A rendering of the new Princeton University Art Museum’s exterior.
© Adjaye Associates
The building itself is composed of nine interlocking cubes, or pavilions

The Princeton University Art Museum unveiled plans for its new home, which aims to expand and improve accessibility to the museum’s collections and resources.

“Creating a new museum is a vital investment in the future, at a time when such things feel desperately needed, when we need to be reminded that we will one day gather again in the face of great works of art,” said the museum’s director, James Steward, during a Zoom conversation Sept. 23.

The new design was presented by architect Sir David Adjaye, best known for designing the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017 for his service to architecture.

On a campus that is characterized by collegiate Gothic architecture and a diversity of about 30 other styles, Adjaye said the museum’s design “has its own character” and doesn’t try to mimic the architectural styles of the neighboring buildings. The exterior of the building has alternating rough and polished stone surfaces, and the building itself is composed of nine interlocking cubes, or pavilions. The building will be accessible from all sides. (View images at bit.ly/new-puam.)

The Grand Hall sits at the heart of the museum complex and will function as a lecture hall and performance space.
© Adjaye Associates

The museum will stand in the footprint of the current building, but will double in size. There will now be seven main galleries: Guests will encounter art throughout the ground floor, but most of the gallery space is located on the second floor. The centralized location for exhibitions aims to rid the museum of so-called “gallery hierarchies” in which exhibitions can be judged based on which floor they reside, since each space will be easily and equally accessible. The galleries will have 18-foot-high ceilings and will be bathed in controllable daylight.

The new design offers space for educational activities for both students at the University and K-12 visitors, and for social gatherings, including outdoor terraces that can serve as performance and event spaces for up to 2,000 people. There is also space for a conservation studio, café, museum store, and offices for the museum and the art and archaeology department. Marquand Library will remain in its position within the facility.

“We’re hoping this new building offers a way in which the different divergent parts that were on the site now have a clear layering and a clear relationship that complement each other,” Adjaye said.

The Art Museum will start removing artwork from the building  Feb. 1, 2021, and construction is set to begin June 1, 2021. The target reopening of the new museum is set for fall 2024.