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Albright-Knox Selects OMA/Shohei Shigematsu for Museum’s AK360 Expansion

Globally renowned architecture firm to collaborate on a project of generational importance for the museum and region

Monday, June 6, 2016

Buffalo, NY – The Albright-Knox Art Gallery has selected the award-winning firm OMA to expand and refurbish the museum’s historic campus. The decision was approved today by the Albright-Knox Board of Directors following a rigorous international search for an architectural partner to collaborate on the museum’s first expansion in more than half a century. The project, entitled AK360, will be OMA’s first art museum project in the United States. It will enlarge and enhance the Albright-Knox, enabling the institution to better serve diverse audiences and to flourish in the twenty-first century.

As design architect, OMA Principal Shohei Shigematsu will spend the next year in partnership with the museum and in consultation with the community to develop a vision for a renewed and revitalized Albright-Knox. The $80 million project—the largest ever undertaken by a cultural organization in Western New York—will significantly transform the museum, enrich Buffalo’s distinguished architectural legacy, and bolster the resurgent cultural and economic life of Buffalo and the entire region.

“Our selection process sought creative approaches to the challenges of expanding and refurbishing the Albright-Knox,” said Albright-Knox Board President Tom Hyde. “At the top of our list, we were looking for genuine sensitivity to our historic buildings and Olmsted campus, which anchor the increasingly vibrant Elmwood Avenue Cultural District. OMA/Shohei Shigematsu have demonstrated their creative approaches to building in complex sites, most recently at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, which also connects parkland and urban landscape.”

“OMA/Shohei Shigematsu are fully committed to an organic design-development process that will unfold in partnership with the Albright-Knox and the broader Western New York community,” said Albright-Knox Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director Dr. Janne Sirén. “Over the next year, we will work together to imagine a renewed Albright-Knox for the twenty-first century, one that includes state-of-the-art spaces for special exhibitions and the display of our world-renowned collection. Educational and social environments will be at the front and center of our project. Through our architectural vision we will aspire to set new standards for how a twenty-first century art museum can activate the transformative power of art and become a place of community engagement—a town green for all.”

“Our project requires an architectural partner with extensive experience in a diversity of contexts,” continued Sirén. “Shohei’s team brings a unique set of credentials in museum and environmental design. We could not have a better partner,” he said, adding, “I am grateful to our Campus Development Committee and Board of Directors for their expert stewardship of the process that has led us to this historic moment and for their extraordinary dedication to this museum and this community.”

Shohei Shigematsu commented, “We are thrilled to be part of this project, which will be important for many reasons including the convergence of historically significant architecture in Buffalo, fostering a more intimate dialogue with the Olmsted landscape setting, answering the need for new exhibition space to display the Albright-Knox’s renowned collection, and positioning the museum to take a leading role in the city’s broader resurgence.”

The Albright-Knox's partner selection process was conducted in partnership with Andrew Bast and Susan Wallace of Zubatkin Owner Representation, LLC. The Albright-Knox and OMA/Shohei Shigematsu will embark upon the next phase of the envisioning process in September of 2016.

Following the announcement of the project in Buffalo, a related event will take place during the Art Basel art fair in Basel, Switzerland. Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director Dr. Janne Sirén, OMA's Shohei Shigematsu, and artist Mark Bradford will discuss the future of art museums and their role as agents of social change. The panel, which is free with museum admission, takes place at the Beyeler Foundation at 5 pm on Wednesday, June 15.

Background to the AK360 Project

For more than a decade the Albright-Knox has explored the possibility of expanding and upgrading its facilities. These enhancements are urgently needed to properly house the museum’s growing collection, mount rotating special exhibitions, and present a dynamic range of complementary educational programs. In 2014, the museum’s Board of Directors unanimously resolved to initiate an ambitious campus development project that will allow the institution to realize the potential it holds for Western New York.

The name AK360 reflects the fact that this will be the third time the Albright-Knox has grown in the course of its 154-year history, each time at an interval of approximately sixty years (in 1905 with its first permanent home and in 1962 with its last expansion). The name also manifests the museum’s embrace of feedback from the community. It marks a dedication on the part of the institution to looking beyond its pressing operational needs and taking a 360-degree view of its position within Frederick Law Olmsted’s Delaware Park as a celebrated cultural resource in our region and as a vital contributor to Western New York’s resurgence.

The Albright-Knox holds an irreplaceable trove of modern and contemporary masterworks, one of the finest collections of its kind in the world. But a chronic shortage of space limits the display and preservation of this cultural and civic treasure. Since the museum’s last expansion in 1962 the collection has quadrupled in size and now contains more than 8,000 works, only 200 to 300 of which can be shown at one time. The AK360 project will double the number of masterworks the museum can display and also will provide state-of-the-art space for presenting special exhibitions. The project will enhance the visitor experience at the museum, creating more space for education, dining, and social activities, while better integrating the campus with the landscape of Olmsted’s Delaware Park. A capital campaign has been launched to fund the project and to increase the museum’s endowment to help sustain a thriving, expanded museum for future generations.

About OMA

The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) is a leading international partnership practicing architecture, urbanism, and cultural analysis. With offices in Rotterdam, New York, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Dubai, OMA has created buildings and masterplans around the world that insist on intelligent forms while inventing new possibilities. OMA New York was established in 2001 to oversee projects in the Americas. Completed work includes the Seattle Central Library, the IIT Campus Center in Chicago, the Prada Epicenter in New York, Milstein Hall for the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University, and the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion, a new building for the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. The Albright-Knox AK360 project will be the firm’s first museum in the United States.

Shohei Shigematsu, a Partner at OMA, has led the firm’s diverse portfolio in the Americas for the past decade. Shigematsu’s designs for cultural venues include a new building for the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, a multi-purpose venue for Faena’s Miami Beach district, and an event space for the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. He has collaborated with multiple artists, including Cai Guo-Qiang, Marina Abramović, Kanye West, and Taryn Simon. Shigematsu has also designed exhibitions for Prada, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Park Avenue Armory in New York. His urban and public space designs around the world include a new civic center in Bogotá, Colombia, and a post–Hurricane Sandy urban water strategy for New Jersey, as well as a food hub in Louisville, Kentucky, and a mixed-use development in Los Angeles. As a design critic at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, he is conducting a research studio titled Alimentary Design, investigating the intersection of food, architecture, and urbanism.

History and Architecture of the Albright-Knox

The Albright-Knox is the sixth-oldest public art museum in the United States and one of the oldest museums anywhere dedicated to the art of our time. Acquiring the finest examples of contemporary creative expression has been the museum’s focus for more than a century and a half. Founded as The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy in 1862, the Albright-Knox today houses one of the greatest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. The Albright-Knox is committed to maximizing the economic and social impact of the museum as a vibrant hub where people from all walks of life can connect with art, ideas, and one another.

At the turn of the twentieth century, industrialist John J. Albright contributed funds for a building to house the growing collection of The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy. Designed by Edward B. Green, the Beaux-Arts marble structure within Frederick Law Olmsted’s Delaware Park was dedicated in 1905 as the museum’s first permanent home. During the middle years of the last century, Seymour H. Knox, Jr., then the museum’s most influential supporter, commissioned Buffalo native Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design a new wing to add social space, modest exhibition space, and an auditorium. The expansion, which adjoins the south façade of Green’s 1905 Building, opened to the public in 1962.

The current plan will allow the museum to add much-needed space for special exhibitions and to display twice the number of masterworks from its remarkable collection. Realizing the expansion, which includes upgrades to the whole of the museum campus, will enable the Albright-Knox to operate more efficiently, provide enhanced service to the community, and anchor a vibrant cultural district in Western New York.

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