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Inside David Adjaye’s Design for the New Princeton University Art Museum

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In the historic core of its campus, Princeton University will soon receive a new cultural beacon. Unveiled recently, the design for its art museum by AD100 and Royal Gold Medal–winning architect Sir David Adjaye will create a porous, flexible building, a replacement for the current home of the university’s collections on the same site. In collaboration with museum director James Steward and architecture firm Cooper Robertson, Adjaye has proposed a reconstruction that will double the square footage of the existing facility, introduce a contemporary design that references its historic neighbors, and give the museum a new sense of accessibility when it opens in 2024.

<div class="caption"> The entrance hall and Grand Stair provide welcome and access to the second and third floors. </div> <cite class="credit">Photo: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates</cite>

The entrance hall and Grand Stair provide welcome and access to the second and third floors.

Photo: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

The existing museum is a “patchwork of different expansions and times that have been welded together,” so navigating its galleries is difficult and some spaces have become more prominent than others due to visibility, explains Adjaye. Its current form “constrained curatorial opportunities,” adds university architect Ron McCoy, and “did not meet the academic needs of a modern teaching museum and had no dedicated space for public events.” The new three-story building will be composed of seven connected pavilions that allow a substantial number of works to be exhibited at the same time on one level. In addition to creating more opportunities for discovery within the collection, the design plans galleries that alternate in size, reducing the fatigue that sameness can bring to a visitor. “The interior enhances the storytelling of art,” says Adjaye, who cites the triple-height lobby, connected to the existing library, and the Grand Hall, a space at the heart of the building for open storage display or lectures, as other elements of the new museum that will bring students, faculty, and visitors