Construction starts on Adjaye-designed Princeton University Art Museum


Construction has begun on the new Princeton University Art
Museum, a new building on the site of the former Museum in the Princeton

Roughly doubling the square footage of the existing
facility, the 144,000 s/f facility significantly increases spaces for display,
learning and visitor amenities. The Museum, which will occupy three stories,
will insert itself dynamically into campus life with key pedestrian pathways
flowing into and through the building via two “art walks” — thoroughfares that
function as the new building’s circulatory spine.

 A grid of nine pavilions breaks down the scale of the complex into more intimate modules and allows for deeply varied gallery experiences. The building’s exterior will be characterized by rough and polished stone surfaces responding to the campus surroundings, as well as signature bronze details throughout, alternating solid elements with more transparent features that speak both to the present moment and to the historical Princeton context.


 The architect Sir
David Adjaye, whose firm, Adjaye Associates, is best known for its design of
the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, was
selected as the project architect in 2018. Cooper Robertson is the executive

With expansive and growing collections of more than 112,000
globe-spanning works of art from antiquity to today, the Princeton University
Art Museum is a major center for the study of the humanities and the visual
arts in the United States.

The new facility will also house Princeton’s Department of Art
and Archaeology and Marquand Library; together, the three units will continue
to function as a leading site for research and teaching.

 The design overcomes
multiple historical barriers to participation, making the visual arts an
essential part of the University experience for all Princeton students and an
accessible home of democratic engagement for community members and visitors.

Contracts were awarded in June 2021, and over the summer demolition began on the former Museum complex, most of which dated to periods of construction in the 1920s, 1960s and 1980s.

 “David Adjaye’s
design for Princeton reflects our deep commitment to the values of openness,
transparency and interconnectedness for our campus constituents, local communities
and global audiences,” said James Steward, the Museum’s Nancy A. Nasher–David
J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “It’s a remarkable opportunity both to
build on the past and to shape a new museum at this particular historical
moment, and in doing so to make clear the important role museums can continue
to play in an ever more complex world.”

Princeton’s art collections date nearly to the University’s
founding in 1746 — the first work of art was acquired in 1755 — making
Princeton one of the oldest collecting institutions in North America.

Working closely with Adjaye Associates, James Corner Field Operations has developed the landscape design for the site, preserving the nearby historically important Prospect Garden, as well as the mature canopy of elms and beeches along McCosh Walk, on the north edge of the site.

A number of historically important or specimen trees are being
preserved — including a 100-year-old dawn redwood — while other rare trees have
been relocated to different locations on the Princeton campus. Those trees that
had to be felled will be repurposed by regional artisans into furniture or
household furnishings that will be sold through the Museum Store. The landscape
features native species and drought-resistant plantings for year-round

With demolition expected to be complete this month, concrete
foundations to be poured starting this month and construction continuing into
early 2024, the Museum has undertaken a number of strategies to maintain its
scholarly and public impact during the years of disruption.

 It is operating two
gallery spaces in downtown Princeton within walking distance of the campus:
Art@Bainbridge, a project space privileging installation work by emerging and
early-career artists in an historic Revolutionary-era building, and Art on
Hulfish, a larger gallery space of a more industrial character. Two outdoor
exhibitions are also planned, beginning with the video work of the artist Doug
Aitken. In addition, the Museum will be touring four exhibitions to museums
across the United States and Mexico while construction is carried out.

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