The new Pace Gallery on West 25th Street presents a discreet rectilinear face to its formerly industrial neighbours. From a few steps away, however, a different building gradually comes into view – an expressively contoured white penthouse tops the black massing to rise above Chelsea’s modest skyline. It’s a beacon of what’s inside: a marquee gallery that serves as (another) Manhattan nerve centre for contemporary art.
Situated just west of the High Line – and the assortment of architectural bijouterie now flanking it – the new flagship for Pace Gallery, which now boasts 10 locations around the world, more than doubles the New York hub’s exhibition space and consolidates its operations.
Designed by NYC’s Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture, the 7,000-square-metre building features five floors of indoor galleries and – partially shaded by the double-storey penthouse – a sixth-floor terrace gallery. The exhibition areas range from intimate rooms to open galleries, including a public-facing ground-floor space. Free of structural columns, Bonetti/Kozerski’s design fosters an unencumbered ambiance, full of expansive rooms that belie a relatively compact urban footprint.
On the first floor, the 10,000-volume research library exudes a welcoming, public-oriented presence. The highlight of the room, soaring bookshelves draw the eye up and across the generously proportioned space.
In the main gallery spaces, punctuated by generous windows, careful attention was paid to lighting. A customizable track system by Isometrix Lighting Design responds to both the level of ambient light and the type of art displayed, its combination of hidden fixtures with spot and flood lights facilitating the balance of natural and artificial light as well as intensity and colour temperature. The system accommodates a flexible gallery program, allowing partially sunlit rooms to consistently serve as exhibit spaces.
Outside on the terrace, programming consists of performances and events as well as occasional exhibitions. This space is accessed by a freight elevator with the capacity to transport massive sculptures – and even small food trucks – to the sixth floor. Framed by panoramic views of Manhattan, and paved in handsome blocks of Black Locust wood, it unfolds as a surprisingly breathable and open milieu.
From the exterior, the gallery’s varied program is reflected in the building’s architecture. Through its textured cladding and fenestration rhythm, the rectilinear lower block conducts an aesthetic dialogue with the neighbouring industrial typologies. Quarried from Italy’s Mount Etna, the volcanic stone that clads the volume is humble in appearance but opulent in provenance. Fired at a high heat, the Sicilian stone defines the street wall with a rich and quietly luxurious matte texture.
Then there’s the penthouse. While a pared-down design language defines the street wall, this two-storey volume offers a hint of whimsy. It hosts a flexibly configured gallery dedicated to new media exhibits, live performances and public events. Along the penthouse’s north wall, 5.2-metre-tall windows bathe the space in studio light, while an acoustically sensitive design welcomes an evolving variety of multi-disciplinary programming.
“Designing the building challenged us to re-evaluate what it means to be an art gallery today,” says Bonetti/Kozerski partner Enrico Bonetti. “The contrasts of private and public, indoor and out, art and commerce are all at play in our design. Our hope is that the new space provides a dynamic, inviting setting for Pace, its artists, and visitors from around the world.”
On a stretch defined by adapted warehouses and tenements, the Pace Gallery’s new home pairs a contextually deferential street-level presence with an eye-catching architectural crown. The result is a building that belongs to the neighbourhood – and rises above it.
The contemporary art hub by Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture serves as a subtle new Chelsea landmark.