There are many ways for the Frick Collection to modernize and evolve — without destroying landmarked elements essential to its residential character.

Over the past several months, Unite to Save the Frick has worked with award-winning architect David Helpern to conceptualize a thoughtful, elegant and viable alternative approach. By embracing strategies such as renovation and reconfiguration, this alternative plan proves that the Frick’s stated programmatic desires can be accommodated without sacrificing the Russell Page Viewing Garden, the Reception Hall Pavilion, or the intimate residential experience.

This conceptual alternative from Unite to Save the Frick is one of many possible alternative paths forward and, in sharing this plan, Unite to Save the Frick hopes to provide the Frick’s leadership with constructive input as it considers creative ways for modernizing. The coalition’s alternative concept is a direct response to the Frick’s initial proposed expansion program; Unite to Save the Frick’s plan is accommodating the Frick’s desired program — though not necessarily endorsing it.

Gracious, reconfigured Reception Hall celebrating the Russell Page Garden.

Unite to Save the Frick Alternative Plan: Guiding Principles

Unite to Save the Frick identified three ways by which the Frick might expand without destroying the Page Garden or the Pavilion:

Reconfigure the Frick’s existing warren of spaces now occupied by outdated mechanical equipment and inefficient storage areas;

Excavate below-grade, precedents for which exist in museums in NYC and around the world

Lease or acquire off-site space for offices, storage and/or conservation. Use of off-site premises is a common practice for art collections and museums, and would allow the Frick to convert its historic residence’s second floor offices to gallery space right now.

The USF alternative plan is the result of architect David Helpern’s rigorous research on the Frick’s existing space. He has consulted with one of the City’s top structural engineers to ensure excavation and structural changes are feasible, and with mechanical engineers who have worked on museum renovations. The alternative proposes expansion below-grade, similar to concepts at the British Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Frick’s sister museum Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery in The Hague, Netherlands. Refined spatial efficiency, as was achieved at the redesigned Cooper Hewitt, is a feature of the alternative plan.

In developing his alternative approach for the Frick’s modernization, Helpern preserves the experience of the Frick as a freestanding historic residence. His guiding principles were to preserve the landmarked Russell Page Garden and Reception Hall Pavilion, accommodate the Frick’s desired programs, minimize visual impact on the landmarked site and the historic district, optimize use of existing space, improve access for those with disabilities, and modernize building systems. In his conceptual planning, David Helpern prioritizes and reconfigures underutilized spaces within the Frick. As a result, the plan proposes more than 76,000sf of renovated space and an unobtrusive 9,000sf of contextual above-ground new construction — an approach that preserves the experience of the Frick as a freestanding historic residence.

Unite to Save the Frick Alternative Plan: Key Components

Education and public programming is at the heart of the USF alternative plan, with a large Education Concourse featuring a 220-seat auditorium, new gallery space, an enlarged reception area, improved ADA access throughout the Frick, as well as the option of a cafe. A summary of components follows:

Reception Hall & Connection to Art Reference Library

The USF alternative plan contemplates an expanded reception area in the existing Pavilion, enhanced by its visual connection to the preserved Page Garden. This plan would enable public access to areas such as the enlarged gift shop and a cafe without requiring purchase of a ticket to the collection.

Enlarged Reception Hall // Expanded Gift Shop // Option for Cafe

USF’s plan provides for more spacious guest arrival and increased connection between the galleries and the Frick Art Reference Library. The reconfigured space includes a new, expanded coat check area where the Pavilion meets the Art Reference Library; an expanded gift shop, running along the north wall of the Page Garden (currently occupied by a mechanical yard), the blind arches can be opened to provide natural light as well as views of the garden from the enlarged shop; and the option of a cafe on the second floor of the modest addition, its windows looking out over the Page Garden. The cafe is separated from the galleries to prohibit transfer of food and beverage.

New Gallery Space

Historic Second Floor Residential Rooms Converted from Offices to Galleries – The alternative plan proposes the creation of four new publicly-accessible galleries on the second floor, achieved by converting five rooms currently utilized as offices.

Music Room Converted to Gallery – The coalition’s plan is accommodating the Frick’s initial proposal to modify the circular Music Room and converting it into a gallery. Unite to Save the Frick does not necessarily endorse this alteration and the David Helpern plan notes that the Music Room’s circular character could be preserved and it could still function as a gallery space.

Education Concourse Level

In the USF alternative, the concourse level is used as an education complex. Unlike the Frick’s proposed tower, this education space benefits from horizontal adjacencies acknowledged to to be superior for learning environments. This level would include a 220-person auditorium, classrooms, areas for the display of special exhibits, flexible programming space that could be used for lectures and meetings, as well as related support areas.

Library & Administration

Conservation Facilities – Per the Frick’s wishes, the plan includes modernized conservation facilities (for small Collection items) as well as photography conservation for the Library.

New study space – Per the Frick’s stated desires, the plan creates new study space for visitors to the Collection and the Frick Art Reference Library.

New Offices – The Helpern plan creates additional office space desired by the Frick.

Circulation & Support

Updated ADA access – Key upgrades include creation of new ADA access on 71st Street, via the Frick Art Reference Library, as well as upgrades to ADA arrival points on East 70th Street.

Enhanced Elevator System – To enable elevator access to all public floors of the Frick Collection.

Updated Life/Safety Services – Updates to all life-safety services and egress throughout the entire Frick site.

Service area and freight elevator – A new service area and freight elevator would service both the Frick Collection and the Library.

Consolidation of Mechanical Systems – Updates and consolidation of mechanical systems, as well as optimizing storage, workshops and staff support spaces.