Gallery Transformer

Architecture | Mar 2017 | BY Brook S. Mason

With projects spanning the globe, architect Markus Dochantschi, whose studioMDA has offices in both New York and Frankfurt, has cut a broad swath in the art world, designing a string of galleries in addition to flagship boutiques and a school in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Now, with the Anton Kern gallery really opened, just steps from Manhattan’s St. Regis Hotel in a five-story Beaux-Arts townhouse, this in-demand architect adds one more gallery—his 11th—to his considerable oeuvre, which includes Lisson, Paul Kasmin, Nahmad Contemporary and Istanbul’s Dirimart Gallery.

Trained in Frankfurt, Dochantschi spent seven years with Zaha Hadid, where he led the design of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center before landing in New York and setting up shop with only his laptop in 2002.

303 Gallery is located on 24th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue. Photo by Rolande Halbe.

Although he has never hewed to a singular style, “there has to be a sensitive understanding of the setting, the DNA of the client, and the culture,” says Dochantschi. Three elements always mark his galleries: light, flexibility and the very character of the site. A case in point: For the Lower East Side dealer Richard Taittinger, Dochantschi designed the space with floor-to-ceiling windows. “He wanted to shutter the gallery at night, but I pushed Richard to treat his space like a vitrine, allowing the viewer to explore the art inside, even when the gallery is closed at the end of the evening.”

Dochantschi is also comfortable with the idea of transformation. For the Carpenters Workshop Gallery, perched on two floors of the former Fifth Avenue Takashimaya store, Dochantschi gutted the penthouse and the floor below. “We wanted to move beyond the white box paradigm,” says Julien Lombrail, who co-founded the gallery. “Markus understood our vision and imbued the raw space with an edgy elegance emblematic of our artists.” The end result, with its 40-foot-tall ceiling, 20-foot-high windows and period parquet floors, is something the architect describes as having a “cathedral effect.”

Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery continues as one of the most internationally recognized design galleries, featuring “functional” furniture and collectables. Photo by Tim Williams.

Yet there is still one other area in which he has made an impact in the high-octane contemporary art world: Dochantschi designs gallery shows and booths. “So far, I’ve done 81,” he says, including Kasmin’s recently opened “L’Impasse Ronsin” and a number of booths at Art Basel Miami Beach.

With a complex of nine individual galleries in Chelsea, a monumental exhibition space in TriBeCa, and Germany’s RWTH Aachen University currently on the drawing board, Dochantschi happily observes that the convergence of “art, design, architecture, galleries and museums” in his practice is simply indicative of the times.

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