7 Best Architecture and Design Day Trips from NYC
We're pretty sure you could visit a different NYC art venue each week and still not cover them all. But if you’re looking to shake things up and explore beyond the city’s five boroughs, there’s plenty of great art and design to make it worth your while. From an outdoor sculpture gallery in Hudson Valley to the Philip Johnson-designed Glass House in New Canaan, CT, here are 7 best architecture and design day trips from NYC.
The Glass House
Philip Johnson’s Glass House is the subject of many an architectural pilgrimage, drawing thousands of visitors to its sprawling 47-acre estate, in New Canaan, Connecticut, each year. Completed in 1949 and inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, the house is celebrated for its simplicity of form and perfection of scale and proportion. (It’s no wonder it’s where architect-of-the-moment, Sir David Adjaye, chose to spend his honeymoon!). To learn all about the National Historic Landmark’s ground-breaking design—and tour the property’s other highlights, including the painting gallery, sculpture gallery, and pond pavilion—buy tickets for the self-guided tour. Guides are on hand to answer any of your questions, and you'll have up to three hours to wander the property.
Parrish Art Museum
There aren’t too many Hamptons attractions we’d describe as farm-industrial, but the Parrish Art Museum, in Water Mill, is one exception. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron conceived of the building’s striking, barn-like design: two long gabled sheds that cut through the barren landscape, evoking the potato barns that once scattered the fields. But its exteriors are the only ‘country’ about the place—inside, find work by New York City heavyweights like Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. This season’s exhibition: Clifford Ross’s “Light | Waves,” a mixed media installation exploring the force and rhythm of nature.
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You would think that this ultramodern arts center (all concrete, steel, and wood) would be completely at odds with its surroundings in rural Connecticut. But— in a testament to the genius of the Pritzer Prize-winning Japanese architecture firm SANAA, which designed the center—Grace Farms feels every bit as harmonious to the landscape as the rolling hills and conifer forests that define it. The main building, a serpentine-shaped form called The River, houses an amphitheater, café, gymnasium, tea pavilion, and a library. We'd recommend buying a coffee and spending a few hours in there, browsing art magazines and flipping through titles on architecture and design.
Dia: Beacon may be a one hour train ride from Manhattan, but it’s arguably as much a fixture in New York’s contemporary art-circuit as behemoth institutions like MoMA or The Whitney. Showcasing major installations by the pantheon of 1960s and ‘70s greats—think Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, and Richard Serra—the industrial space, a former box-printing factory, serves as the ultimate backdrop for discovering these electrifying, large-scale works. Don’t miss strolling the art museum’s sunken, labyrinth-like garden, designed by Robert Irwin, who also did The Central Garden at LA’s Getty Center.
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The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
Art venues can take many forms: museums, galleries, converted warehouses. At The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, which was founded by the late fashion designer Larry Aldrich in 1964, the setting is an 18th-century church and adjacent general store. But don’t let its unconventional setting fool you — everyone from Robert Rauscehnberg to Olafur Eliasson and Eva Hesse exhibited here in the early stages of their careers. Currently on view is artist Beth Campbell's My Potential Future Past, a collection of bent steel and wire mobiles whose delicate forms call to mind vascular or root systems.
Storm King Art Center
When you really need an escape from New York, no place truly compares to Storm King Art Center, in the bucolic Hudson Valley. Spread across 500-acres of rolling hills, woodlands, and fields of native grasses and wildflowers, the outdoor sculpture and art gallery garden feels worlds away from New York’s skyscraper-crowded skyline. Come with friends and family and spend the day taking in large-scale sculptures by masters such as Alexander Calder, Maya Lin, Louise Bourgeois, and Sol Lewitt. There’s a café on site if you get hungry and a museum shop if the weather turns bad.
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Yale Center for British Art
Can’t afford the flight across the pond? A trip to the Yale Center for British Art—the largest English art collection outside the U.K.—is the next best thing. The newly restored museum is one of three designed by the legendary architect Louis I. Kahn, who was celebrated for his extraordinary use of volume, light, and materials, and died just three years before the museum opened to the public in 1977. As for the art, expect masterpieces spanning more than five centuries, including those by the likes of John Constable, J.M.W. Turner and Peter Paul Rubens.
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