Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Update on Our New Home at 103 Orchard

Dedicated readers may remember that we posted pictures of the groundbreaking ceremony for our new Visitor and Education Center at 103 Orchard Street last year--on March 30, 2010, to be precise. So how are things progressing exactly one year later? Well, major structural work is now completed, and the interior spaces are beginning to take shape. We’ve uncovered some interesting evidence of the building’s past, including the stories of its residents (to read some of them, click on the “103 Orchard St.” label on the righthand column). And thanks to our talented architects and contractors, we’re excited to say that we expect to open our doors to the public in July!

If you’ve been following the project, you know that our new home will be located directly across the street from our current visitor center. It will have a lot to offer—a demonstration kitchen for culinary programs, a theater, dedicated classroom and gallery space and of course our ticket counter and book shop.

Lana Bortolot from the Wall Street Journal recently toured the new space. Her article discusses the renovation of the building from an architectural perspective, while also explaining the importance of the project for us and the neighborhood as a whole. Click here to read the story.

A vintage sign uncovered during the renovation of 103 Orchard Street will be preserved.
Image Courtesy the Wall Street Journal 

Yu-Hwa Lin of Perkins Eastman Architecture, who previously worked on the rear yard exhibit at 97 Orchard Street, is the Project Architect. He shared some thoughts on the project with us recently.

We develop individual design concepts and strategies for every project at the museum, so the special needs of each one can be fulfilled. I think there is one constant, which is to find and define the very delicate balance between the past and present.

This project has been a personal challenge for me. As a new immigrant to New York who grew up overseas with modern architectural training, I knew almost nothing about early American history and life in New York. I started by learning about the lives of early immigrants so I could put myself in their shoes while planning the space.

103 Orchard was originally three individual adjacent buildings in the middle of the block back in 1880. Over time, the facade of the building was altered and the structure was modified to combine three buildings into one. The design team wanted to create a space that reveals the past, in keeping with the Museum’s mission. We plan to show the evolving history of the building, bearing in mind that what we do today will become part of its history in the future.

Typically, museum design requires very fine detail and material, but that’s not the case in this project. That’s not to say that we don’t want to do the best we can, but the nature of this project requires certain amount of roughness to be revealed so visitors can feel the spirit of the building.

By replacing the existing rundown storefront with floor-to-ceiling windows, we’ll open up the space to create a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. Our goal is that the Center will merge with neighborhood itself, emphasizing that the museum’s work is deeply rooted in its location.

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