Albright-Knox, OMA hire preservation firms to guide expansion

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which has faced criticism from preservationists over planned alterations to its 1962 addition, has announced the hiring of two consulting firms specializing in preservation issues.

In a statement released Monday, the gallery announced that it will work with the Buffalo-based group Preservation Studios, New York City-based PBDW Architects and other groups to “review and adjust this initial concept, to make progress toward the first iteration of an architectural design.”

Albright-Knox communication director Maria Morreale said in an email that the hiring of preservation consultants had been part of the gallery’s plan since the fall of 2016, when the timeline for the project was announced. The firms were identified and hired in the spring and summer of this year by OMA, the architect the gallery hired to design the expansion, she added.

According to the release, the gallery will soon announce another series of public meetings on the expansion project and will welcome “continued opportunities for public input, which has already significantly shaped the proposed concept.”

“Based on our extensive experience working with public agencies and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards on many projects with historic preservation components, we are advising the Albright-Knox team as the proposal moves from a concept toward a design,” Yots, the former executive director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

Yots’ firm, he continued, would work to ensure “that the eventual proposal will sensitively address the historic resources on the site, including the Frederick Law Olmsted Park, and the buildings by E.B. Green and Gordon Bunshaft, while providing the critically needed expansion of gallery space.”

Will preservationists again change the course of Albright-Knox expansion?

When the Albright-Knox released the initial renderings showing the framework of OMA’s design for the expansion, preservationists took issue with the plan’s treatment of Gordon Bunshaft’s 1962 addition.

At the heart of their opposition is the gallery’s plan to eliminate the central courtyard and surrounding galleries of the Bunshaft addition, leaving only its glass-box auditorium completely intact and modifying its lower-level galleries into educational space.

Shortly after the renderings were released, Buffalo Preservation Board President Paul McDonnell sent a letter to gallery director Janne Sirén arguing that the plan violated the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for historic preservation and implored the gallery to work with the board to address preservationists’ concerns.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, McDonnell praised the gallery’s decision, saying that it demonstrated officials’ sensitivity to the historic significance of the site and of Bunshaft’s understated addition.

“We’re glad that they’re acknowledging the importance of it and hiring experts to basically protect it,” he said. “We just want to make sure we’re part of the process and I think this makes sure that we are. We’re anxious to sit down with OMA and the Albright-Knox to further discuss their plans.”

Both Yots and Morreale declined to speak with a reporter about what the work of the preservation firms will entail or to discuss the galley’s preservation goals, even broadly.

“We will be sending these updates periodically to let people know where we are at,” Morreale wrote, “but we have nothing further to add at this point.”


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