Each year, 4.3 million visitors descend onto Liberty Island, most of them with one goal: To get up close to Lady Liberty herself. Notably, few have access to the island’s museum and even less to climb into the statue.
Since September 11, 2001, accessibility to the museum has diminished as security tightened. That, however, has not deterred tourists, as visitor numbers continue to climb. Fortunately, a new, bigger museum building is on the way on the western side of Liberty Island and will add 26,000 square feet to the museum’s space.
Designed by New York–based studio FXFowle, the 26,000-square-foot building will offer better circulation to accommodate the rush of tourists that disembark from the ferries, which arrive two or three times an hour. Fifteen thousand square feet will be dedicated to exhibitions showcasing the statue’s history, legacy, and construction details. Additional spaces will house a gallery, immersive theater, bookstore, and offices. The museum will be able to accommodate up to 1,200 visitors per hour, double the current capacity.
With an estimated budget of $70 million and slated to open in 2019, FXFowle’s design won’t detract from Lady Liberty herself. “Some people will say, ‘Why aren’t you building a much grander building?’ I say, we didn’t need a much grander building—the grander building is already there,” said Stephen Briganti, the president and chief executive of the private The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation in The New York Times.
A green roof sown with native meadow species and spanning 20,000 square feet will double as a viewing area looking onto Downtown Manhattan and (of course)
the Statue of Liberty. Quennell Rothschild & Partners will carry out landscaping for this and the rest of the site.
Interactive displays from ESI Design will be on view inside the museum in addition to the statue’s original torch, which was replaced in 1986 on Lady Liberty’s centennial. Thirty-three years later, that original torch will be housed in a glass-walled space—a welcome change from its windowless home in the current museum.