New building planned for the Princeton University Art Museum

Princeton University Art Museum. File photo.

Princeton University will replace its art museum in the center of a campus with a new building at the same site. The new museum will provide more space for exhibitions, classrooms and offices.

Sir David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates has been selected as the design architect for the new museum. Cooper Robertson is the executive architect for the project.

Adjaye is the principal and founder of Adjaye Associates, with offices in London, New York and Accra, and projects in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. His work spans residential, commercial, corporate, retail and arts and civic institutions. He is also known for his frequent collaborations with contemporary artists on installations and exhibitions.

His largest project to date, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2016. He designed the central pavilion and main exhibition spaces for the 56th Venice Art Biennale with curator Okwui Enwezor in 2015.

In 2017, Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people of the year by TIME magazine. He received the Wall Street Journal Innovator Award in 2013 and the 2016 Panerai London Design Medal from the London Design Festival. From 2008 through 2010, Adjaye was a visiting professor at Princeton.

“Sir David Adjaye is a renowned architect who has designed superb buildings for some of the world’s most admired cultural institutions,” said Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber. “Having taught on this campus, he understands fully what the university and the art museum are looking to accomplish.”

Sir David Adjaye. Photo: Ed Reeve via Princeton University.

Adjaye Associates’ work includes the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway, the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and the Sugar Hill mixed-use social housing and museum scheme in Harlem, New York. Ongoing work includes the Ruby City art center for the Linda Pace Foundation in San Antonio, the new home for the Studio Museum in Harlem, the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London, the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra, and the headquarters of the International Finance Corporation in Dakar, Senegal.

“Sir David Adjaye is among the most exciting architects working today, whose work operates in diverse ways, but whose museum work always begins with the object,” said James Steward, director of the art museum. “We look forward to shaping a facility that is worthy both of Princeton and of the extraordinary collections now in our care.”

Adjaye Associates and Cooper Robertson have collaborated on several projects. Cooper Robertson is an award-winning firm based in New York City. Recent projects include the Whitney Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Cleveland Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art.

The Princeton University Art Museum has been collecting art since 1755. Its collections have grown to include more than 100,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The museum employs a staff of 100 people.

Adjaye said he is excited to shape the future of a top university art museum that is one of the oldest art collecting institutions in America.

“Defining a powerful center of cultural gravity at the heart of one of the greatest universities in the world, the new Princeton University Art Museum building will engage with its campus and vibrant communities through a new synthesis of art, learning and social opportunities,” he said. “The reimagined museum will be the cultural gateway between Princeton University, its students, faculty and the world, a place of mind-opening encounter with art and ideas in the service of humanity.”


  1. Side note regarding the above file photo which shows the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz: “Big Figures,” the grouping of 20 headless bronze figures outside the building’s front entrance that had been on loan for five years from an anonymous donor. I believe it was installed in 2004.

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