Queens Museum
The Queens Museum $69 Million Renovation & Building History

Special to AAQ East End by Jan Garden Castro

The Queens Museum’s $69 million dollar expansion process began in 2005 with the selection of Grimshaw architects, along with prime consultant Ammann & Whitney. Their overall objectives included doubling the space for exhibitions and education, making the Museum more visible to vehicular and Park traffic, and creating an open, town hall central entry area. The museum’s new footprint is 105,000 square feet. New galleries, performance and event spaces, new educational workshops, and enhanced office and other back-of-house facilities greatly improve the functionality of the Museum, especially for its use by school groups.

Some striking design features include a metal and glass west entrance canopy, a new glass front entrance, and skylights that bring daylight into the open central area. The light can be adjusted to accommodate for exhibitions, such as the Warhol exhibition, that require low light due to fragile materials. A suite of six galleries surround the central atrium and louvers in the ceiling control the amount of light in each space. On the front of the building, programmable LED lighting will permit new signage. Some trees have been cleared so that the museum is more physically and visually accessible to visitors in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and to those passing by on the Grand Central Parkway.

The expansion allows the Museum to better serve the diverse communities of Queens–and New York as a whole–by providing increased capacity for educational programs, additional flexible performance spaces for public events, and a range of new gallery spaces to display permanent and temporary exhibitions. A curving glass staircase leads visitors to the second story spaces and to the building’s updated 1964 attraction – a model of the City of New York that took 100 people three years to create. The expansion was funded mostly by the Borough of Queens, the office of Michael Bloomberg, and the state and city of New York.

The history of the Queens Museum building and its Architects

The building was created as the New York City Building* for the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Corona Park. From 1947 – 1952, it became the first headquarters for the United Nations. Between 1952 – 62, the entire building became an ice skating rink. In 1964, it served again as the New York City Building for the World’s Fair, and the southern half of the building became the World’s Fair Ice Skating Rink. In 1972, the Queens Museum of Art was created in the northern half of the building. Architect Rafael Vinoly remodeled the museum interior between 1990 – 1994.

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and associates became involved in the Museum’s renovation in 2005. Once the Queens Museum renovations were well under way and a new ice skating rink had been created, the old rink was demolished in 2009-10.

The Grimshaw Partnership, with offices worldwide, has other projects including the planning and architecture for the Caixa Galicia Art Foundation in SA Coruna, Spain and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami, slated for completion in 2015.

Queens Museum: www.queensmuseum.org


— Jan Castro (www.jancastro.com) is an art historian and author based in Brooklyn. She is is Contributing Editor at Sculpture Magazine; her “In the Studio” blog is posted at Sculpture.org.

Queens Museum

Queens Museum, 2014. Photo by David Sundberg, Esto. Courtesy Queens Museum.

Visit: AAQ / Portfolio / Architecture — Queens Museum


* Editor’s Note: The New York City Building was originally designed for the 1939 World’s Fair by architect Aymar Embury II, who designed Guild Hall, East Hampton, in 1930. 




 Long Island Expressway (LIE) to Grand Central Parkway West. Exit the Grand Central at the first exit, Tennis Center (9P), turn right and follow signs to Museum.

Located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens.