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Architects' museum design wins award for excellence.

Noted New York architectural firm, Gruzen Samton, has received the prestigious Art Commission award for Excellence in Design for their plans to renovate El Museo Del Barrio, located at 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street in East Harlem.

The award, presented by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, represents the culmination of a long process of design review and approvals from the various city authorities having jurisdiction over the milestone project.

In developing the architectural concept for the Ground Floor and Courtyard renovation, Gruzen Samton was guided by several design goals: to give El Museo the architectural prominence it merits for its expanded role representing the art and culture of all Latin America and the Caribbean; to strengthen El Museo's role as the northern anchor of Museum Mile by projecting its visual presence onto 5th Avenue; to create a city wide destination point for the museum-going public, as well as a center of art for the Upper East Side neighborhood of East Harlem; to make the museum more open and accessible for the community and the larger general public by creating a more colorful, visually animated vibrant space; to enhance the quality of the multi-tenant building for all the constituents of the building; and to create a cafe that both invites the community and generates jobs in East Harlem.

William Singer, AIA, Senior Associate at Gruzen Samton, the Project manager for the project, confirmed that this was "truly a collaborative effort among El Museo, the NYC Department of Design and Construction, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the design team. The success of the endeavor is confirmed by the award from the NYC Arts Commission, which encouraged the design team to act boldly in its creation."

Jordan Gruzen, FAIA, partner in charge of design for the project, states, "The fundamental idea of the design is to connect the street with the courtyard and with the lobby, both spatially and visually. This, in turn, creates a stronger relationship to Central Park, unifying these elements and providing a sense of accessibility and the spatial sequence of layering." Anthony Manzo, the Project Designer, continues, "The architectural scheme incorporates four basic devices: 1) a projecting metal canopy, or "wrap," surrounds the courtyard to reinforce the horizontal transparency of the spatial relationships;

2) a new glass wall replaces the masonry wall of the existing facade to allow natural light to flood into the lobby during the day, and to project a glowing light to the exterior at night; 3) a lattice of wood slats extending from the north courtyard wall to the rear wall of the Lobby reinforces the transition from the Courtyard to the interior; and 4) the new cast stone interior and exterior paving materially anchors the inside to the outside."

The "wrap," an undulating surface and constructed of white metal, in addition to being a canopy, functions at various points along its length as a wall, a display space and a seating area, where it is surfaced with stone.

The prominent Courtyard pylon will act as a lighted beacon at night while also structurally supporting El Museo's Fifth Avenue banner. In daytime, the pylon's prismatic shape will glisten as it visually anchors the north end Of Museum Mile and reinforces El Museo's location.

The lattice-work acts as a backdrop for the Courtyard, located across from the Cafe, and supports banners, artwork or projection screens for various events. Inside the lobby, it serves as a decorative wall surface, while in the retail space it becomes a book and product display system.
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Title Annotation:Construction & Design; Art Commission award; El Museo Del Barrio
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 4, 2004
Words:586
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