Located at 709 Walnut Street on Philadelphia's Washington Square, Bridgette Mayer wished to enlarge her eponymous gallery and position it as the premier venue for contemporary art in Philadelphia. To that end, Cecil Baker + Partners was asked to incorporate a rear first floor apartment and a full basement into the new, 3,000 square foot gallery space. The design objective was to create a “white box” field wherein the experience of observing art is unencumbered by architectural gestures.

The existing gallery layout had been compromised by fireplace protrusions, a central masonry vault that extended to the upper floors, a multitude of ceiling planes, and exterior wall penetrations. The first decision was to abandon perimeter real estate in order to maximize unencumbered gallery walls. The vault, difficult to remove because of its extension above the gallery, had its openings reconfigured in order to become a useful, and very special, chamber to the main gallery spaces.

The gallery thus became two white boxes overlapping the brick vault. The two longest walls, parallel and opposing, were pulled away from the floor and the ceiling to invite a subtle gradient to the viewing process, and a modest shift of hierarchy.

The basement floor was converted into administrative offices and a sales center, with adjacent service and storage spaces.

Through sensitive planning and thoughtful choice of materials, Cecil Baker + Partners series of interlocking, fluid spaces are defined by simple shapes and quiet detailing. Carefully inserted into the existing building's fabric, this contemporary environment provides a complementary backdrop, allowing the artwork to shine.