SiTE:LAB Presents – 54Jeff Architectural Design Competition

In 1940, after years of storing and exhibiting its collection in borrowed or repurposed spaces, the Grand Rapids Public Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan moved into 54 Jefferson, one of the last projects to be funded under the W.P.A. during the Great Depression. Over the next fifty years, 54 Jefferson, with a whale skeleton suspended in its great hall, and mammal dioramas, collections of weapons and furniture, and a transparent anatomical manikin in the adjoining galleries, was visited by nearly every schoolchild in Grand Rapids.

In 1994, faced with the deteriorating condition of the building and changing museum standards, the museum relocated to a new facility, leaving dioramas, showcases and exhibits behind. Since that time, 54 Jefferson has been maintained, but has otherwise been closed to the public.

The Challenge
We challenge competitors to create compelling visions for the future of this former museum. While not every proposal may be feasible in light of the political, legal and financial obstacles facing the development of any new urban public space, each can raise the community’s awareness of the unique potential of 54 Jefferson to once again serve Grand Rapids in new and innovative ways.

This open, one-stage competition seeks ideas for the repurposing of 54 Jefferson that define a vision for the building as a public space. Although proposals are not required to address these issues, they may wish to take into account (1) the extant showcases and dioramas left behind when the museum relocated, and (2) the building’s proximity and potential access to an adjacent facility in which the museum stores the vast majority of its collection that is not on display.

$10,000 for first prize, $5,000 for second, $2,000 for third and two student prizes of $1,000.

Reed Kroloff, Executive Director of the Cranbrook Academy and former editor-in-chief of Architecture magazine.

Eva Franch i Gilabert, Executive Director and Chief Curator of Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City. Franch is a registered architect, researcher, curator, teacher, and founder of OOAA (office of architectural affairs).

Additional jurors are still being finalized. Please see our site for the most up to date list.

See for complete competition details including registration and submission information, official rules, history and photographs of 54Jefferson, as well as the most current competition updates.


This entry was posted in Architecture, Grand Rapids. Bookmark the permalink.