About: The Museum's Building

Renovation and Climatization (2007–13)

The Museum launched a number of major construction projects between 2007 and 2010. While renovating approximately 47,500 square feet of space, the majority of these projects included improvements to our climate control. This effort, which addresses the lack of air conditioning and humidity control in the original century-old building, will be continued over the next decade in order to create ideal conditions for the collections and our visitors.

Beaux-Arts Court. In 2007, we began an important project to address the severely deteriorated state of the original glass-block floor of the 10,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts Court, the Museum's largest public space. A new floor was built over the damaged floor, while preserving the original. The floor consists of laminated glass panels, each the size of the original pre-cast concrete panels underneath. The new panels were set on a steel frame, and new hand-set marble mosaic tiles and pre-cast terrazzo, matching the original, were set between them.

Beaux-Arts Court

Beaux-Arts Court with new floor, 2008

The original floor panels are obscured but still visible through the new glass. This approach allows for the creation of a new, structurally sound floor constructed of entirely new materials while all existing historical fabric remains in place. Moreover, in the Great Hall, located directly below the Court, the original coffering is now visible, as a result of removing the panels once installed under the vulnerable glass-block floor (in effect, the Hall’s ceiling) as a protective measure. From the Great Hall, the view upward to the original glass blocks is essentially as built, and the amount of light transmitted is not noticeably reduced.

This work was funded by the New York State Legislature and private donations. It received a 2009 Project Award from the Construction Management Association of America, Metro NY/NJ Chapter. Architects for the project were Polshek Partnership.

Kevorkian Gallery. The Museum’s Kevorkian Gallery, on the third floor, has for many years housed twelve ancient alabaster reliefs that came from Nimrud, a site now within the borders of modern Iraq. This long gallery was originally built with its floor slightly lower than the adjoining public spaces at either end, necessitating stairs as well as mechanical lifts to serve people with disabilities. To eliminate these disruptions, a new, sloped floor was built. The reliefs remained safely in place during construction. New railings, lighting, and signage were also installed. Architects for the project were Polshek Partnership.

Kevorkian Gallery floor design (detail)

Design for sloping floor (detail), Kevorkian Gallery, completed 2009. Polshek Partnership Architects

Contemporary Art Galleries. Despite our large and growing collection of contemporary art, there had never been a permanent gallery devoted to this work. With new walls, flooring, and lighting, areas formerly devoted to art storage on the fourth floor were transformed in 2009 into a 6,000-square-foot gallery for the display of contemporary artworks, with rotating installations from the collection. (New art storage facilities are being constructed elsewhere in the building.) The construction expense was provided by private donations. The project was designed in-house by the Planning Department working with curators and the Design Department.

Contemporary Art Galleries

Contemporary Art Galleries, 2008

Service Extension. The completion of the two-story service extension added 15,000 square feet of space to the Museum in a new structure set into the landscape along Washington Avenue. The extension houses significant mechanical equipment to provide climate control capacity for upcoming renovations and provides a loading dock exclusively for the shipping of artworks. Offices and facilities for the handling and storage of art are also incorporated, as are major upgrades to electrical and communication systems. The service building, which was funded by the City of New York and private donations, received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification in 2009. Architects for the project were EwingCole.

Service Extension

Service extension and loading dock, 2009

Basement Renovation. A total transformation of the Museum’s basement began in 2009 and was completed in 2010. While providing 32,000 square feet of fully renovated offices and work areas for security, operations, engineering, carpentry, painting, printing, and food service, the project was driven by the need to extend climate-control ductwork from air handlers in the Service Extension throughout the building, where it will be connected to galleries as they are renovated. In addition, the renovation included extensive upgrades to our electrical, fire alarm, sprinkler, standpipe, security, and data systems. The basement renovation was funded by the City of New York and private donations. Architects for the project were EwingCole.

Great Hall. In June 2010, we began a multi-phase effort to transform our visitors' experience when entering the building. The first phase, completed in March 2011, involved renovation of the Great Hall, directly adjacent to the main lobby, to create a dynamic introductory gallery, giving visitors an inviting overview of our vast and complex collections. The project included construction of four large central display walls and installation of ductwork for climate control, new gallery lighting, and electrical and sprinkler systems. The introductory gallery installation, Connecting Cultures: A World in Brooklyn, opened in April 2012. The renovation of the Great Hall was funded by the City of New York and private donations. Architects for these projects were Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership).

Great Hall with Connecting Cultures installation, 2012

Great Hall with Connecting Cultures installation, 2012

During the second phase of the project, our Shop and Café were relocated to open directly into the main lobby, and extensive structural changes were made to improve access and views from the lobby into the Great Hall. The new, larger Shop, which opened in April 2012, was designed by Visbeen Associates and named Best Store Design at the Gift & Decorative Magazine Retail Excellence Awards.

Rubin Lobby, 2013

The first-floor Rubin Lobby, with entrances to the Shop, Great Hall, and dining, 2013

Saul restaurant and bar interior

Saul restaurant and bar, 2013

The Café, recently renamed The Counter, now includes a terrace for seasonal outdoor seating. Designed by Ennead Architects and Beer Associates, it reopened in 2012 and is designed to take advantage of natural light and floor-to-ceiling windows along what was formerly a wide corridor, where the Williamsburg Murals have been reinstalled. In addition, Michelin-starred Saul restaurant and bar, designed by Brooklyn-based Uhuru, opened in a new dining area adjacent to The Counter. Spaces formerly occupied by the Café, kitchen, offices, and storage were renovated to create the new, larger Blum Gallery for special exhibitions, also on the first floor.

Fine Lines exhibition in Blum Gallery, 2013

Blum Gallery with exhibition Fine Lines: American Drawings from the Brooklyn Museum, 2013

Work associated with the Great Hall will continue through 2014 with the renovation of the African and Asian galleries, which encircle the Hall on the first and second floors. On the second floor, wall sections will be opened, creating a visual connection between the second-floor galleries and the Great Hall. New glass and steel stairways will connect the Great Hall directly to the second floor. Completion of mechanical systems will result in stable temperature and humidity for all first- and second-floor galleries. The Great Hall projects have been funded by the City of New York and private donations.

Ennead Architects rendering, 2013

Rendering of the proposed stairway from the Connecting Cultures installation to the Asian galleries, Ennead Architects, 2013

Climate Control Progress. Completion of the Great Hall projects is anticipated to take place in 2014 and will finalize the work on climate control begun in 2007. To date, climate control projects have added 15,000 square feet of new space, renovated about 130,000 square feet of existing space, and provided the basic infrastructure upgrades to all building systems that will be needed to continue renovation throughout the rest of the building.

The Brooklyn Museum is a publicly funded institution that receives operating and capital support from the City of New York through the Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York City Council. Additional support is provided by the Brooklyn Borough President.