The best design museums in New York City

March 6, 2017

Lead Image: © Leong Leong Architects for their installation Past Futures, Present, Futures

New York is an international center for design. World-famous architects and designers have learned here, lived here, and worked here. And New York shows off the immense talent in the city and elsewhere with some of the world’s greatest design museums. Here is a small sample of some of the best places to see the latest and greatest works, as well as where to dig when you’re looking for inspiration from the past.

the museum of art and design NYCImages © MAD Museum

Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle
Tuesday–Sunday, 10:00a.m.–6:00p.m.
Thursday and Friday, 10:00a.m.–9:00p.m.
Closed Mondays

The 2008 redesign of The Museum of Arts and Design’s Columbus Circle building has divided architectural critics for years, but it’s the stuff on the inside that counts. Originally founded as the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, the space focuses on handmade objects, especially items that stretch the imagination with their inventive and odd takes on familiar items and materials.

Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street
Weekdays and Sundays, 10:00a.m.–6:00p.m.
Saturdays, 10:00a.m.–9:00p.m.

Housed in the former home of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, this museum’s building is a design icon in its own right. The Cooper-Hewitt underwent a renovation between 2012-2014, expanding its main exhibition space and revamping its terrace and garden for public use. In addition to offering a slew of digital exhibits and interactive experiences, the museum also encompasses the National Design Library, a tremendous historical resource for design which includes material from the 16th century to the present.

Bard Graduate Center Gallery
18 West 86th Street
Tuesday–Saturday, 11:00a.m.–5:00p.m.
Thursday, 11:00a.m.–8:00p.m.

The Bard Graduate Center presents two design or decorative arts exhibitions every year, paired with events like lectures and concerts. The exhibitions tend to center on historical design, such as an upcoming exhibit focusing on John Lockwood Kipling’s role in the 19th century Arts and Crafts revival in British India.

New York School of Interior Design Gallery
161 East 69th Street
Tuesday–Satruday, 11:00a.m.–6:00p.m.

The free gallery at the New York School of Interior Design hosts student work throughout the year but also features professional design work from industry leaders.

Image © 6sqft

The Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street
Tuesday–Saturday, 11:00a.m.–6:00p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday

The Storefront for Art and Architecture is an incredible space in the heart of Soho that hosts everything from of exhibitions to artists talks, film screenings, and conferences, all aimed at forwarding innovation in art, design, and architecture. The space itself is one of the most unique in New York, occupying a tiny site that measures approximately 100 feet long and tapers from 20 feet to 3 feet at its west end. In addition to an unconventional shape, the facade, designed by Steven Holl and artist Vito Acconci, features moveable panels that open the gallery up to the street.

AIGA National Design Center Gallery
164 Fifth Avenue
Monday–Saturday, 11:00a.m.–6:00p.m.
Friday, 11:00a.m.–5:00p.m.

The gallery at the American Institute of Graphic Arts prides itself in presenting exhibitions on contemporary design which are, themselves, design pieces. The content of each exhibition is to be presented in a narrative format which both looks beautiful and explains the relevance of the work on display.

Image via the Architecture League

The Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place
Monday–Friday, 9a.m.–8p.m.
Saturday, 11a.m.–5p.m.

The Center for Architecture is the home of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter and the Center for Architecture Foundation. Their beautiful space, designed by Andrew Berman, plays frequent host to design and architecture exhibitions, programs, and special events aimed at improving the quality and sustainability of the built environment.

Image © 6sqft

The Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography
41 Cooper Square
By appointment only

Although diminutive, this 800-sqaure-foot treasure is easily the granddaddy of them all when it comes to graphic design and typography. Hidden in the basement The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art building in the East Village, The Herb Lubalin Study Center was founded in 1985 as an open archive hosting the work of design icon Herb Lubalin. Since then, the space has not only grown their collection of Lubalin works but it has come to acquire other rare pieces from the likes of Push Pin Studios, Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser, Lou Dorfsman, and Massimo Vignelli. Best of all, nothing is off-limits; visitors are encouraged to thumb through all the materials available. Admission to the center is also free. Read 6sqft’s interview with the museum’s curator to learn more about this truly unique NYC space and resource.


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