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Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum Exploring Expansion

Recent articles in The New York Times and the Washington Post reported on a master plan by the Manhattan architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle for the expansion of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The museum is housed in the landmark Carnegie mansion, along Museum Mile on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The master plan reportedly calls for building three new floors approximately 60 feet below ground.

But according to Jennifer Northrop, the museum’s communications director, there are still no definite plans for an actual expansion. Says Northrop, “We are still at the very early stages of an analysis of the feasibility of an expansion.”


The Cooper-Hewitt bills itself as the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. It was founded by the Smithsonian Institution, which acquired the 64-room Georgian mansion in 1972 and hired the architect Hugh Hardy to convert the building into a museum. But currently, the museum has only has only 8,000 square feet of gallery space. Most of the rest of the building is devoted to a library, research facilities and administrative offices.

The space constraints hamper the museum’s operations. “It is no secret we don’t enough exhibition space and we have to close for a couple of weeks between exhibitions which is a significant loss of revenue, “ says Laurie Olivieri, the museum’s press manager, adding that in many cases, the museum doesn’t have enough space to take traveling exhibitions from other institutions.

Alex Ulam