Johnson Museum of Art Addition, Cornell University

The expansion of Cornell University’s iconic 1973 museum, also designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, achieves its own presence without diminishing the authority of the original building.

Retaining the buff-colored, architectural board-formed concrete of the earlier structure, the addition establishes a clear visual connection with its predecessor while affirming its independent identity. The new building houses the museum’s significant Asian art collection and includes a 150-seat lecture room, art studio, galleries, administrative space, and a large art-storage area. In quiet contrast to its monumental neighbor, the 17,200-square-foot addition is integrated into a sloping swath of lawn north of the existing museum.

Show Facts

1.5-acre hilltop site


23,200 ft2 / 2,000 m2 gross area; lecture hall, gallery, offices and studio, collections storage room, below-grade link to Museum on two levels, separate public entry, alteration of fifth floor Asian Galleries


Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

PCF&P Services

Architecture, exterior envelope, interior design


The International Architecture Award
Chicago Athenaeum / European Centre, 2013

The American Architecture Award
Chicago Athenaeum, 2013

Award of Excellence
Society of American Registered Architects, New York Council, 2015

Award of Merit Out of Area
Concrete Industry Board, 2013

Gold Medal
American Concrete Institute, Central New York Chapter, 2012

Preservation Award
Historic Ithaca, 2012

While the original building continues to serve as the primary entrance, the new pavilion is designed to operate independently. The two are linked by a new below-grade connection, providing a cohesive experience for museumgoers.
The site’s sloping topography allows daylight to penetrate down to the gallery level, giving the lecture lobby, offices, and studio views of a Japanese garden set into the hillside.
Project Credits

Structural: Leslie E. Roberston Associates, New York; Mechanical / Electrical / Plumbing: ICOR Associates, LLC, Iselin, New Jersey; Lighting: Renfro Design Group, Inc., New York; Concrete Consultant: Reginald B. Hough, FAIA, Architect, Rhinebeck, New York; Images: Paul Warchol