Room to Grow

Selldorf Architects chosen to upgrade and expand The Frick Collection

Architecture Art East Preservation
The Garden Court, part of John Russell Pope's conversion of the Henry Clay Frick House into a museum. (Courtesy PRObrownpau/Flickr)
The Garden Court, part of John Russell Pope's conversion of the Henry Clay Frick House into a museum. (Courtesy PRObrownpau/Flickr)

New York-based Selldorf Architects, no stranger to designing for the art world, will be helming The Frick Collection’s enhancement of its existing home, the Henry Clay Frick House in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The Frick’s efforts to expand have previously not gone smoothly. The museum faced outcry when it planned to remove a garden and add six stories to its east wing. (The Frick House was originally designed by Thomas Hastings of Carrère and Hastings and built from 1912 to 1914.) Those plans were abandoned but the Frick, saying it still faced a shortage of exhibition space, vowed to find other ways to expand.

In a press release, the museum said, “Working in partnership with Frick leadership and staff, Selldorf Architects will develop a design plan that addresses the institution’s pressing needs to accommodate the growth of its collections and programs, upgrade its conservation and research facilities, create new galleries, and—for the first time—allow for dedicated spaces and classrooms for the Frick’s educational programs.” These upgraded facilities, the release added, will be within the building’s “built footprint” and will “foster a more natural and seamless visitor flow throughout the Frick’s exhibition galleries, library, and public spaces.”

Selldorf was unanimously recommended by the search committee, which spent 18 months evaluating some 20 architects. Ian Wardropper, director of The Frick Collection, said this of Selldorf Architects in a press release:

The firm understands and appreciates the value of institutional mission and has clearly demonstrated in past projects—such as New York’s Neue Galerie and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown—how new designs can enrich, rather than overwhelm, already distinguished architectural spaces. Such an approach is essential to our project, which seeks to preserve the peaceful and contemplative experience that the Frick provides to its visitors.

The new enhancements will include “the opening to the public—for the first time—of a suite of rooms on the second floor of the historic house, for use as exhibition galleries,” “the creation of a new gallery for the presentation of special exhibitions” on the main floor, “the creation of dedicated, purpose-built spaces to accommodate the Frick’s roster of educational and public programming,” and “the establishment of state-of-the-art conservation spaces….”

By way of some background, in the 1930s, when converting the house into a museum, architect John Russell Pope doubled its size and demolished its library to make way for a larger library that could accommodate the museum’s collection. Additional expansions occurred in 1977 (which created the 70th Street Garden) and 2011 (which enclosed part of the Fifth Avenue Garden).

This won’t be the only art-related New York project that Selldorf Architects will have on their plate: the firm is also helming the new St. Mark’s Place location for the Swiss Institute.

More details can be found here on the Frick Collection’s website and a full press release can be found here.

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