Bronx Museum of the Arts

Bronx Museum of the Arts in The Bronx, New York by Arquitectonica

When one visits the Bronx Museum of the Arts and its new North Building by Arquitectonica, one can't help but think that the relationship between old and new is unresolved. Sure, there's a link between the 2006 expansion and the existing (a 1960s synagogue with late 80s addition) but the new zig-zag seems too far removed from the old boxes to create a pleasing assemblage. This feeling, though, is justified when one learns that this expansion is only the first phase in the museum's expansion plans.

In its current state, Arquitectonica's addition sits back from the corner now occupied by a greenhouse-like structure, the museum's former entrance. In the long-term plan, the pleated facade of the new design will continue to this corner at 165th Street with a new residential building zig-zagging its way above the museum. Nevertheless, the current zig-zag on the Grand Concourse makes its own statement while also recalling some of the old building stock that take similar, though less avant-garde, formal liberties.

The pleats of the new entry may appear arbitrary at first glance, though the architect contends that the windows admit the site's predominantly western light without damaging the art. Two vertical strips face south while three vertical strips face north; the latter most likely won't require any window treatment for sunlight infiltration. Given these considerations, it still appears that the architect strove to relate the automobiles rather than the pedestrian, a situation that makes sense coming from a Miami-based architect for a building situated on the Bronx's own grand boulevard.

When one moves within the pleats, the feeling is one of disappointment, especially because the building fails to effectively engage these zigging and zagging openings. With stacked floor slabs extending to this facade and a fairly typical white-box interior, the effect is one of not only economy but lack of imagination. Perhaps this will be remedied with future expansions, though for the time being it's incomplete in more ways than one.