Brooklyn Museum's reOrder

Brooklyn Museum's reOrder

When invited to submit a proposal for Brooklyn Museum’s newly renovated Great Hall, part of a larger redesign of the New York City–based museum’s main floor, Situ Studio looked to the building’s history for inspiration. “This [exhibit] is very site-specific,” says Aleksey Lukyanov, designer and one-fifth of the Situ Studio team, which is based in Brooklyn, NY, and comprises five friends and graduates from the Cooper Union School of Architecture. “It's specific to the history of the museum and the history of its architecture,” continues Lukyanov.
Text by

The building, designed by McKim, Mead, and White—the firm who created many of New York's prized turn-of-the-century buildings like the Metropolitain Museum of Art—has undergone numerous transformations. Situ Studio emphasizes yet another transformation that celebrates whimsy and décor as it does function and form. On view for ten months starting Friday March 4, the opening of the exhibit and the Great Hall aligns with Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday, which opens the museum to the public free of charge. In the weeks leading up to the opening, Situ Studio invited to get a sneak peek at the space and its construction.

The hall features 16 columns and four interior walls that form a smaller, though not fully enclosed, center room. "We thought, can we transform these columns, and not only make it a decorative aspect?" Lukyanov recalls. "Can they also become functional? Can they become objects that provide lighting?"

Have a look at the development of Situ Studio's design in this time-lapse video of the installation:

"We submitted something that basically proposed to take the classical profile of these columns that exist here," says Lukyanov, "And start to play with it and start to deform that profile."

"The way we engineered the system is to allow for a very flexible way of actually constructing these structures," says Wes Rozen, one of the Situ Studio designers. Though all the parts are the same, their adjustable positioning allows for variety of resulting figures.

The exhibit will include two video pieces showing time-lapse videos of the nearly four-week construction process. "The way things are made and craftsmanship is an important part of our practice," Rozen explains. Using a ceiling-mounted tracking system, a single camera moved at a pace of about three feet every working hour to capture the build.

For more images of the installation, please view the slideshow.

"It’s kind of a high-tech fabric," Lukyanov says of the material that ultimately establishes the columns’ exaggerated silhouette. The durable acrylic-based fabric, donated by Sunbrella, is stain, UV, mold and moisture resistant.

Adding function to the form, the columns are fitted with exaggerated shapes to allow for seating of various sizes. Such large rooms tend to become a thoroughfare, Rozen explains, so adding functionality to draw visitors not only to occupy but also examine the room was an important goal.

"What we wanted to do with the columns is break up this height and scale with these forms as well," Lukyanov explains, "Where you have this overhead cover to provide more of an intimate gathering space."

Further, the team had the space in mind beyond the colonnade. "We’re always thinking that this is an environment, a setting for things to take place," says Luknayov. He notes that the installation allows room for performance space as well as sufficient and additional lighting to illuminate other artwork present in the space.

The installation, developed over a period of almost nine months, would take about 200 hours to assemble, for which Situ Studio assembled a 20-person team of mostly students and young designers. Their contribution played no small part, Rozen remarks. "The final form is found through the input of everyone who’s involved in the construction," he says. "There’s a lot of participation and dialog that happens here."

"Each one of these columns has personality," observes Rozen, who enjoys hearing when certain columns are "favored" over others, suggesting a true personification of and attachment to the captivating figures. "I’ve heard some opinions," adds Lukyanov. "People have their favorites to work on."

The marriage of columns and fabric came through independent studies of each. The fluting of Roman and Greek columns inspired, in part, the pleating of the fabric. The giant rings are also reflective of the early 18th century caged crinoline, or hoop skirt, a popular fashion at the time of the building’s original construction.

Alice in Wonderland references have been made about the towering, enchanting shapes, which emphasize scale and perspective. "There’s a playfulness with the project, and first and foremost I hope that people are surprised by what they see," Rozen shares. "It’s gonna remind people what it’s like, maybe, to be a child."


Last Updated


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.