NEW YORK, NY.-
Brooklyn-based architecture firm Peterson Rich Office's first public art gallery the New York flagship for Perrotin
involves the complete adaptive reuse and redesign of The Beckenstein Building. Constructed in 1890 and located at 130 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side, the building has evolved from residential lofts to commercial use, and now functions as an open, flexible contemporary art gallery and workspace. Because of its scale and varied uses, the building functions more like an institution than a commercial art gallery.
Over the past decade, art galleries have played a central role in the changing character of the Lower East Side. There are fifteen times as many galleries in the neighborhood today as there were ten years ago. Where as the vast majority of these spaces occupy small 300-500 ft2 tenement storefronts, Perrotin has the largest exhibition space, representing a dramatic shift in the neighborhood from small storefront exhibitions, to museum scale, multi programmed, mega- galleries.
Although it is a private art gallery, Perrotin is a very public building unlike many museums, it is free and open to all. A radical transformation of the existing flat terra cotta arch structural system was required to maximize open floor space, to connect all three floors of exhibition space, and to take advantage of the unusually high ceilings.
There are five exhibition spaces, and more than 20,000 ft2 / 1,858 m2 of public space. A dedicated stair built from half-inch blackened steel plate provides continuity and circulation and features a three-story atrium for sculpture display. A bookstore on the ground floor addresses the street and engages different markets than a typical art gallery, while a rooftop garden is used for events.
Architecture & Lighting
Historically, the many international Perrotin spaces light artworks with sunlight. For the New York flagship is was critical that the architects create a lighting strategy that felt continuous with the other galleries. The challenge was that 2 out of the 3 floors have no exposure to sunlight. As a result Peterson Rich Office collaborated with Pierce Lighting Studio on developing a bespoke and highly specific lighting strategy that would mimic even, non-directional sunlight, but maintain flexibility for spot lighting individual works.
Their work started with the existing building, which is historic and structured with terra cotta arch slabs. For the new gallery ceilings Peterson Rich Office rebuilt the arches, not just to function structurally, but to conceal all of the complex infrastructure required in the gallery ceiling including sprinklers, hanging points, security systems, power, and most of all lighting. The arch then became a surface for projecting daylight color LEDs. The soft curve of the arches evenly reflected light back to the gallery floor, creating an even wash across the gallery spaces.
The lights can be dimmed to 0%, and if there is a need for directional spot lights, Peterson Rich Office concealed lighting track within the base of each ceiling arch. This means the gallery can accommodate any type of installation. Since fully opening in 2018 Perrotin has exhibited sculpture, installation, video, performance, and traditional paintings.
The arches provided a lighting strategy that is both maximally flexible and architecturally distinctive.