Inspired by Charles E. Burchfield's work, the 84,000 square foot Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State was designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects LLC. The museum features numerous tributes to Burchfield's oft-noted love of nature, including open corridors, clear sightlines, and even ceiling lights arranged in the shape of the constellation Orion. In creating this indoor environment, the architects put as much thought into the placement of every wall, bench and window as Burchfield gave to every flower, tree and star in his paintings.
Located on the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Rockwell Road, the museum is directly across the street from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in the heart of the Museum District and on the southeast corner of SUNY Buffalo State. It is the first "green" art museum in New York State - another fitting distinction given Burchfield's naturalist philosophy.
Architect: Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, Architects LLC
Principal: Charles Gwathmey
Groundbreaking: August 26, 2006
Ribbon-Cutting: September 5, 2008
Grand Opening: November 22, 2008
Cost: $33 million capital campaign (including endowment)
Total building size: 84,000 square feet
- Total gallery space: 19,000 square feet
- Number of Galleries: 11*
- *East Feature gallery can be subdivided into several smaller gallery spaces as needed.
- East Feature Gallery: 148 by 48 feet with a ceiling height of 28 feet, a total of 6,700 sq. ft.
- Library, Archives Study Area: 1,050 square feet
- Total Education and Program space: 4,500 square feet
- Visitor Amenities: Museum Store: 700 square feet
- Café: 600 square feet
- Auditorium: 156 seats
- Reception area: 2,800 square feet
- Outdoor terrace: 2,000 square feet
The two-story Burchfield Penney Art Center makes a dramatic aesthetic statement externally with carefully selected materials and with a deliberate color palette. Internally, long, dramatic vistas and open spaces with purposeful contraction and expansion of ceiling heights are experienced. The unique facility marries the function of the art museum with that of a learning center. A long concourse that contains an 80-foot staircase is illuminated by four massive skylights. It acts as a gathering space while connecting the program areas with visitor service amenities. The building is a highly functional facility of related program components, strategic design of physical spaces, and a straightforward circulation system. Galleries are provided for collections as well as flexible, changing exhibitions. An auditorium, classrooms, museum store and café are located off the entry lobby on the first floor. The public reception room on the second floor borders an outdoor terrace. The boardroom and museum offices are accessible on the second floor via the grand staircase or elevator. Storage and service spaces are distributed on the first and second floors, providing critical adjacencies, but separating these functions from the public domain.
The Burchfield Penney combines image, efficiency and flexibility into a composite assemblage. The building design is based on logical planning principles and creative massing strategies, resulting in a unique synthesis of form. The selected materiality (exterior materials include zinc, manganese glazed brick and cast stone) is intended to respond directly to the adjacent Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Buffalo State’s Rockwell Hall as contextual precedents, while creating a building that is articulated and modulated by its multiple forms, fenestration and detail.
The Burchfield Penney was certified in February 2009 at the silver level by the U.S. Green Building Council – making it the first “green” art museum in New York State. To qualify for certification, the new museum met rigorous standards in the areas of site sustainability, water use and efficiency, reduced use of energy and atmospheric impact, use of materials and resources, improved indoor air quality and innovation and design process. In addition to its LEED certification, the museum will be a participant in the New York Energy Smart New Construction Program, meeting New York State standards to reduce energy usage and consumption.