Founded two hundred years ago, the New-York Historical Society was conceived as a private club for antiquarians. That culture was subsequently embedded in the design of their building on Central Park West, a structure that impeded previous efforts to make the institution more welcoming and accessible to the general public.
As architects for the Society since 2005, PBDW completed a $60 million campaign of interior and exterior renovations to change the image, appearance, accessibility, and principal spaces throughout the museum. The redesign was led by a dynamic new administration and reopened on 2011.
A master plan was developed early in the process. The resulting design made the building more visible, more inviting, and more accessible by reconfiguring the entrances on Central Park West and 77th Street and adding doors, ramps, and handsome front steps, as well as enlarged windows, new signage, and exterior lighting.
The ground floor, formerly a warren of spaces, has been transformed into a single gallery featuring the highlights of the collection. We upgraded other galleries and the museum store in a similar fashion with new walls and ceilings, lighting, and climate control.
Halfway through construction the Society asked us to renovate their neoclassical auditorium into a space that would support a variety of media productions and live performances. We completely reconfigured the layout and added a balcony, with excellent sight lines from every seat. New finishes, new lighting, and an 80’ wide screen make the auditorium the setting for a dazzling introductory video and the centerpiece of a robust slate of public programs.
The institution is continually developing ways to engage and inspire the public through the retelling of American History. The newest transformation PBDW lead is the 10,000 square foot 4th floor renovation, which opened in the spring of 2017. The scope includes the first of it’s kind gallery dedicated to women in American history, and a revision of the Luce Center. PBDW were the architects of record collaborating with the Design Architects, Eva Jiřičná of London and Prague for the Tiffany Gallery and a dedicated educational technology center for students. The renovations work with the embodied form and space of the historic building and activate the 4th floor by elevating ceiling heights to express the existing roof structure, increase flexibility and energy efficiency through lighting and environmental controls. We freshened the look with materials that complement the existing historic materials of the building while freshening the look with sustainable materials that bring out the gleam of the artwork while protecting the health of the public and artifacts. The project is LEED Gold certified.