Sperone Westwater is one of New York’s leading galleries – its relocation from Manhattan’s Lower East Side to the Bowery represented a milestone in the area’s reinvention as an artistic hub. The new building is both a response to the Bowery’s urban character and rethinks the way a viewer traditionally engages with art in a gallery context.
The narrow site, which measures just 25 x 100 foot, is typical of Bowery lots. The result is a building whose verticality is naturally emphasised. Its focal point is a 12 x 20 foot moving room – both a physical response to the gallery’s dynamic programme and a kinetic addition to the street. Contained within a bright red box, the gallery rises gradually to connect the upper four floors and is visible through the translucent, milled glass facade, its gentle pace contrasting with the activity of the city and traffic outside. In a flexible spatial arrangement, the exhibition space can be extended at any given floor by parking the moving room, whereupon an additional lift and stairs provide alternative routes up through the building. The room’s exposed concrete shaft and mechanics draw on an aesthetic and scale appropriate to the building’s context which, albeit in transition, remains largely industrial, while the volume in which the room rises provides a thermal and acoustic buffer zone for the galleries.
Visitors enter a double-height exhibition space and move up to a mezzanine level, which looks out on to a sculpture terrace. This arrangement creates views up through the building, promoting a natural sense of orientation and encouraging exploration. The building’s external form relates to the scale of its neighbours and articulates the changing internal functions, the setback at sixth-floor level aligning with the parapet of the adjacent tenement blocks and marking the location of the gallery offices.