SculptureCenter renovation project wins prestigious award

By Bill Parry

In October, the SculptureCenter completed a 14-month, $4.5 million expansion and renovation that modernized the facility at 44-19 Purves St., which was once a trolley car repair depot.

Last week it was announced that the center will be honored with a prestigious award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy for the careful way it carried out the project that transformed a century-old building into a large art institution.

On April 30, the SculptureCenter will be one of nine recipients of the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards, also known as the “Preservation Oscars,” which are the Conservancy’s highest honors for excellence in preservation. The project was designed by architect Andrew Berman who has also done work for the New York Public Library and MoMA PS1.

“The Moses Awards celebrate terrific preservation projects,” Peg Breen, the Conservancy’s president, said. “Several of this year’s winners demonstrate how historic building can be adapted to meet contemporary needs and economic vitality in neighborhoods across the city.”

The project created a 2,000-square-foot addition and upgrade to its original structure built out over an adjacent vacant lot. The new structure is a modern entrance lobby with several amenities that augment the studio space, including rooms for ticketing, orientation and visitors’ services such as a bookshop, seating and restrooms as well as an enclosed courtyard for outdoor exhibitions.

SculptureCenter was a pioneer in 2001, when it joined the burgeoning art world of Long Island City, purchasing the brick building that was built in 1908 and still bears a faded sign reading “Derrick and Hoist Co. Inc.” Famed architect Maya Lin designed a renovation that enabled the space to open, with the understanding that the institution’s needs would be fully met with another phase of expansion.

When it opened in 2001, there was virtually nothing else on the dead-end Purves Street. Now the SculptureCenter is surrounded by sleek luxury residential towers.

The completion of the project, half of which was paid for by the city and the rest by private donors, allows the non-profit center to further its mission to nurture the work of emerging artists.

“SculptureCenter is honored to receive this year’s Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award,” the center’s executive director and chief curator, Mary Ceruti, said. “Andre Berman’s sensitive and thoughtful expansion and renovation honor the dramatic steel and brick structure of the existing building while creating a stronger street presence as well as generously proportioned new spaces for the production and display of sculpture. As the neighborhood becomes populated with more glass and steel, we felt it was important to preserve some of it industrial history.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.