Exterior of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery at night, 1962

Campus History Timeline

Construction of Albright Art Gallery, 1901

Construction of Albright Art Gallery, 1901

Construction of Albright Art Gallery, 1902

Construction of Albright Art Gallery, 1902

Construction of First Permanent Building

1900–1905

John J. Albright provided the funds to build a permanent home for the BFAA on the museum’s current site adjacent to Frederick Law Olmsted’s Delaware Park. The Board commissioned architect Edward B. Green to design the building, and groundbreaking occurred in spring 1900. The building was intended to first serve as the Fine Arts Pavilion of the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, but construction was not completed until spring 1905.

People entering and leaving the Albright Art Gallery, May 31, 1905

Opening day of the Albright Art Gallery, May 31, 1905

1905

Albright Art Gallery Opens

May 31, 1905

The BFAA’s new building, named the Albright Art Gallery in honor of John J. Albright, is dedicated and opened to the public on May 31, 1905. Attendees view the Inaugural Loan Collection of Paintings, featuring 237 works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Thomas Gainsborough, Rembrandt van Rijn, James McNeill Whistler, and many others.

School of Fine Arts, date unknown

School of Fine Arts, date unknown

1927–1929

Albright Art School Receives Permanent Home

In 1927, BFAA Board Member Colonel Charles Clifton donated funds to renovate the abandoned Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences building on Elmwood Avenue for the Albright Art School. The remodeled building was named Clifton Hall in his honor and opened for art classes in 1929.

1929

Renovations to Sculpture Court

Art Reference Library, 1933

Art Reference Library, 1933

1933

Art Library Established

Seymour H. Knox, Jr., and his mother, Grace Millard Knox, provided the funds to establish an art library for museum staff, the Albright Art School, and the public.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens's Eight Caryatid Figures, 1906–07

Augustus Saint-Gaudens's Eight Caryatid Figures, 1906–07

1934

Installation of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Eight Caryatid Figures

June 5, 1934

John J. Albright commissioned Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create the Eight Caryatid Figures on the 1905 Building. Although they were part of the building’s original architectural design, and were completed by Saint-Gaudens between 1906 and 1907, they were not permanently installed until after funds were secured for their purchase in 1933.

1938

New Wing Added to Clifton Hall

The new wing was added to offer more classroom space for the Albright Art School.

Plans for E. B. Green's proposed additions to the Albright Art Gallery 

Plans for E. B. Green's proposed additions to the Albright Art Gallery 

1943

Edward B. Green Presents Plans for Expansion

July 18, 1943

During his 46 years on the BFAA’s Board, Green saw firsthand the need for expansion. He drafted plans calling for two large galleries built on the north and south porticos, and a large addition, the Elmwood Avenue portico, which included an auditorium, two more exhibition galleries, a library, and offices for staff. The addition would have doubled the square footage of the 1905 Building. It is unclear why this plan did not move forward.

Education Classrooms, ca. 1955

Education Classrooms, ca. 1955

1943

Education Department Moves

Fall 1943

Due to increased demands from schools and the public, the Education Department moved from a single room in the South Wing of the 1905 Building to new quarters on the ground floor, which could be accessed by a separate entrance from Elmwood Avenue.

Plans for second addition to Clifton Hall, 1945

Plans for second addition to Clifton Hall, 1945

1945

Second New Wing Added to Clifton Hall

This second new wing was added to offer yet more classroom space for the Albright Art School.

1956

Director Gordon M. Smith Calls for Urgent Renovation and Expansion

October 1956

In the museum’s 1956 Annual Report, Director Gordon M. Smith called attention to the inadequacy of the museum’s current building and the urgent need for renovation and expansion. The BFAA Board established a Building Committee that began to negotiate with architects and contractors.

Plans for Paul Schweikher's proposed addition to the Albright Art Gallery, 1957

Plans for Paul Schweikher's proposed addition to the Albright Art Gallery, 1957

Plans for Paul Schweikher's proposed addition to the Albright Art Gallery, 1957

Plans for Paul Schweikher's proposed addition to the Albright Art Gallery, 1957

BFAA Board Approves Architectural Plans for Proposed Addition

June 3, 1957

The BFAA Board unanimously approved architectural plans for an addition drawn by Paul Schweikher, Head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. The Board also called for a parking plan from the City of Buffalo, which they delivered in October 1957.

“May the spirit of John J. Albright haunt all those who have a hand in this dark deed.”

Public reaction to Paul Schweikher’s proposed addition to the Albright Art Gallery

1957

Proposed Addition Abandoned after Negative Public Feedback

Fall 1957

After the public responded negatively to Paul Schweikher’s proposed addition, the BFAA Board began to explore other possibilities for expansion, including the construction of a separate building.

Gordon Bunshaft. Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Digital Assets Collection and Archives.

1958

New Architect Selected for Addition

Early in 1958, Buffalo native Gordon Bunshaft, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of New York, was asked to draw up new designs for a separate addition to the Albright Art Gallery.

Workers make improvements to the 1905 Building

Workers make improvements to the 1905 Building

Workers make improvements to the 1905 Building

Improvements Made to 1905 Building Interior

1958

Improvements were made in the areas of climate control, lighting, and storage.

Watercolor rendering of Gordon Bunshaft's proposed addition to the Albright Art Gallery

Watercolor rendering of Gordon Bunshaft's proposed addition to the Albright Art Gallery

Model of Gordon Bunshaft's proposed addition to the Albright Art Gallery

Model of Gordon Bunshaft's proposed addition to the Albright Art Gallery

Gordon Bunshaft, Seymour H. Knox, Jr., and Gordon M. Smith study a blueprint

Gordon Bunshaft, Seymour H. Knox, Jr., and Gordon M. Smith study a blueprint of a floorplan for the new addition, December 14, 1961.

Architect Gordon Bunshaft Presents Plans for Addition

October 1959

From late summer to early fall 1959, Gordon Bunshaft and three of his associate architects presented new studies on the proposed addition and parking facilities. The BFAA Building Committee and the Parks Commissioner approved final plans in October 1959, and they were shared with the public in 1960.

Excavating for the new addition, September 8, 1960

Excavating for the new addition, September 8, 1960

Raising the Auditorium, December 21, 1960

Raising the Auditorium, December 21, 1960

Structural shell completed, February 17, 1961

Structural shell completed, February 17, 1961

Placing the windows in the Auditorium, August 14, 1961

Placing the windows in the Auditorium, August 14, 1961. Photograph by Charles Brandreth.

New Addition Constructed

July 6, 1960–January 1, 1962

Groundbreaking for the new building took place on July 6, 1960. In early 1961, the structural shell was completed and work began indoors. Minor changes were made to the front entrance and parking plan in October 1961, and work was completed in late 1961. The addition was funded by $1,400,000 from the Seymour H. Knox Foundation and nearly $500,000 from BFAA Board Members, among other donors.

Cleaning of the 1905 Building, 1961

Cleaning of the 1905 Building, 1961

1961

1905 Building Renovated

Plans for the new addition also called for much-needed renovations to the interior and exterior of the 1905 Building.

New York State Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller gives the keynote address

New York State Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller gives the keynote address during the dedication ceremony of the new addition, January 19, 1962

1962

New Addition Opens

January 19–21, 1962

On Friday, January 19, 1962, the museum’s Gordon Bunshaft–designed addition was dedicated by New York State Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and the museum was renamed the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in honor of its patron Seymour H. Knox, Jr., and his family. The Members’ Opening of the addition took place on January 20 and the museum officially opened to the public on January 21, 1962.

People line up outside the newly reopened Clifton Hall

Reception for the reopening of Clifton Hall, May 29, 1992

1989–1992

Clifton Hall Renovated

This long-awaited renovation addressed the museum’s need for more exhibition and storage space, and provided visitors with a resource center that included an expanded art reference library (renamed the G. Robert Strauss, Jr. Memorial Library), slide and videotape libraries, and a study center. The building reopened to the public on May 22, 1992.

1998–1999

1905 and 1962 Buildings Renovated

In January 1998, the museum received $2 million in federal funding for the repair and rehabilitation of its buildings, including the replacement of the air-handling systems in the 1905 and 1962 Buildings. After completion, the museum was equipped with state-of-the-art heating, air-conditioning, and humidity controls that met strict federal guidelines and complied with recognized museum standards for conservation.

2001–2013

Planning for Growth

In 2001, the Albright-Knox embarked on a period of planning for growth, with its Strategic Plan calling for “a major architectural project on the museum’s campus.” In 2005, the museum produced the 21st Century Space Study, which identified options for greater visibility of the collection and included a possible addition, and the 2006 Vision for Growth further explored these possibilities. In 2008, the BFAA Building Committee developed a Campus Master Plan, a Land-Use History, and a Museum Operating Financial Model to assist in the hiring of an architectural firm to design a new addition. In 2010, Gluckman Mayner Architects developed a Master Plan for Growth that addressed space needs and options for expansion. In 2012–13, the architectural firm Snøhetta produced a Master Plan for Growth that included three possible general approaches for the future, all of which point to a pressing need for spatial and programmatic convergence.

The Albright-Knox launched its current AK360 Campus Expansion & Renovation Project during the Annual Meeting of the membership on October 1, 2014. From October 2014 to January 2015, the museum held a series of outreach sessions to ask AK Members and the public to share their ideas about the future of the museum. On March 2, 2016, the museum announced its intention to select an architectural design partner for an expansion at its Elmwood Avenue campus.

Produced by Paget Films

Albright-Knox Launches AK360 Project

October 1, 2014

The OMA team and Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director Dr. Janne Sirén at the Albright-Knox

The OMA team and Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director Dr. Janne Sirén at the Albright-Knox. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

2016

Albright-Knox Selects OMA for AK360 Project

June 6, 2016

After an extensive review of proposals from dozens of world-class architects, the Albright-Knox selected the award-winning architectural firm OMA to expand and refurbish the museum’s historic campus. The project will be OMA’s first art museum in the United States. OMA Principal and Design Architect Shohei Shigematsu will partner with the museum and consult with the community to develop a vision for a renewed and revitalized Albright-Knox.

Learn More about the AK360 Campus Expansion & Renovation Project