Dia’s Triumphant Return to Chelsea

The Dia Arts Foundation — purveyor of large-scale installation and performance art since the 1970s, starting with seminal arts space The Kitchen — announced this morning its impending plans to return to Manhattan with a major exhibition space at 545 West 22nd Street, on the footprint of a building that Dia has owned since 1992. Also noteworthy: for the first time in its 35-year history, Dia is electing to commission a new building rather than renovate an existing one. Now this is exciting news, because an avant-garde non-profit with money to burn and a plot of land to build on presents myriad architectural possibilities. After the cut, our shortlist of three favorites for the task at hand.

According to spokesperson Lisbeth Mark, “We can confirm that no architect has been selected yet for Dia’s new facility to be created in West Chelsea. Whereas early planning has begun, Dia has not yet determined the scale or architecture of the new building.” For keen observers of the ever-changing Chelsea streetscape, Dia has leased its West 22nd ground floor gallery space to the blue chip PaceWildenstein since 2005. The gallery’s present lease is up in December 2011, so we have to assume Dia won’t be knocking over any buildings at #545 before then.

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The Dia-owned space at 545 West 22nd Street, currently occupied by PaceWildenstein Gallery. Image from an exhibition of new work by Tara Donovan in 2006.

So, what architectural luminary should be charged with such a significant cultural commission? Remember, Dia is the foundation that brought us immensely-scaled pieces like 7000 Oaks by Joseph Beuys and Walter de Maria’s Earth Room. (See other NYC installation sites here, plus other Dia-owned projects here.) Here’s our breakdown of a few firms we think could handle the architectural equivalent of 140 tons of packed earth.

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Walker Art Center

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Tate Modern

Reductive modernists Herzog & de Meuron have put Minneapolis (Walker Art Center), Southampton (Parrish Art Center), and Miami (Miami Museum of Art) on the map, in addition to a gut job of the Bankside Power Station in London that resulted in a transcendent design for the new Tate Modern.

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(L) Marianne Boesky Gallery, (R) Yale School of Art & New Theater

Deborah Berke & Partners spiffied up Marianne Boesky‘s Chelsea gallery to marvelous effect in 2006. In fact, her “elegant brand of austere Modernism,” uniting gallery space on the ground floor with private living quarters upstairs, even made the pages of the Gray Lady. As for performance space, Berke’s design for the Yale School of Art & New Theater makes a fine example.

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The New Museum on Bowery

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Serpentine Pavilion

SANAA is one of the most effective minimalist firms working in the art market today. Proof? London’s Serpentine Pavilion and New York’s very own New Museum, an institution whose architecture is praised far more often than its occasionally questionable exhibitions.

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Bonus shout-out to Frederick Fisher and Partners, whose reno of PS1 Contemporary Art Center from dilapidated public school to cutting-edge MoMA annex actually makes us want to trek to Queens. If Dia was doing their usual and re-doing an existing space, wethinks Fisher woulda been the man for the job.

For more about Dia’s past and present in the Big Apple, skip over to TIME architecture critic Ricahrd Lacayo’s official blog. And let us know in the comments who you think should be tapped for Dia’s new Chelsea space.