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Programming and Concept Design

The Albright-Knox recently held an event to share the progress of its AK360 campus development project with the community. Below are the key needs the museum gathered during a series of previous public outreach meetings, along with the architectural solutions for each. This concludes the museum’s Programming and Concept Design phase of the project, and allows the museum to move into its Schematic Design phase.

AK360: Architectural Program Needs

  1. Refurbish/renovate existing buildings
  2. New, flexible exhibition space with state-of-the-art lighting, security, and moveable walls
  3. Art loading dock
  4. Events space for galas, etc. that seats 260–360 people and is serviced by a catering kitchen
  5. Consolidate staff offices  
  6. Incorporate restaurant/café with ability for access off-hours
  7. Gift shop with street-level access
  8. Improved landscaping and pedestrian access and circulation throughout the entire AK campus
  9. Inspiring educational spaces/classrooms
  10. Improved parking configuration (potentially underground)
  11. Inspiring and welcoming entry hall

Throughout the Programming and Concept Design phase, which began in September of 2016, the museum has progressed iteratively and in close collaboration with Shohei Shigematsu and his team of specialists at OMA. The museum has aspired to find a way to satisfy each of the eleven Architectural Program Desirables identified by Albright-Knox staff, the Board of Directors, and the Western New York community without occupying more parkland and without visually blocking the façades of Green’s 1905 Building or Bunshaft’s iconic 1962 Auditorium.

OMA conceived the architectural solution of introducing two new interconnected volumes: one that overlooks Delaware Park (New Construction 1) and another placed within the park immediately to the west of the 1905 Building (New Construction 2). This volume placement solution satisfies all 11 of the Architectural Program Desirables that have guided the AK360 endeavor, providing magnificent vistas from all directions, and leaving 
the sightlines to the historic façades of the museum’s existing buildings unobstructed.

The south façade of the 1905 Building and the north façade of the 1962 Building will be encased within an architectural shell and linked by a new Welcome Hall that also reconnects the park and the city through public museum space.

On May 4, 2017, the AK Board of Directors convened and approved OMA’s proposal for a five-part architectural program consisting of the following elements:

  1. New Construction 1: Floating Volume 

  2. New Construction 2: Park Gallery 

  3. Significant Renovations and Adaptive Reuse
of the Historic 1905 and 1962 Buildings 

  4. Integrated Landscape and Site Work 

  5. Underground Parking 

Inspired by Olmsted’s bridge designs, the Welcome Hall beneath the Floating Volume will become the hearth of the future museum, a nexus of activity, educational programs, and community engagement. In every season, it will serve as an indoor town green, connecting all 50,000 square feet of exhibition space with the new state-of-the-art Education Wing, a restaurant, an orientation gallery, Shop AK, a Sculpture Mezzanine, the Auditorium, and underground parking. This piazza-like gathering space that connects the city with the park and the classical with the modern will be accessible from the east side, fronting Hoyt Lake, and the west side, fronting Elmwood Avenue.

The Welcome Hall is envisioned as a space that will be free to all, from curious runners utilizing the park to families stopping in for a brief visit. Visitors who proceed to the museum galleries upstairs will be welcomed by bright, expansive exhibition spaces and never-before-seen park vistas.

The Park Gallery will have north and south-facing light wells to allow the landscape to spill into the space, and will be directly accessible from the adjacent below-grade parking structure. Since the ground on the west side of the 1905 Building was disturbed by the construction of the 1962 Building and the present-day parking lot, it is void of its former trees and any cultural artifacts. The Park Gallery will be covered by an inhabitable roof that will beckon visitors and serve as a stage for future events.

As for other essential museum functions, the new Education Wing will be located below the Auditorium. The bulk of staff offices will be located in Clifton Hall, which will be fully renovated and made ADA accessible. What are now the outdoor roofs of the Executive Corridor and AK Café will become, respectively, a Sculpture Mezzanine and a social space where visitors can enjoy light refreshments. In the new Buffalo AKG Art Museum, visitors will be able to walk directly from the South Galleries of the 1905 Building to the Auditorium on the mezzanine level while enjoying magnificent views toward Hoyt Lake.

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