The 2021 AIA Rochester Design Awards Presentation occurred on Friday, June 11, 2021, where the Visitor Center at the George Eastman Museum took home a Merit Award in the Institutional Category. Design began in 2017 and construction broke ground January 2020 on the addition and renovation project. The design team included Flynn Battaglia Architects, Siracuse Engineers, Pathfinder Engineers & Architects and Bayer Landscape Architecture. Christopher Less, AIA, Michael Lennon, RA and Project Manager Megan Brooks sat down with AIA Rochester's Director of Practice & Design Michael Trapanovski to discuss the project.
From the award submission:
The project consisted of creating a Visitor Orientation Center for a historically significant house museum. Prior to the project, the facility had incrementally evolved over many decades leaving a circuitous and inefficient circulation system, multiple floor levels and the main entrance distant from the visitor parking. Site topographic conditions were equally challenging with a gently sloping property with stairs facing visitors at all entrances points.
Our overall given program goal was to centralize circulation at one point, adjacent to parking, serving staff and all visitors with admissions and visitor amenities including an enhanced café and gift shop. Another objective was connection of the two main theatre spaces with this new lobby creating a focused hub of all museum activities.
The design for the new Visitor Center was conceived of as a lighted “vitrine” atrium carefully preserving the historic fabric of the original residence, situated midway between the house and the museum. The atrium accomplished several technical and program goals, not only weaving numerous site and floor level changes into an imperceptibly sloping continuous floor level, but also creating a visually distinct, iconic entrance point for all museum activities. Housing the main admission desk, security and reception space, this space allows immediate access to the existing Theatre, the new concourse, bookstore and café, orienting visitors to the museum and tours of the house.
A significant site feature of the new facility is the Colorama, a framework for the display of large-scale images originally created as transparencies for Grand Central Terminal in New York. This feature creates an interesting frame for the newly landscaped courtyard/drop-off area with the added benefit of screening the existing cooling towers.