NEW YORK, NY.-
On Saturday, June 23, 2018, Swiss Institute
, New York's beloved contemporary art non-profit, opened its new home a 7,500 square foot building in the heart of the East Village at 38 St Marks Pl. Originally a bank, the building has been transformed into a versatile space open to the public free of charge.
SI has worked closely with Selldorf Architects to create a more accessible and inviting location for the institution than had been possible previously. Since its foundation in 1986, SI has held temporary leases at spaces throughout the city, primarily in Lower Manhattan. Its new home at 38 St Marks Pl, built in 1954 by New York architecture firm Alfred Hopkins & Associates, was purposely designed as a bank; the building has undergone major renovations to accommodate SI, and is the first location in the non-profits over-thirty-year-history that was designed to its specifications and in direct dialogue with artists.
The building is divided amongst four stories, including galleries for exhibitions and public programs, a library, a Printed Matter bookstore, and a usable rooftop terrace and garden. While educational programming has always played an important role at SI, the dedicated library, public programs room, bookstore and rooftop are all firsts for the nonprofit, allowing SI to dramatically enhance its mission, with education as a new cornerstone of its activities. "The ability to engage with such a vibrant, high-traffic neighborhood is unprecedented for SI, and will further our mission to bring free arts programming to an ever-expanding community", said Director Simon Castets.
Facilities and programs are also made more accessible through open floorplans, as well as a new elevator that is ADA accessible. The elevator is also an example an opportunity for an artist installation; the palette for the interior surface finishes was chosen by artist Pamela Rosenkranz, who selected a color resembling that of a human tongue. The work is part of SI ONSITE, a series of semi-permanent, specially commissioned artworks at 38 St Marks Pl to celebrate the new building and highlight its potential as a long-term space for display and engagement.
The Rooftop Terrace & Garden will house several commissioned sculptures, and overlook Manhattan's skyline. SI will channel Switzerlands tradition of welcome and multilingualism, with signage at the entrance of the new building reading Free Admission in the four official spoken languages of Switzerland (German, French, Italian, and Romantsch), as well as the three most commonly spoken languages in the surrounding neighborhood (Chinese, Spanish and English).
Selldorf Architects has maintained the buildings character, refurbishing materials where necessary and selecting new ones in response to the original architecture. The distinctive exterior comprised of a cream-colored brick façade with a black granite base, limestone surrounds, and pressed aluminum spandrels was cleaned and restored.
As a non-profit that prides itself in providing many emerging artists with their first institutional solo exhibitions in the U.S., SIs move to 38 St Marks Pl enables SI to stage more simultaneous exhibitions. While the new building will occupy the same amount of square footage, the dedicated gallery space is now divided amongst several floors, with additional galleries located in the basement maximizing flexibility..
The first floor originally served as the space where clients and bank tellers would interact, and contained a portion that was only accessible by the staff, including a private staircase and secured vault. Now the space is fully open to the public with a welcoming lobby that includes a reception area, a bookstore, as well as a large open gallery space and an intimate gallery that was previously used as the bank vault. In addition to the double entry doors, an operable window and 17'-7" ceilings on the ground floor will accommodate larger artworks, allowing SI to stage exhibitions of works of significant scale that were previously unimaginable.
A new steel and concrete public staircase with a glass storefront on the second floor was added on the southwestern corner of the building, serving as a convenience stair for visitor use. The second floor, previously the office space for the bank, will be used as a multi-purpose space, and will also contain a library, art storage, and restrooms. SIs own office space is located across the street at 117 2nd Ave, allowing for as much of the new building as possible to be dedicated to exhibitions and programming to serve the public.
The rooftop has been reinforced, and now serves as a garden terrace that will host various art installations and is fully accessible via the new elevator and two staircases. A trellis on the Southern edge of the building offers shade and is seen from the street level, while visitors enjoy artist Michael Wang's SI ONSITE installation comprised of aluminum planters housing endangered plant species as well as Valentine Carrons Vecchio Cuore, 2018 a heart-shaped pine dance floor and views of Manhattan's skyline.