FXCollaborative’s conversion of the former First Church of Christ Scientist at 361 Central Park West and West 96th Street into the future home of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) is continuing apace. On December 9, CMOM revealed a suite of new renderings of the building’s conversion and announced that multidisciplinary New York design firm Local Projects had been tapped to design the museum’s forthcoming exhibitions and installations.
As previously documented, the landmarked, Carrère and Hastings-designed church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side had been previously deconsecrated and sold to CMOM in 2017. Despite the dire need for repairs, FXCollaborative’s conversion plans only won Landmarks Preservation Commission approval in June.
Now, with a final design locked down, the firm has released new renderings of both the building’s exterior and internal circulation. The biggest addition is definitely the copper-clad rooftop workshop and performance space, which was cut down in prior reviews to minimize visibility from the street. To bring light into the adjoining “attic walk,” FXCollaborative will restore the church’s terra cotta roof and insert glazing beneath a section to create a camouflaged skylight. Low-profile glass parapets will help fill in the gaps to keep the new outdoor terrace contained, flowing into the existing stone railings.
Perhaps the biggest visual change is the forthcoming adjustments to the existing stained-glass windows; in order to maximize both views of Central Park and let in as much natural light as possible, the stained-glass windows along the facade will have the religious iconography at their centers removed and replaced with clear, low-iron glazing, while the original stained-glass around the edge will be restored. Additionally, as FXCollaborative noted in a project fact sheet, previously covered stained-glass windows and skylights inside the 117-year-old church will be restored and put on display for patrons.
Inside the 86,000-square-foot building, 41,300 square feet across four floors will be blocked out for galleries and exhibitions jointly conceived by Local Design and FXCollaborative, tied together through a central staircase. According to CMOM, the new museum will focus on educational and immersive displays of “art and creativity, wellness and the environment, science, and world cultures” for developing minds.
In addition to the exhibition spaces, the revamp will uncover the massive barrel-vaulted ceiling above the entrance hall and provide glimpses at the four stories within. At ground level, FXCollaborative has mentioned increasing visitor amenities, including adding a food area and stroller parking.
“I have always loved 361 Central Park West and used to sketch it during my wanderings around the city,” said Sylvia Smith, a senior partner at FXCollaborative and design team leader. “Its innovations in construction and use of grand barrel vaults and steel trusses foster gracious and welcoming interior spaces. We seek to maintain the architectural integrity and holistic character of this historic structure, both inside and out, and transform a once trend-setting building into a forward-looking, vibrant center for the community.”
The new home of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is currently scheduled to open in 2023, and the team has promised to release additional project details sometime next year.