Rubin Pavilion and Lobby (2004)
The Museum opened its dramatically redesigned front entrance and new public plaza on April 17, 2004. The new entrance pavilion rectifies the architectural imbalance, as well as resolving the practical issues of access, that had remained since the original monumental staircase was removed in 1934. Polshek Partnership Architects developed the design concept for this multi-staged, $63-million-dollar capital construction project.
With the nineteenth-century Beaux-Arts facade as a backdrop, a multistory sheer-glass entrance pavilion, named the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion and Lobby, provides a dramatic architectural connection between the interior of the building and the exterior surroundings, while bringing natural light into the formerly dark interior. The new 15,000-square-foot shingled-glass pavilion, recalling the staircase of the original McKim, Mead & White entrance, combined with the renovated lobby area of nearly 9,000 square feet, creates an entirely new entrance facility, comprising close to 24,000 square feet. It more than doubles the size of the previous lobby area. Among the amenities is a new, full-service Visitor Center offering information, ticketing, and a range of services to the public.
Within the pavilion, the brick support piers that once housed the five front doors have been “excavated,” restored, and left permanently exposed, showing the foundations of the institution both structurally and symbolically. Beneath the floor of the pavilion is a new basement area, measuring nearly 16,000 square feet, which houses the mechanical systems for new and future climate control of the building. In addition to the main pavilion level, there are two further, exterior levels: an elevated promenade, above the new entrance pavilion, provides inviting views into the interior as well as a sweeping overview of the plaza and the surrounding neighborhood; and above the promenade, the preexisting third-floor portico has been expanded and repaved with limestone slabs that match the original facade.
As part of the entrance pavilion project, construction of a new public plaza on the north side of the building was completed in 2004. The front plaza area encompasses more than 80,000 square feet, much of it reclaimed from what was once a large, unused, fenced-in area, which is now entirely open to the public. The new plaza area includes a “front stoop” providing multiple options for programming as well as areas for informal gatherings. It also includes two water features created by WET Design, the firm that designed the famous fountains at the Los Angeles Music Center and the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. One of the features, a fountain, provides a versatile array of vertical “dancing” water jets that may be programmed in a variety of dynamic patterns. The other water feature, a shallow reflecting pool over black granite beneath a spiral outdoor ornamental stair, is on the west side of the entrance pavilion. The plaza area also features permanent benches along with numerous cherry trees and other plantings.