Swedish photography museum Fotografiska to open in the historic Church Missions House

December 10, 2019

Renderings courtesy of CetraRuddy

Stockholm-based photography museum Fotografiska is opening its first stateside outpost in New York City this month. Housed inside the former Church Missions House at 281 Park Avenue South, the organization will bring 45,000 square feet of exhibition and event spaces, alongside a restaurant inspired by European “grand cafés.” New York firm CetraRuddy led the restoration and redesign of the landmarked space, working with Higgins Quasebarth & Partners to preserve the stained-glass windows and limestone and granite facade of the Renaissance Revival building.

Key elements of CetraRuddy’s design include three floors of galleries and a versatile event venue on the top floor with vaulted ceilings and skylights. The venue will open its doors to the public on December 14 with opening exhibitions featuring the work of Ellen von Unwerth, Tawny Chatmon, Adi Nes, Helene Schmitz, and Anastasia Taylor-Lind. 

The second floor will be home to a restaurant called Verōnika, designed by Roman and Williams and operated by STARR Restaurants. A recent press release notes the name is a nod to Veronica, the patron saint of photography. The interior is inspired by the “moody qualities of the medium in its earliest forms as well as the tone, texture, and timbre of the “grand cafés” that populated Europe before the turn of the 20th century.” Executive chef Robert Aikens created a menu influenced by the cuisines of northern France, Austria, and Eastern Europe.

The six-story building was built between 1892 and 1894 for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church, in an area that was once known as “Charity Row.” In 1963, the property was sold to the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, which occupied the space until 2015. There was a push to convert the structure to condominiums around that time, but Fotografiska bought the space in 2017 and cemented its future as a cultural venue. The building also got some notoriety amid the Anna Delvey story. The New York socialite—whose real name is Anna Sorokin—intended to open an arts center inside the historic space before her scams were exposed and she was arrested in 2017.


Renderings courtesy of CetraRuddy

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