WAN Awards 2015


WAN Mobile
WAN Mobile
Previous Next

Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York, United States

Monday 27 Sep 2010

Elevating art

Wade Zimmerman 
Your comments on this project

No. of Comments: 0

Add comments | More comments

Be the first to comment


The Sperone Westwater Gallery makes its Bowery debut 

Foster + Partners new Sperone Westwater Gallery on the Bowery opened last week to much fanfare.  Like the little engine that could, this small gallery packs a wallop of design ideation into a modest 25ft x 100ft footprint.  Located a stone's throw from SANAA's New Museum, the gallery holds its own with that building, echoing its spare expression and its desire for openness, yet does so with a dash of colour that draws attention to the building's big design move - a moving gallery room visible from the street, that is destined to be a crowd pleaser.  

Facing the enormous challenge of how to get large works of art up to the galleries, which are located on the second to fifth floors of the eight-storey building, Foster came up with the idea to have the freight elevator serve also as exhibition space.  It was, as Foster said, ‘a Eureka moment'.  Visible from the street, the travelling gallery moves slowly up and down the building's façade and can be locked into place to extend the exhibition space.   But the big surprise that the room has in store for visitors is revealed at entry, where one learns that the moving gallery room shares a footprint with the lobby.  From inside the lobby, visitors are treated to a show when the overhead room takes off on its voyage leaving the lobby to quickly fill with natural light.

Witnessing this transformation is magical and impressive, but it leaves one to wonder whether Foster's shining moment was planned or the result of some quick thinking on his part to transform an unintended consequence of a design decision into the building's main event.   As the moving gallery does not travel to the ground level, where it could function to move large works of art works from the street to the galleries, and instead relegates this function to a second, much smaller elevator, it raises the possibility that the room was intended to travel to the ground floor. It seems logical to be the case, as to accept the moving gallery room as designed, the client would have had to been on board with forgoing building approximately 1000 sq ft of permanent gallery space in lieu of this 240 sq ft marvel.    Regardless, Foster has recast a freight elevator as high art and for a contemporary art gallery one could argue that there can be no better purpose served.

Beyond the building's lobby, is a series of exhibition spaces that vary in proportion and ambience. At street level there is a double height, 27ft exhibition space with a sky-lit gallery, a mezzanine floor, a sculpture terrace overlooking a park and private viewing galleries on the fourth and fifth floor.   A setback at the sixth floor marks the location of the gallery's administrative offices.

In designing the Sperone Westwater Gallery Foster + Partners has risen to the challenge of designing a proper gallery space in less than ideal quarters. In its choice of materials, its detailing and its inventiveness, it has given this gallery a dynamic presence on the Bowery while positioning it as a serious player in the contemporary art world.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

Key Facts

Status Completed
Value 0(m€)
Were you involved in this scheme?
Foster + Partners

More projects by this architect

Mexico City International Airport

RMK Headquarters

Yacht Club de Monaco

Hankook Technodome

30 St Mary Axe

First and Mission Towers

Maggie’s Centre at The Christie

551 West 21st Street

Norton Museum of Art

Bund Finance Centre

Faena House

SSE Hydro Arena

The Bow

Lenbachhaus Museum

Apple HQ

Queen Alia International Airport

Vieux Port Pavilion

ME Hotel

Faena Aleph Residences

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

New York Public Library

50 United Nations Plaza

Interview: Vishaan Chakrabarti

Grand Central Terminal Masterplan

425 Park Avenue Tower

Hongqiao Vantone SunnyWorld Centre

Cuba School of Dance

Musee de la Romanitee Narbonne

Shanghai Bund International Financial Centre

Datong Art Museum

Vieux Port

Hearst Tower

Masdar City

Jameson House

Thames Hub

Thames Hub

Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space

Kuwait International Airport

Edmond J. Safra Campus, Hebrew University


Slussen Waterfront

CITIC Bank Headquarters

Washington Convention Center

BMCE branches

Zayed National Museum

Harmon Hotel

Art of the Americas Wing, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Faustino Winery

VietinBank Business Centre

Banco Ciudad de Buenos Aires

Fortaleza Hall


Langley Academy


Quatermile Phase 1

Campus Biometropolis


980 Madison Avenue, New York

Vivaldi Tower

Incheon Free Economic Zone

Beijing International Airport

Heathrow Terminal 2

Walbrook Square

Spaceport America

Russia Tower

The Zénith

Slussen Regeneration Masterplan

Aurelis Mixed Use Complex

Camp Nou

Riva Hotel

UAE Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010

Capella Resort

Hermitage Plaza

The John Spoor Broome Library


Russia Tower

Hearst Tower

Al Faisaliah Tower 2

Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, Smithsonian Institution

The Aleph

The Walbrook

Ruskin Square

U2 Tower

Clarence Hotel

Black Sea Gardens

Rimini Waterfront

State Street Corporation Fenway Entrance

Ernst & Young Headquarters

Elephant House, Copenhagen Zoo

Parke-Bernet Gallery, Upper East Side

The Willis Building

The Dolder Grand Hotel

The Index

Beijing Airport

Capella Singapore

Crystal Island

Black Sea Gardens

Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts

United Arab Emirates Pavilion

Abu Dhabi Plaza

Beach Road

Camp Nou Stadium

Capital Airport

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Building

Dresden Station Redevelopment

Living Wall

Mixed use tower

Faustino Winery, Gumiel de Izan

Masdar Development

Editorial - Wembley Stadium

Seattle Civic Square

Clarence Hotel, Dublin

980 Madison

Khan Shatyry Entertainment Centre

980 Madison

The Bow

Lenbachhaus Museum

Serrenia residential resort and hotel

Elephant House at Copenhagen zoo

Hearst Tower

Central Market scheme

Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building

Tower Two

Palace of Peace

Milano Santa Giulia

St Paul’s Church, Onslow Square

Walbrook Square

Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts

Latest Jobs in New York

California Licensed Senior Architect

Business Development Manager


Click here to view the NEWS IN PICTURES tablet site