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The Brooklyn Museum
Style: Social Gatherings
An age old museum with a rich heritage sports a new architectural perspective for the future of its service to the community.
One of New York City’s great historical monuments, the Brooklyn Museum, was originally a library and one of the oldest in the United States. It was established in 1823 as the Brooklyn Apprentices Library to serve and educate tradesmen. Over the years the library grew and in 1845 formed the Brooklyn Institute. By this time the Institute had already acquired a substantial collection of paintings and sculpture. In 1890 further expansion plans led to the commission of a grand new museum structure.
The design for the new museum, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, came from the drawings boards of the esteemed architectural firm of McKim Mead and White. These architects were no strangers to grandeur, classic proportions and fine detail. Their first design for the museum in 1893 was an enormous complex of connected building wings. Each building wing was defined by a central pavilion with a domed ceiling. The most impressive by far was the sky-lit Beaux-Arts Court. Construction began in 1895, however the museum’s grand plan was never fully realized. When Brooklyn became incorporated into New York City in 1899, its collections could then be stored or exhibited with other City museums. By 1926, McKim Mead and White’s plan was only 25% completed.
By the mid-20th century the original building had deteriorated while museum administrators continued to evaluate its strategic objectives. Sadly, many of the original features of the building were demolished, including the grand exterior stair and much of the interior Beaux Arts detailing.
There have been additions and modifications over the last 40 years, but the most dramatic and impressive is the Rubin Pavilion, completed in 2004. The Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion and Lobby is comprised a glass-enclosed structure that provides a new entrance to the museum and a bright daylight-filled lobby space.The Rubin Pavilion was designed by the Polshek Partnership, and their design sought to “replace”, however abstract, McKim Mead and White’s grand entrance stair that had sadly been removed, notably while the architects were out of the country.
The Rubin Pavilion is available after hours for corporate receptions and sit-down dinners. In addition, the historic Beaux-Arts Court, restored in 2001, provides a dramatic event space of enormous interior height with great architectural character.
Images courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
New York 11238-6052