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Albright-Knox Art Gallery Announces the Next Phase in its AK360 Expansion Project, with Preliminary Schematic Design for a Freestanding Building on a Park-Like Campus

Museum Will Request City Approval for $155 Million Project Designed by OMA/Shohei Shigematsu

Monday, June 25, 2018

View from Elmwood Avenue toward campus looking northeast

Buffalo, NY, June 25, 2018 — The Albright-Knox Art Gallery today entered a new phase in its AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project, announcing the creation of a new work of signature architecture on the north side of its historic campus. Under the plan developed by the museum with the architecture firm OMA/Shohei Shigematsu, the new building will add 29,000 square feet of space for displaying special exhibitions and the museum’s world-renowned art collection. The new building will incorporate several visitor amenities and is envisioned to have a wraparound promenade that visually connects the interior of the building with the surrounding Frederick Law Olmsted landscape.

In addition to adding to Buffalo’s remarkable architectural legacy, the museum aspires to improve its campus by:

  • building an underground parking structure and transforming the surface parking lot into a vibrant green landscape and gathering place, a green plaza
  • opening a route through the museum from Elmwood Avenue to Olmsted’s Delaware Park, adding a new point of entry and exit on the east façade of the museum’s 1962 Building
  • covering the 1962 Building’s open-air Sculpture Garden to create a new space for year-round civic engagement, open free of charge to the community during museum and program hours
  • creating a new education wing in the lower level of the 1962 Building
  • constructing a signature scenic bridge that connects the new building with the 1905 Building

More refined plans for the expansion will emerge over the next several months during the design development phase of the project as budget and cost estimates come into alignment.

As part of its announcement, the museum unveiled preliminary images showing how the project might evolve as the Albright-Knox and OMA continue to work on the design.

Design development will continue into early 2019. Construction is likely to begin in autumn 2019, with the grand opening of the new Buffalo AKG Art Museum expected in fall 2021.

Fundraising for the project continues to forge ahead, with approximately $125 million raised to date for the $155 million project (including $30 million earmarked to increase the operating endowment). A new $10 million matching challenge announced in late 2017 by Jeffrey Gundlach will also reach its conclusion at the end of 2018, by which time the Albright-Knox hopes to be closer to closing out the $155 million campaign.

Janne Sirén, Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, said, “We are thrilled with the evolution of AK360 into this new plan, which solves all the programmatic and operational challenges the museum has faced while meeting the priorities our community has so clearly expressed to us. Our goal has always been to make the museum a more welcoming, accessible, and inclusive place, physically and philosophically, while adding to Buffalo’s remarkable architectural legacy. Though much work remains to be done, including a multistep approvals process, we are now well on the way toward achieving that ambition, thanks to the vision and collaborative spirit of Shohei Shigematsu and his team at OMA; the leadership of our Board of Directors, including Board President Alice Jacobs and AK360 Project Committee Chair Michael Joseph; the philanthropic vision of our lead donor, Jeffrey Gundlach; and above all to the people of Buffalo, who have been so forthcoming and generous in joining with us to make AK360 a success.”

Michael Joseph, AK360 Project Committee Chair, said, “Architecture is an iterative process, and each step brings with it a new set of aesthetic and technical questions. Sho and his team have presented us with ingenious solutions to complex formal and structural problems. We are fortunate to have a great architect as our partner. The design will continue to evolve during the design development phase that we are now entering. I have every confidence this team can deliver a project Buffalo can be proud of on time and on budget, creating a new landmark for our community and our nation.”

Shohei Shigematsu stated, “The north building comprises three levels offering diverse gallery experiences. Encircling the second level gallery is a double-height promenade, a flexible space with 360-degree views to the surrounding buildings and Olmsted landscape. The building is enveloped by a translucent façade that achieves an open and ephemeral quality and engages the external environment. Layers of visual and spatial connections throughout the north building foster dialogue with the architectural legacy of the Albright-Knox while inviting contemporary audiences to discover the diverse activities within.”

Jeffrey Gundlach said, “I could not be more enthusiastic about the schematic design Sho and OMA have achieved. The green plaza on which reside three individual but interrelated buildings displays the long arc of Buffalo’s rich history. The magnificent 1905 Building is rooted at the center, linked already to the mid-century classic 1962 Building, and soon to be linked to the beautiful 2021 building. Our duty to the present is respect for the past and investment in the future. With sensitivity, beauty, and practicality, OMA’s design creates a unified campus literally bridging great eras of the City of Buffalo.”

Gwen Howard, Chair of the Buffalo Preservation Board, noted, “We have enjoyed working with OMA Partner Shohei Shigematsu and Albright-Knox Director Dr. Janne Sirén over the past eights months in a shared effort to help identify a design solution that enables the museum to address its pressing needs in a manner that is respectful of historic landmark buildings. Our concerns have been heard and we believe the AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project is well on its way to being aligned with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.”

Stephanie Crockatt, Executive Director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, said, “From the outset of the AK360 Project, my team and I—including key Trustees—have appreciated collaborating with Janne and his team. The Albright-Knox has shown profound interest in preserving Olmsted’s legacy, and we are delighted that the new campus building will open new vistas to Delaware Park without encroaching upon it.”

AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project: architectural overview
AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project: architectural overview

AK360 Timeline 

  • June 2016: The museum announced that it had selected OMA/Shohei Shigematsu as its design partner, to help realize the aims for AK360 that the Board, staff, and community had articulated. That same month, Jeffrey Gundlach galvanized the AK360 Capital Campaign with an unprecedented matching challenge, amounting to a $42.5 million gift. 
  • June 2017: The museum announced the completion of the programming and concept design phase of the project—the first of five that will lead to the grand opening. 
  • Summer/autumn 2017: The museum worked with OMA to evaluate and refine the initial concept design, the hallmark of which was the proposal to build two new architectural volumes: one that would hover above the Sculpture Garden of the 1962 Building, and one that would be constructed underground, along the west side of the 1905 Building. As the team continued to study these possibilities, it became clear that the above-ground volume would be too small to accommodate the program the Albright-Knox needed, but if enlarged it would be out of proportion with the adjacent historic buildings and incompatible with their preservation needs. The team considered enlarging the underground volume instead but was reluctant to locate a significant amount of gallery space below grade.
  • November 2017: The museum’s AK360 Project Committee authorized the architectural team to continue studying the initial concept while beginning to explore a second option. This became the proposal that was ultimately adopted and is now being presented for City approvals. It sets aside a space on the north side of the campus large enough for the creation of an architectural statement worthy of the Albright-Knox and the legacy of Buffalo. This major new volume will be connected to the 1905 Building by a scenic bridge that meanders through a grove of oaks. At the same time, the design relocates the existing parking lot below ground, enabling the creation of more than half an acre of green space in front of the museum. Key features of the first concept design—east-west access through the 1962 Building, an education wing, and the creation of a “town square” within the museum—have been integrated into this new schematic design. 
  • November 2017: Jeffrey Gundlach announced an additional $10 million matching challenge grant to further power the AK360 Capital Campaign.
  • Ongoing: Throughout the process of developing the design, the Albright-Knox/OMA team has been in conversation with New York’s State Historic Preservation Office, a committee of the Buffalo Preservation Board, and staff and board members of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. In addition, OMA has been working with expert preservation consultants to ensure that the preservation of the existing historic buildings was taken into account as the initial concept design evolved into the new schematic design.