For the first time in three years, early this morning New Yorkers were able to enter the Cooper Hewitt's pretty, wintry courtyard facing Central Park. The ribbon was cut, and the museum opened its doors. After a $91 million renovation that's been in the pipeline since 2009, the Smithsonian Design Museum is now officially back in business, with 60 percent more space for exhibitions.
Giving Andrew Carnegie's former mansion—a gorgeous landmark on 91st Street and Fifth Avenue—such an elaborate facelift was no easy task, so an army of 13 architecture firms collaborated. They produced an impressive end result: a showcase of the museum's extensive collection of historic and contemporary design pieces that combines the grandeur of their Gilded Age home with all the interactive, digital trappings of any modern, tech-savvy cultural center.
Among the major changes: a library and back-end operations that formerly occupied the third floor of the main building were moved to two townhouses the Cooper Hewitt owns on 90th Street, allowing the original detail-filled second floor to showcase more of the 30 century-spanning permanent collection, from mod chairs to Victorian birdcages. Meanwhile, the newly vacant, now-redone third floor is devoted to temporary exhibitions, with the inaugural show focused on tools. The level of attention to detail is extraordinary; there's even a new Cooper Hewitt font that's available for anyone to download.