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Statue of Liberty Museum’s new verdant, sleek FXFOWLE design approved

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The 26,000-square-feet space is expected to be complete by 2019

It’s confirmed: Liberty Island is getting an addition. Set to rise right behind the Statue of Liberty, the new Statue of Liberty Museum will span 26,000-square-feet, and come with tons of outdoor space, and a rooftop terrace that offers views of the Island, the statue, and New York City. (Update: The plans for the museum were approved as of November 9.)

Plans for a new museum were first hinted at in June this year. On Thursday, the development team held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new museum, which will face the back of the statue, and overlook the circular plaza. The museum is a collaboration between the non-profit that manages the island and the statue, The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., and the National Park Service. The announcement was timed with the Service’s centennial year.

Diane Von Furstenberg has been tapped to lead the fundraising effort for the new museum, and the Liberty-Ellis Foundation. The "godmother" of the project, as she’s being referred to by the development team will try to raise $100 million in funds, and the museum itself will be built at a cost of about $70 million. Von Furstenberg and her husband, billionaire Barry Diller are also spearheading another major city project, the controversial Pier 55 park on the Hudson River.

"Lady Liberty is the symbol of everything America is about: freedom, hope, possibility and resilience," Von Furstenberg said at the ground breaking ceremony. "It is She that millions of immigrants saw first as they arrived in this country, their hearts full of dreams for a brighter future. Now it is my hope that the Statue of Liberty and her incredible story will live on and on, inspiring generations for years to come."

To design the sleek and verdant museum, the development team has brought on the architecture firm FXFOWLE, the firm that’s behind the 500-foot Trinity Place tower, and the massive rental project in Jamaica, Queens. Nicholas Garrison, a partner at FXFOWLE, and the designer on this project said he wanted to create a building that responded to the existing landscape on the island.

"From the start, the design of the Statue of Liberty Museum was conceived as an extension of the park," Garrison said in a statement. "The goal was to engage with the park's formal, axial plan and respond to its spectacular setting. The building's angular forms and spaces are shaped by its views and the irregularity of the water’s edge, celebrating liberty."

Now on to the design of the space. The interior of the museum, designed by ESI Design, will be divided into four main areas.

  • The Liberty Star mural will be placed at the entrance and will be composed of 50 star sculptures that will be created from hand-forged iron bars that Gustave Eiffel (who built the statue and designed the Eiffel Tower) created. These iron bars acted as support for the statue for about 100 years but were removed during a restoration in 1986. Von Furstenberg had the idea for this mural and corralled a host of donors to make it a reality.
  • Immersive Theater: In three theater spaces, the museum will offer a multimedia introduction to the space, the history of the Statue, how it came to the United States, and how people have interacted with it in subsequent years.
  • Engagement Gallery: This allows visitors to dig deeper into the construction and history of the sculpture through artifacts, exhibits, and interactive pieces.
  • Inspiration Gallery: This is the area right before you exit the museum which will allow visitors to add their own photos and signatures to a constantly changing mosaic wall.

Outside, there will be monumental steps that lead from the circular plaza, rise above the core structure of the museum, and lead to its green roof, which will offer great views of the Island and the city beyond. Both the museum’s exterior and interior will be built with the same materials used to build the Statue of Liberty and Fort Wood, namely Stony Creek granite, bronze, and plaster.

The need to create a new museum was in large part prompted by the fact that the existing space (within the Statue) is unable to accommodate all the visitors to the Island with tickets frequently running out, and only a small percentage of people visiting the island being able to go inside.

Entry to new the Museum will be part of the ferry ticket to Liberty and Ellis Islands, and the former is expected to stay open throughout the course of construction. The project will likely welcome its first set of visitors sometime in 2019.

"We are still trying to understand who we are in this country and what immigration means to us," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the groundbreaking ceremony. "My hope for this museum is that it will help us come to peace with the complexity and beauty of who we are."