This is the fifth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours!
When Metro Pictures Gallery’s Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring approached 1100 Architect about a substantial design overhaul of their sleek Chelsea location, they knew they were in good hands. After all, 1100 had masterfully handled a previous renovation in 2007. There was one caveat: The firm had only three months to complete the project.
What 1100 produced is nothing short of elegant. With its stark white walls, high-sheen concrete floors, and 16-foot-high ceilings, Metro Pictures Gallery exudes a timeless downtown art gallery vibe. Although its dichromatic color scheme of white and gray is typical of such establishments, Metro Pictures Gallery’s spatial flow and generous allowance of natural light make it a gallery worth visiting.
The most aesthetically pleasing update to the 2007 design is inarguably the staircase that connects the first- and second-floor galleries. The previous staircase was a statuesque element fabricated from blackened steel. The new staircase has been moved into the wall behind the reception desk and is now fabricated with welded aluminum sheets. The handrails, made of Corian, and the stairs are both uninterrupted by fasteners, making this basic architectural element feel at once fluid and artful.
What is most impressive about the building isn’t its aesthetics, but rather its practicality. Without increasing the structure’s overall footprint, 1100 added an extra 16 percent of exhibition space to the gallery. The firm also eliminated the gallery’s vestibule, increasing gallery space and creating a direct visual link from an outside viewer to the art within. All in all, the amount of exhibition space increased by 350 square feet for a remaining total of 9,000 square feet.
1100 not only had to accommodate visual changes in its revamp of Metro Picture Gallery’s design, but climate-related changes as well. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, four feet of water flooded the building. A careful redesign of Metro Picture Gallery’s storage space allows art to be saved from natural disasters—a fate that some pieces did not meet during the storm. The building has also been outfitted with climate-control infrastructure. Principal architect and designer David Piscuskas, FAIA echoed a sentiment most architects feel now with regards to climate change when he explained, “Architects don’t pay attention to 100-year events; we pay attention to 500-year events.”
Metro Pictures Gallery opened in May with a Cindy Sherman show and high praise for its new design. But the highest praise (and that which Piscuskas feels most proud of) came from Winer and Reiring when they said, “It feels like we moved when we didn’t.”
About the author: Anna Gibertini is a freelance journalist based in the New York metropolitan area. She contributes regularly to The ArtBlog, a Philadelphia-based arts and culture publication, and has had work published in Charleston, South Carolina’s Post & Courier and Syracuse, New York’s The Post Standard. She recently graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s in arts journalism.