An Albrighter Day

OMA to design expansion of Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Architecture East
The expansion will unify E.B. Green’s original 1905 building, SOM's addition, and Clifton Hall, the disconnected building in the background. (Courtesy Albright-Knox Art Gallery)
The expansion will unify E.B. Green’s original 1905 building, SOM's addition, and Clifton Hall, the disconnected building in the background. (Courtesy Albright-Knox Art Gallery)

This is OMA week. After unveiling the refurbished Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, the New York- and Rotterdam-based firm announced that they have received the commission to design an $80 million expansion to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY.

This will be the firm’s first art museum project in the United States: OMA beat out four other offices—Snøhetta, BIG, Allied Works, and wHY—for the job, dubbed AK360, which will expand exhibition space for Albright-Knox’s modern and contemporary art collection. Firm principal Shohei Shigematsu will be leading the design team.

The board of directors approved a development and expansion plan two years ago to accommodate a collection that’s quadrupled in size since 1962, the year of the museum’s last major (SOM–designed) expansion. Currently, Albright-Knox can only display 200 to 300 of the 8,000 works in its permanent collection. The expansion will double exhibition space, as well as add space for education facilities, dining, and events space while better integrating the museum with the Olmsted–designed park around it.

The commission comes fresh off of the completion of the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, another project that knits a city’s landscape to a museum.

It’s fitting that OMA will be working in Buffalo, a city that capitalizes on its rich architectural heritage to spur tourism and investment. The museum, which is situated adjacent a local cultural district, hopes that the OMA project will have a spillover (uh, Guggenheim) effect on the ailing postindustrial city that’s nevertheless experiencing a modest uptick in economic fortunes compared to neighboring cities. Shohei Shigematsu, along with artist Mark Bradford and Albright-Knox’s director Janne Sirén, will give a talk at Art Basel next week on the role of art museums in social change.

There’s no date for construction as of yet, although the next phase of the “envisioning process” will begin this September.

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