Michael Maltzan Architecture
The Museum of Modern Art moved to its temporary quarters in Long Island City, Queens in June 2002, awaiting the completion of a major expansion of its Midtown Manhattan space, by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, scheduled for completion by 2005.
The facade, painted a bright blue, stands as a reminder of the blue tile sheathing of the old Swingline building.
Maltzan has broken the design criteria into four primary
concerns. First, making the temporary nature of the project an
attribute; second, exploring the public identity and voice of the
museum within the context of a limited project life span as well as
within its specific urban surroundings; third, to engage issues
within this type of urban context, which is a kind of transitional
"middle landscape", and finally, the very real and determining
functional goals and objectives set forth by the need to protect
the art, as well as to create a exceptional space for both art and
The architecture is meant to be understood through movement; you have to move in and around the space to understand it. The roof-scape reinforces the idea that movement is the most important aspect of the design, that the identity is temporary. The sequence to MoMA QNS, primarily from Manhattan and mostly by subway, becomes the new threshold, defined by movement, to "cross over".
The overall effect is mesmerizing. Maltzan has created the museum's identity out of almost nothing - some paint, some boxes, a few fluorescent lamps.../ Nicolai Ouroussoff
Los Angeles Times
Arriving by the #7 train visitors experience the roof as
the primary facade as the train moves past a scattered group of
black roof boxes, with white lettering, that slowly align to spell
out "M-o-M-A", then separate again as the train pulls to a
The sequence continues from the street where the MoMA QNS logo reappears on the bright blue facade; partially sandblasted onto the glass doors. Echoing the rooftop the letters temporarily break apart when the doors open.
Once inside the building, the entrance sequence continues as
visitors pass through a small glass vestibule to the Main Lobby
area, then continue along an entry ramp that separates the
new mezzanine, that supports the Cafe and Bookstore, from the
Project Space, to descend again towards the ticket counter in the
From the ticket counter the path leads visitors along a ceiling high wall partition, on the back side of the Project Space, towards the main galleries. The columns have remained as echoes of the building's formal life.
Almost all of the gallery space has remained raw warehouse
space, with polished concrete floors, white walls, and a
black-painted ceiling, that can be rearranged to accommodate
different exhibitions. The exhibition Matisse Picasso, about the
visual relationship between their works, that marks one of
the most fascinating and creative dialogues in the history of art,
is currently installed in the generously scaled galleries.
Facts about MoMA QNS
120,000 ft2 plus 20,000 ft2 basement
Exhibition Space: 25,000 ft2
Cooper Robertson and Partners
AIA Project Designer:
Last updated: December 19, 2013