Maya Lin's Museum of Chinese in America Opens
MOCA's new home by the acclaimed designer significantly expands the museum's programming while going green.
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 9/28/2009 12:00:00 AM
With humble beginnings as the New York Chinatown History Project, the Museum of Chinese in America now expands its scope to a national level—in newly expanded digs by acclaimed artist and designer Maya Lin. While retaining its previous location on Mulberry Street in New York’s Chinatown, MOCA has opened its new home on Centre Street, positioning itself on the borders of Chinatown and the gallery neighborhoods of SoHo and NoLiTa.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg participates in the museum’s Eye Dotting ceremony; traditional lion dance performed following the Eye Dotting ceremony. Photos by Sheila Kim
At the official opening on September 22, Lin was joined by the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to speak on the significance of the new museum, as well as to participate in a traditional eye dotting ceremony that signifies the institution’s springing into being.
The museum entrance and Journey Wall. Photo courtesy of Maya Lin Studio/Museum of Chinese in America; the museum's designer, Maya Lin. Photo by Sheila Kim
“New York City draws its vibrancy and richness from the diversity of its population, and people of Chinese descent have long played a role in shaping the city,” said Bloomberg. “By supporting cultural institutions like the Museum of Chinese in America and helping them expand, we celebrate New York City’s diversity now and for future generations.”
The museum’s Shum Wai Yau courtyard. Photo by Sheila Kim; View of the lobby and reception desk. Photo courtesy of Maya Lin Studio/Museum of Chinese in America
A long-time supporter of MOCA, Maya Lin has transformed the site, a 14,000-square-foot former machine shop, into a bi-level exhibit and administrative center that exudes, at once, both quiet elegance and New York industrial chic.
“With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America” exhibit; Shum Wai Yau courtyard stairs. Photos by Sheila Kim
“The space was designed to show the dynamic presentation of the Chinese American story, as an integral part of the greater, and continually evolving, American story,” says Lin. That story begins with the minimalist Journey Wall, situated just inside the museum’s main entrance. Bronze plaques are emblazoned with family names of Chinese Americans being honored or memorialized, as well as of donors.
Exhibit detail from “Here & Now: Chinese Artists in New York.” Photo by Sheila Kim
At the center of the museum’s new home is the sky-lit Shum Wai Yau courtyard, which Lin intentionally left untouched to preserve the history of the space, as well as to evoke imagery of a traditional Chinese courtyard house. Here, short biographic films on Chinese Americans from the 1850’s to the present are projected onto glass panels surrounding the courtyard. Meanwhile, the museum’s core exhibit, “With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America,” presents a history of the Chinese American experience in the upper levels surrounding the courtyard. A revolving exhibition space is currently presenting “Here & Now: Chinese Artists in New York” part one through November 2, 2009.
Incorporating sustainable practices into this renovation project, MOCA hopes to attain a LEED Silver rating.