Construction begins on Princeton University Art Museum designed by Adjaye

Construction has begun on the New Princeton University Art Museum, a new building on the site of the old Princeton Campus Museum.

Roughly doubling the footprint of the existing facility, the 144,000 s / f facility significantly increases the spaces for display, learning and visitor amenities. The museum, which will occupy three floors, will dynamically fit into campus life with key footpaths circulating in and through the building via two ‘art walks’ – pathways that function as the circulatory backbone of the new building. .

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


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

With vast and growing collections of over 112,000 works of art spanning the entire world from antiquity to the present day, the Princeton University Art Museum is a major center for the study of the humanities and the visual arts in the United States. United.

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

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

The contracts were awarded in June 2021 and over the summer demolition began on the old museum complex, most of which dated from the construction periods of the 1920s, 1960s and 1980s.

“David Adjaye’s design for Princeton reflects our deep commitment to the values ​​of openness, transparency and interconnection for our campus members, local communities and the global public,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher -David J. Haemisegger, class of 1976 of the museum. , director. “This is a remarkable opportunity both to build on the past and to shape a new museum at this particular historic moment, and in doing so, to clearly show the important role museums can continue to play in a world. more and more complex. ”

Princeton’s art collections date almost from the founding of the University 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 developed the site’s landscaping, preserving the nearby, historically significant Prospect Garden as well as the mature elm and beech canopy along McCosh Walk. , at the northern limit of the site.

A number of historically significant trees or specimens are preserved – including a century-old redwood – while other rare trees have been moved to different locations on the Princeton campus. The trees which had to be felled will be reused by regional craftsmen in furniture or furnishings which will be sold through the museum shop. The landscape features native species and drought tolerant plantations for year round interest.

With demolition due to be completed this month, with concrete foundations to be poured starting this month, and construction continuing through early 2024, the museum has put in place a number of strategies to maintain its scientific impact. and public during years of disruption.

It operates two galleries in downtown Princeton within walking distance of campus: Art @ Bainbridge, a project space emphasizing installation work by emerging and early career artists in a historic revolutionary-era building, and Art on Hulfish, a larger gallery. of a more industrial nature. Two outdoor exhibitions are also planned, starting with the video work of artist Doug Aitken. Additionally, the museum will visit four exhibits at museums in the United States and Mexico during construction.

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