Michael Maltzan Architecture

March 31, 2003 /

Queens, New York, USA

MoMa-photo-1.jpgPhoto courtesy Museum of Modern Art

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 public.

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".

Photo courtesy Michael Maltzan Architecture

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 stop.

Photo courtesy Museum of Modern Art

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.

Photo courtesy Museum of Modern Art

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 back.

Photo: arcspace

Photo courtesy Museum of Modern Art

Photo courtesy Museum of Modern Art

The Project Space, a forum for contemporary art and video, is a sloping, three sided room cantilevered over the ticket counter.

Photo courtesy Museum of Modern Art

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.

Photo: arcspace

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.

Photo: arcspace

Once the new Manhattan MoMA opens in 2005 MoMA QNS will feature study centers, workshops and permanent art storage.

Sketch courtesy Michael Maltzan Architects
Sketch courtesy Michael Maltzan Architects
Model photo: Joshua White

Drawing courtesy Michael Maltzan Architects
Lobby Level Plan
Drawing courtesy Michael Maltzan Architects
Mezzanine Level Plan

Facts about MoMA QNS

Overall Area:

120,000 ft2 plus 20,000 ft2 basement
Exhibition Space: 25,000 ft2

Executive architects:
Cooper Robertson and Partners


Michael Maltzan

AIA Project Designer:

Kurt Sattler

Project Manager:

Brian Cavanaugh

Project Team:

Dana Bauer
Nora Gorden
Michael Schulman

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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