Winning international firm’s portfolio of adaptive reuse projects expands to prestigious cultural institution across from the campus in Princeton, N.J.

NEW YORK, N.Y.— Well-established as regional leaders in historic preservation and adaptive reuse, MBB Architects has announced the completion of the renovation and conversion of a historic property into art galleries and a community center at Princeton University. Known globally for historic preservation and adaptive reuse, MBB’s work on the new venue, Art@Bainbridge, reflects the firm’s growing status as a leader in projects involving the stewardship of historically significant structures.

The new public galleries designed for the building, which dates to 1766, opened recently and now serve to showcase work by contemporary artists in an intimate, domestic setting. The venue also provides space for the community and museum to facilitate meetings, programs and events. MBB’s architects repurposed the three-story, Georgian-style farm home to offer flexible public gathering and event areas, exhibition rooms, a gift shop and an information area. The second and third floors hold private offices for the museum’s education department.

“A main goal for the MBB team — besides maintaining the historic architectural integrity of one of the area’s best-preserved examples of Georgian architecture — was to sensitively make the building more welcoming to the community and fully accessible using minimalist modern interventions that defer to the historic fabric,” says MBB partner Jeffrey Murphy, FAIA, LEED AP. The scope of work included restoring the building’s exterior by cleaning, repairing, and replacing in-kind the brickwork, windows, shutters, and roofing.

Another major objective of the adaptive reuse for Art@Bainbridge has been to create a more sustainable building that incorporates a tighter, high-performance building envelope. Outmoded infrastructure in the building, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and security systems, were replaced with new and sustainable, state-of-the-art systems and components that the firm seamlessly integrated into the building’s historic fabric. Almost the entire original 18th-century structure remains intact, including historic wall paneling, fireplace mantles, doors, and a three-story staircase that MBB and the construction team carefully restored and preserved.

Bainbridge House, located on the northern border of Princeton University’s campus, is one of the oldest surviving structures in the municipality of Princeton, N.J. Continuing to be a vital community center to this day, the residence has served many purposes: It housed several generations of the Stockton family and briefly boarded members of the Continental Congress in 1783 before Princeton University purchased the building in the mid-19th century, expanding and converting it into student housing. The structure also served as the Princeton Public Library for 50 years and most recently—from 1967 through 2015—was the headquarters for the Princeton Historical Society.

Today, as a contemporary art center and satellite of the Princeton University Art Museum, the structure has been reimagined as “a gateway to the arts” for Princeton’s ever-evolving campus. “As a leadership museum in a unique academic context, we are committed to historic preservation as an essential part of the texture of our community, and felt particularly strongly that historic Bainbridge House should be returned to public use,” says Museum Director James Steward. “We are delighted to have worked with MBB to assure that as much of the original fabric as possible could be preserved, and to make visible the feel of the house’s history, even while updating its systems to allow it to function as a vital gallery space.”

“We are proud to partner with Princeton University in adding a much-needed cultural resource and layer of history to their campus,” adds MBB’s Murphy. Other major adaptive-reuse projects by MBB include the restoration and renovation of the Rectory of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, an integral part of the cathedral’s original Manhattan campus, as well as the renovation of two historic townhouses on Jane Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The firm has also completed a planning study for the expansion of the Diller-Quaile School of Music housed in neighboring historic townhouses on the Upper East Side, and MBB is currently leading a full restoration of Lower Manhattan’s Trinity Church, now underway.

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