed by the museum with the architecture firm OMA/Shohei Shigematsu, the new building will add 29,000 square feet of space for displaying special exhibitions and the museum’s world-renowned art collection. The new building will incorporate several visitor amenities and is envisioned to have a wraparound promenade that visually connects the interior of the building with the surrounding Frederick Law Olmsted landscape.
The AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project calls for:
• building an underground parking structure and transforming the surface parking lot into a vibrant green landscape and gathering place, a green plaza
• opening a route through the museum from Elmwood Avenue to Olmsted’s Delaware Park, adding a new point of entry and exit on the east façade of the museum’s 1962 Building
• covering the 1962 Building’s open-air Sculpture Garden to create a new space for year-round civic engagement, open free of charge to the community during museum and program hours
• creating a new education wing in the lower level of the 1962 Building
• constructing a signature scenic bridge that connects the new building with the 1905 Building
More refined plans for the expansion will emerge over the next several months during the design development phase of the project as budget and cost estimates come into alignment. Design development will continue into early 2019. Construction is likely to begin in autumn 2019, with the grand opening of the new Buffalo AKG Art Museum expected in fall 2021.
Fundraising for the project continues to forge ahead, with approximately $125 million raised to date for the $155 million project (including $30 million earmarked to increase the operating endowment). A new $10 million matching challenge announced in late 2017 by Jeffrey Gundlach will also reach its conclusion at the end of 2018, by which time the Albright-Knox hopes to be closer to closing out the $155 million campaign.
Shohei Shigematsu stated, “The north building comprises three levels offering diverse gallery experiences. Encircling the second level gallery is a double-height promenade, a flexible space with 360-degree views to the surrounding buildings and Olmsted landscape. The building is enveloped by a translucent façade that achieves an open and ephemeral quality and engages the external environment. Layers of visual and spatial connections throughout the north building foster dialogue with the architectural legacy of the Albright-Knox while inviting contemporary audiences to discover the diverse activities within.”
Jeffrey Gundlach said, “I could not be more enthusiastic about the schematic design Sho and OMA have achieved. The green plaza on which reside three individual but interrelated buildings displays the long arc of Buffalo’s rich history. The magnificent 1905 Building is rooted at the center, linked already to the mid-century classic 1962 Building, and soon to be linked to the beautiful 2021 building. Our duty to the present is respect for the past and investment in the future. With sensitivity, beauty, and practicality, OMA’s design creates a unified campus literally bridging great eras of the City of Buffalo.”
The museum team has worked with the preservation community after an earlier plan drew howls of displeasure last summer.
Gwen Howard, Chair of the Buffalo Preservation Board, noted, “We have enjoyed working with OMA Partner Shohei Shigematsu and Albright-Knox Director Dr. Janne Sirén over the past eights months in a shared effort to help identify a design solution that enables the museum to address its pressing needs in a manner that is respectful of historic landmark buildings. Our concerns have been heard and we believe the AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project is well on its way to being aligned with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.”
Stephanie Crockatt, Executive Director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, said, “From the outset of the AK360 Project, my team and I—including key Trustees—have appreciated collaborating with Janne and his team. The Albright-Knox has shown profound interest in preserving Olmsted’s legacy, and we are delighted that the new campus building will open new vistas to Delaware Park without encroaching upon it.”