Ponce in the Bronx

Monica Ponce de Leon to design new wing of the Bronx Museum of the Arts

Architecture Art East
(Courtesy Bronx Museum of Arts)

The Bronx Museum of the Arts has just announced that Monica Ponce de Leon, co-curator of the 2016 Venice Biennale, will design the first phase of an expansion to its facility on the Grand Concourse.

The contemporary art museum, founded in 1971, has seen attendance quadruple in recent years, and has added 1,300 new members through the city’s free IDNYC program since 2015: Ponce de Leon’s upgrade will add space for programming and exhibitions, improve connection with the streetscape, and allow the museum to broaden its community engagement. The Bronx Museum participated in the first American museum collaboration with Cuba in over 50 years and offers programming to at-risk, area youth.

Ponce de Leon, who designs through Monica Ponce de Leon Studio and serves as the dean of Princeton University School of Architecture, was selected in 2013 though the NYC Department of Design and Construction‘s (DDC) Design and Construction Excellence program (DC+E) to redesign the South Wing Atrium as a “Gallery Cube.” The atrium today, a little used space at the corner of the Grand Concourse and East 165th Street, will be reconfigured  both as an energy-efficient “cube” for year-round programming and as a connection between the South Wing, a deconsecrated synagogue, and the Arquitectonica–designed North Wing.

“The Bronx Museum of the Arts explores how artistic expression is shaped by the urban experience and cultural interactions, and it is important that its building conveys openness to its physical context, the neighborhood, and the public,” observed Ponce de Leon in a statement. “The creative ferment at The Bronx Museum of the Arts is lively, but constrained within a facility that has evolved incrementally over time without an overarching plan. By uniting these elements to create a new and cohesive whole, and opening the building’s form, this design will weave together the street, visitors, neighbors, and passersby in a new dynamic.”

The project is funded through the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the Department of Cultural Affairs. Total construction costs for this first phase are estimated at $15 million. The Mayor’s Office, the City Council, and the Office of the Bronx Borough President have already allocated around $6.9 million to the Ponce de Leon–designed phase, and the museum is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise and additional $10 million for its endowment.

Construction is expected to begin this year and wrap in 2020. Subsequent phases of the project are underway but detail are unconfirmed. The Bronx Museum did say it plans to activate underutilized spaces, transform vacant lots into sculpture gardens, and create a performance and events space. 

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