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Sneak peek: the newly expanded Queens Museum (slide show)

We got a first look at the still-under-construction Queens Museum (formerly the Queens Museum of Art) in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, opening fall 2013.

  • Grimshaw Architects

    Rendering of the Queens Museum post-expansion (2013)

  • Grimshaw Architects

    Rendering of the Queens Museum post-expansion (2013)

  • Grimshaw Architects

    Rendering of the Queens Museum post-expansion (2013)

  • Grimshaw Architects

    Rendering of the Queens Museum post-expansion (2013)

  • Grimshaw Architects

    Rendering of the Queens Museum post-expansion (2013)

  • Grimshaw Architects

    Rendering of the Queens Museum post-expansion (2013)

  • Grimshaw Architects

    Rendering of the Queens Museum post-expansion (2013)

  • Grimshaw Architects

    Rendering of the Queens Museum post-expansion (2013)

Grimshaw Architects

Rendering of the Queens Museum post-expansion (2013)


Though long admired for its awe-inspiring Panorama of the City of New York and community outreach, the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park is poised to regain much of its original grandeur thanks to a state-of-the-art expansion-cum-renovation that will double its size to 105,000 square feet. Sky-lit galleries, artist studios and classrooms, and a new façade and entryway on the Grand Central Parkway side are just some of the features of the new space, which until four years ago was home to a public ice-skating rink. Designed by Grimshaw Architects (the firm behind the Fulton Street subway station and the city's most recent newsstands), the two-year-plus construction project wraps up in fall 2013 when the museum reopens as the Queens Museum. "We're changing our name because we're doing so much that is not art-related," says external affairs director David Strauss, referring to the institution's mission as a cultural center for the most multinational borough in the city. We took a private hard-hat tour earlier this month, where we got the scoop on what families can look forward to doing when the museum reopens.

Chill in an airy atrium
The centerpiece of the 50,000-square-foot addition is a vast, light-filled open space that Strauss calls a "sunken living room," with steps that are intended for people to hang out on. It's flanked by roofless art galleries designed to soak up the light provided by the enormous, partially electric skylight overhead, designed to turn direct sunlight (bad for artwork) into bounced, reflected light (good for viewing art and for the art itself). Symbolizing the museum's cultural openness, the space was designed as a gathering place for visitors on their way to and from the museum's galleries and classrooms.

See art in the new galleries, plus an artist at work
As we reported back in February, the museum kicks off its opening with an exhibition of work by puppeteer and theater icon Peter Schumann, founder of the Bread and Puppet Theater. A large multimedia installation will occupy the largest gallery space, but he'll also design a chapel in one of the two "blackout" galleries at the far end of the new space and paint an enormous mural on a new 60' by 80' wall. In fact, the artist will be finishing the mural up for several weeks after the museum opens, meaning visitors will have a chance to watch Schumann at work. The museum's Queens International biennial and a gallery showcasing Tiffany works will be on view as well.

Explore the city's watershed system
In another of the space's back galleries, visitors will get to see a new permanent exhibit: a 660-square-foot scale model of the New York watershed system that acts, says Strauss, as "the perfect complement to the Panorama." The model, originally built as a WPA project, was recently found in a storage room and is being refurbished for the reopening.

People-watch people watching art

A new V-shaped, 1960s-channeling stairway, which echoes the shape of the tridents of the adjacent Unisphere, lets families ascend to a mezzanine-level glass bridge to survey the bustling scene below and the park outside. The stairway's walls and steps are glass too, like those of some Apple Stores, adding even more lofty vantage points.

(Re)visit the Panorama

Do not miss the museum's pride and joy since the 1964 World's Fair: the magnificent Panorama of the City of New York, the 9,335-square-foot scale model of the city dreamed up by Robert Moses that today includes every one of the 895,000 buildings constructed before 1992. The exhibit isn't moving but is getting a modest makeover of its own: Its former day-to-night cycle, which allows the panorama to be viewed as a city at night (think twinkling lights), is being restored, and once the Freedom Tower is complete, the Twin Towers will finally be removed to a display case and replaced by a replica of the new skyscraper.

Explore the building's past

In a nod to the edifice's origins as the New York Building, an NYC-themed pavilion constructed for the 1939 World's Fair, a new exhibit in the museum's original space showcases ephemera—postcards, plates, spoons and ashtrays among them—from Queens' two World's Fairs. Kids will flock to such souvenir tchotchkes as mini dinosaurs, replicas of the animatronic dinosaurs housed in the World's Fair's GE Building, pocket knives and vintage posters. Coming in 2014 is an interactive, virtual-reality tour of the World's Fair grounds designed especially for kids.

Go out and come back in

One of the makeover's most exciting additions is the new entryway facing Grand Central Parkway. The line of trees blocking that door was, says Strauss, "a missed opportunity" to let motorists (currently numbering about 244,000 a day) know the museum is there. Remedying that in a big way, the museum moved the trees, relandscaped the grounds and is adding an illuminated 220-by-27-foot glass wall facade with Queens Museum written on it in large letters. Art installations on the lawn in front of it are in the works as well. The new entrance, Strauss says, "allowed us to reinvent what the building was: Not only would this be a museum but also a gateway to the park." In fact, says Strauss, visitors are welcome to traverse the museum, if they wish, for the sole purpose of getting to the park and its magnificent Unisphere on the other side.

The Queens Museum reopens in fall 2013.


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