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Peabody Essex Museum

Ennead Architects

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Peabody Essex Museum


  • Architect: Richard Olcott, FAIA


40,000 sq. feet



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Project Description


The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has announced an updated expansion and facilities plan, an array of infrastructure improvements and new programmatic initiatives as elements of PEM’s landmark $650 million advancement campaign, one of the largest art museum campaigns in the country. As one element of PEM's updated expansion and facilities plan, the museum will construct a new 40,000-square-foot wing for galleries to be designed by Richard Olcott, FAIA, of Ennead Architects.

Rising three stories and adding a handsome facade to the Essex Street pedestrian way, PEM’s new wing will be designed to clarify, unify, and strengthen its current programming, enhancing the older sections of the museum while providing new galleries dedicated to presentation of portions of the museum’s extensive collection.

The three-story addition will add a handsome facade to the Essex Street pedestrian way. “This new wing is designed to clarify and strengthen the Museum’s current programming,” says Olcott. “It will enhance the older sections of the museum while providing new gallery spaces dedicated to the presentation of the museum’s extensive collection, creating a new, unified sequence throughout.”

The building site occupies the northwest corner of the museum complex where the Asian Garden currently resides. No existing galleries will be demolished in the building process and when the project is complete, gallery space will be increased by 15% to bring total gallery space to 100,000 square feet, ranking PEM among the top 20 art museums in the country.

A design highlight of the expansion will be the renovation of the west facade of the museum’s founding structure, East India Marine Hall. This National Historic Landmark will be given renewed prominence with the creation of an adjacent two-story glass atrium that will offer fresh perspectives on this iconic building. The new wing will also provide many practical and needed enhancements for the museum, including the creation of a designated entrance for school groups, new coat check and restroom facilities, as well as improvements to the museum’s loading dock and object transfer areas. PEM’s Asian Garden will be relocated to a new, south-facing site, becoming an important design focus at the western end of the museum.

Groundbreaking for the new 40,000-square-foot wing will take place in 2016 and the new wing will open to the public in 2019.

Ennead brings extensive museum experience to the project, having designed the much-acclaimed renovation and expansion of the Yale University Art Gallery, as well as several significant projects at the Brooklyn Museum, Natural History Museum of Utah, and the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History, among others. 

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