A new museum that seemingly rises out of the ground will replace the small exhibition space inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, its grass roof blending with the landscape and affording sweeping views of the iconic symbol of hope and freedom and New York Harbor.
Officials on Thursday unveiled the design for a new Statue of Liberty Museum at a groundbreaking ceremony on Liberty Island, which sees 4.3 million visitors each year.
Slated to open in 2019, the 26,000-square-foot building, constructed of glass, granite and concrete, will be sited across the circular plaza from the statue.
Architect Nicholas Garrison said the goal was to design a building that didn't compete with the statue and wasn't the first thing visitors saw as they disembarked the ferry.
"We wanted to make sure our building didn't impede the experience," Garrison said.
Designer Diane von Furstenberg is leading the fundraising for the $70 million project, $40 million of which has been raised, said Stephen Briganti, president and CEO of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.
The angular-shaped museum, inspired by the water's edge, has a monumental staircase that rises to the rooftop, featuring a paved terrace and grassy surface meant as a habitat for migratory birds.
The green roof plays off the idea that it's an extension of the park, said Garrison, a partner at FXFOWLE and the project's designer.
"It's as if the museum had been lifted out of the ground and the ground goes with it," he said.
The museum entrance is halfway up the steps, where it opens up into a wide patio.
"It's also a natural grandstand for an event that could happen in the plaza," Garrison said, adding that the roof and steps could also be a stage for a performance.
The building will triple the size of the current museum, giving many more visitors an opportunity to see its artifacts and exhibitions.
"Not only does the new museum give people who come to the island something else to see, but because of security changes in a post-9/11 era, only 20 percent that come to the statue get inside it. That means 80 percent are left to either walk around the front and look or have a picnic or whatever," Briganti said.
The interior features exposed steel structures and controlled low lighting. Exhibitions will be conceived by EDSI Design.
In the entrance, visitors will encounter a large mural of 50 star sculptures evocative of the American flag. In the following three galleries, they will experience a virtual flyover of the statue's interior and see exhibits that tell the story of the statue, from its creation by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi as a gift from France to the American people to how it became an American icon. The experience culminates in the Inspiration Gallery, where the original torch takes center stage.
"At that moment you're back in full daylight, you come full circle and now you're confronted with the original torch that sat on her arm for nearly 100 years and was removed in the 1986 centennial restoration," Garrison said.
People can walk around it and align themselves with the statue through the glass while simultaneously seeing the harbor and the entire park.
"I want people to feel pride that this idea lives and that this building helps to celebrate the great American commitment to try to embrace a way of life that the statue is so associated with," Garrison said.