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Art museum gets architect for expansion

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Museum and city officials selected Grimshaw Architects, which recently opened a New York office, to head up the project, which may also include a culture and arts branch of the Queens Borough Public Library, museum Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl said. The British firm has designed structures in more than half a dozen countries around the globe, including the downtown Fulton Street Transit Center. And despite the firm's London address, Finkelpearl said the design team is more than qualified to lend a hometown air to the institution's current home, the New York City Building constructed for the 1939 World's Fair."Everybody on this team lives in New York City," Finkelpearl said. "That's very important to us. (The project) is not going to have any kind of cross-Atlantic communication problems."As part of the expansion and renovation plan, the museum will occupy the remainder of the 105,000-square-foot New York City Building in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Finkelpearl said officials also were discussing plans to open an arts and culture satellite branch library.Interior modifications will be wrapped in a new facade more appropriate to the museum's mission, Finkelpearl said."There are two different huge opportunities here," said Finkelpearl. "One is the Grand Central Parkway and the other is the park."He said the museum's design had to raise its profile, making the institution more visible and welcoming to the thousands of parkgoers and drivers who cruise by on the parkway every day.Grimshaw was chosen from eight pre-selected firms in the city's Design and Construction Excellence Initiative after the museum announced it would no longer be working with California-based Eric Owen Moss Architects, which won an earlier design competition. Finkelpearl said museum officials simply were not convinced the firm's designs would work for the project.Finkelpearl said the design team change will not slow the $28.5 million project because construction cannot begin until the neighboring ice rink moves into a new home in the park. "We have two years before we can even put a shovel in the ground," he said. The project will take about four years to complete, he said.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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