Louis Armstrong Center: much more than a jazz icon
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Louis Armstrong Center: much more than a jazz icon

Across the street from the musician’s former home, now a museum, an extension for sharing his legacy

Caples Jefferson Architects

Louis Armstrong Center: much more than a jazz icon
By Editorial Staff -

Architecture and design studio Caples Jefferson Architects has designed the Louis Armstrong Center in Corona, Queens, right across the street from the home of the legendary musician, who died in 1971. The two buildings face each other from either side of the street, taking on a special historical and documentary value in their relationship. The result is a place dedicated to getting to know the man and his music that has further enriched his old neighborhood through the inestimable value of his legacy.

In 1943, Louis Armstrong moved to 107th Street. Both his home and this working-class neighborhood soon became close to his heart. After his death, his wife, Lucille, continued living here, working from the beginning to ensure that it became a National and New York Historic Landmark. Her work paid off, first with the Louis Armstrong House Museum opening in their former home in 2003, and now with its expansion into the Louis Armstrong Center. With an exhibition area, a live music space, new offices, and a rich collection of archival materials and recordings, the new Center has opened the legacy of the small House Museum to a larger audience, while still respecting its setting and style. The result is that an urban precinct dedicated to education, entertainment, and research has taken form around his home – a place where Armstrong’s cultural, historical, and humanitarian legacy will be preserved for many years. The complex also has a garden for live performances, so that knowledge of the musician can extend far beyond his icon status.

 

The Louis Armstrong Center: a beacon by day and by night

Louis Armstrong Center, Caples Jefferson Architects ©Albert Vecerka/Esto, courtesy of Caples Jefferson Architects

From outside, the new 150,700 sq.ft. (14,000 m2) center dedicated to the American musician looks like a golden beacon among the existing buildings – one that illuminates the neighborhood by day and by night, and not just symbolically. The center is a way to both proclaim and remember the genius of the jazz legend.

Underscored by respect for both the setting and surrounding buildings, the first step of the project was the design of the faceted flat-glass façade, which is counterpointed by an undulating roof with a cantilevered section that creates the front reception area.

The colors and materials chosen by Caples Jefferson contain references to the music, instruments, and life of Armstrong, with brass a particular feature. The curving appearance is a tribute to both jazz and the musician’s love of lyricism, reflected through an architectural language that hinges on harnessing reflections of light both inside and out. Natural light is allowed to flow into and through the exhibition spaces, leading the way to the live performance space in the heart of the building. The center not only honors Armstrong’s memory through exhibitions and archives – recordings, manuscripts, and original works are kept on the second floor – but also through live music.

The design also centers on sustainability, with its green roof and environmentally friendly materials earning it LEED Silver certification.

>>> Read the editorial from THE PLAN 148 about libraries.

 

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Credits

Location: Queens, NY, USA
Architect: Caples Jefferson Architects
Area: 14.000 m2
Completion: 2023

Photography by Albert Vecerka/Esto or Nic Lehoux, courtesy of Caples Jefferson Architects

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