Stop 46. The Lower Level



The lower level of the Renzo Piano expansion contains two very important elements of the Morgan campus—the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Education Center, serving school groups, and the Gilder Lehrman Hall, a state-of-the-art performance venue. The lobby between these two spaces contains a rotating display of oil sketches from the collection of Trustee Eugene V. Thaw, a case featuring changing focused displays from the collection, and several works of painting and sculpture on permanent view.

Out of sight but adjacent to the auditorium—nestled into the bedrock—is perhaps the most important feature of our facility: the main vault. Nearly fifty thousand tons of Manhattan schist were excavated to create a secure, climate-controlled storage space for the Morgan’s precious collections. As Renzo Piano noted, “We put the treasure in the most safe place you can find in Manhattan—in the rock.”

By building down, Piano was also able to keep the above-ground part of his design modest in its proportions. His scheme allowed the Morgan to expand its exhibition and program space, but without running the risk that the new structures would overshadow the existing historic buildings.