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Bronx Children's Museum

O'Neill McVoy Architects

Bronx, New York, United States

December 2022


Beth ONeill (Principal), Chris McVoy (Principal)


Silman (Structural Engineers), Plus Group Consulting Engineering, PLCC (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing Engineers), Tillotson Design Associates (Lighting Design), CODE LLC (Code Consultant), ADS Engineers (LEED Consultant


Bronx Children's Museum


Paul Warchol


With the aim to create a 'space for imagination' the design is inspired by Jean Piaget’s Child’s Conception of Space. Before learning Euclidean space, a child starts building relationships such as proximity and separation, order and enclosure, continuity and openness. The Museum’s design invites children to physically interact with materials and movement in space with the goal of developing awareness of their place in the environment. The design’s spatial flow creates a new kind of space, unlike the city’s cellular rooms and street grids, that connects kids to the experience of natural landscape and the waterfront.

The Museum is entered via a ground floor double-height lobby facing the Harlem River. Once on the second-floor visitors are greeted with a tall, light-filled open space with views to the river and the City. The welcome area opens directly into the main exhibition space, composed of three primary areas including Early Learner, Community Arts and Natural Sciences
Designed from a child’s vantage point, the space feels open and accessible. The movement up and through the space via ramps, delineated by partial height exhibit walls, creates focused areas of interest. Curved wooden and translucent acrylic partitions diverge, reconnect, and spiral to creating continuity and separation between spaces.
Each successive exhibit area steps up, creating a sense of discovery for the kids. The Waterways exhibit floor is elevated to the windowsills, allowing views of the river outside; the exhibit route spirals up across a bridge to the ‘Cloud’, a performance mezzanine.


The Bronx Children’s Museum, founded in 2005, has served thousands of children and adults in the Bronx as a “museum without walls” through its mobile programming. Opened December, 2022, this project is the Museum’s first home and the borough’s first cultural facility for young children, realized with the participation of political representatives and community groups. This welcoming, optimistic, and playful space reflects and supports the mission of Bronx Children’s Museum of strengthening community and the environment.
The Museum engages children with urban culture and the natural world. Sited on the Harlem River, the Museum's design catalyzes the site's position between city grid and tidal river with an architecture of organic flow inside the rectangular frame of a 1925 Historic Powerhouse.
The Powerhouse, an engineering marvel of the 1920s, housed equipment vital to operations of the Bronx Terminal Market. When the market was decommissioned in 2006, the building's upper floor sat vacant until the Museum secured it for its first home.
Working closely with the Museum, O’Neill McVoy Architects transformed the raw industrial space into a topological landscape that resonates with a child's conception of space, a geometry uniquely designed from a child's perspective.
The Museum features interactive exhibits where families play, learn, and connect to the natural and cultural resources in the Bronx through art, dramatic role-play and scientific exploration.
The brick building’s distinctive turrets are given new life with prismatic film and spectral LED lighting to serve as beacons for the Children’s Museum in the community.


We explored new techniques for building curving geometry in natural materials. FSC-certified Cross Laminated Timber walls, guardrails, platforms, stairs, benches and doors are digitally fabricated with varying radii arcs to form organic spatial curves, the first use of curved CLT in the U.S. Translucent walls and guardrails are made of recycled acrylic, softer to touch than glass. CLT panels were site-routed to structurally interlock with the acrylic.
The project achieved LEED Gold accreditation by:
- Adaptative re-use of an existing building
- Natural light and Operable windows in all occupiable spaces
- Super-efficient HVAC system design reduces energy consumption.
- LED lighting
- Natural, renewable and recycled materials throughout: wood, stone, cork, glass, recycled acrylic
- Low to zero VOC finishes for healthy air quality
- Renewable Green electric power

By being engaged in the community for several years before designing its home, the Museum gained insights into the community’s diverse nature and needs which directly informed the planning and programming of the space. Rather than starting with conventional formula for a children’s museum, the Museum’s programming and design started from the unique potential of the kids in this special place, re-envisioning the nature of a children’s museum in the process.

The Museum continues to provide programs out in the community and will adapt activities within the museum to meet the community’s evolving needs.

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