The Park Avenue Armory in New York has unveiled designs by Herzog & de Meuron that will transform the historic building into a modern art and performance venue. Plans include space for public programming as well as artist studios and rehearsal rooms.

Rendering of Herzon & de Meuron's design for the revitalization of the Colonel's Reception Room at Park Avenue Armory. Courtesy Park Avenue Armory. Image by Herzog & de Meuron.




Most familiar to the public is the Armory's 55,000-square-foot drill hall, a large industrial space that has long been the site of art fairs and, recently, Whitney Biennial installations and oversized art projects, including those by Aaron Young, Ernesto Neto, Christian Boltanski and Ryoji Ikeda.

The Armory has already come a long way. Ten years ago, it was named one of the "100 Most Endangered Historic Sites" by the World Monuments Fund. Constructed between 1877 and 1881, it also boasts five stories and 18 period rooms designed by such figures as Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, the Herter Brothers and Pottier & Stymus, which will be restored. As part of the unveiling, Herzog & de Meuron restored two period rooms on the second floor to provide a preview of the overall project. In addition to refurbishing historic elements, they added lighting, furniture and treatments like chainmail curtains and copper furniture and lighting fixtures. Each room will also be wired for audio/visual recording and other functions.

A 99-year lease on the Armory was acquired by the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy in December 2006 from the Empire State Development Corporation. Since then, $73 million has been invested in stabilizing the building, adding climate control and other infrastructure. The estimated cost of the project is $200 million; no capital campaign has been formally announced.

"We are treating the Armory like a living monument  . . . Our method is not preservation in the traditional sense, where the original state of a building is reconstructed to simulate the historical original. Instead, we are revealing the physical traces the building has produced over time," said Herzog in a press statement.

In the drill hall, the duo will remove lower walls that were added in the mid-20th century to reveal iron trusses reaching from the ceiling to the floor. The trusses will support a state-of-the-art production grid-supplying lighting, sound and power-for performances. The basement level of the drill hall, once used as a rifle range, will contain dressing rooms, workshops and storage.

The Armory has long housed a city shelter for women, which will be moved to the fourth floor from the third and fifth floors, with a separate entrance on 67th Street.

Upcoming events at the Armory include performances by STREB, Shen Wei Dance Arts and, on New Year's Eve, Merce Cunningham Dance Company's farewell. Tinkerer Tom Sachs has been commissioned for the next art project, in May 2012. He plans to simulate a live mission to Mars using equipment and settings made from his trademark materials-fast food and designer packaging, duct tape and other everyday materials.

Rendering of Herzon & de Meuron's design for the revitalization of the Colonel's Reception Room at Park Avenue Armory. Courtesy Park Avenue Armory. Image by Herzog & de Meuron.