Thursday, April 7, 2022

MOCA Unveils New Headquarters by Maya Lin & Ralph Appelbaum


New Headquarters by Maya Lin & Ralph Appelbaum

New facility marks the first collaboration between two world-renowned designers.

Building will amplify the overlooked history of the Chinese diaspora in the United States while providing state of the art community gathering space.




Last week, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) unveiled plans for its new headquarters designed by world-renowned architect Maya Lin in partnership with Ralph Appelbaum Associates, one of the world’s leading museum design firms. The project is the first collaboration between the two firms. Located in New York City’s Chinatown, the new facility will replace MOCA’s current home and expand its current footprint from 12,000 square feet to more than 68,000 square feet. The building will feature a center for research and genealogy, theater, classrooms, a cooking demonstration kitchen, exhibit space, a canteen, and outdoor gathering spaces. The new space, expected to open in 2025, will offer visitors a welcoming place for research, exploration, education, creation, and gathering.

“Amid national waves of anti-Chinese American ignorance and fraught U.S.-China relations, there has perhaps been no more critical moment in recent memory for MOCA to serve as a hub for this important yet tragically overlooked history of the Chinese diaspora in the United States,” said Nancy Yao, President of the Museum of Chinese in America. “The history of discrimination and racism toward Chinese Americans and Asian American Pacific Islanders in the U.S. dates back to the first immigrants from Asia. The space, at long last, will create the nexus between these missing elements in U.S. history and public access at the same time MOCA will celebrate the journeys and successes” “Thank you to Maya Lin and Ralph Appelbaum not simply for their partnership, but for their singular devotion to the importance of MOCA’s mission within the context of the American narrative.”

“This is a true passion project for me,” said Maya Lin, Founder of Maya Lin Studio. “As a child of Chinese immigrants, I have throughout my life experienced firsthand anti-Asian discrimination and hostility. I’ve been drawn to MOCA and its critical mission for years and am incredibly moved to be able to present our design for its new headquarters—a place that will welcome, teach and inspire visitors from around the world.”

“Long a vital touchstone for the story of the Chinese American experience, this new nationally oriented addition to New York's cultural offerings will reveal a dramatic narrative of determination and persistence in becoming American,” said Ralph Appelbaum, Founder of Ralph Appelbaum Associates. “Our expanded new permanent home in the heart of America's largest Chinese community anchors a full range of new participatory visitor amenities that include a Center for Chinese American Genealogy, collection archives, conservation labs, research spaces, community-in-residence workshops, a theater, and classrooms weaved through and around exhibition floors that feature the lived experiences of generations of Chinese immigrants through artifacts from MOCA's rich collection. Collaborating with Maya Lin, whose narrative architecture embodies our story-based approach to history, is sure to offer resonant moments to all visitors in unexpected, beautiful, and memorable ways.”

The unveiling of the new national institution comes at a critical time when anti-Asian hate crimes rose to 10,905 incidents nationwide since March 2020. The new facility will make a statement in the fight against anti-Asian American Pacific Islander discrimination while ensuring the museum continues its mission of preserving and protecting the history of the Chinese American community as well as the larger Asian American diaspora.

Just as the space will welcome visitors from across the country and around the world, it will also provide Chinatown and the surrounding neighborhoods a place for local groups to collaborate and showcase work, share multigenerational experiences, and create new works of art – the first state of the art location of its kind in the area.

Lin’s design is inspired by the tangram, an ancient Chinese mathematical puzzle. This simple yet intricate puzzle translates to a metal panel facade as well as interior volumes connecting exhibition floors, classrooms, and event spaces. The shifting planes and perforated panels allow daylight to strategically enter the exhibition spaces and larger openings to light workspaces and classrooms as well as create views.

Her design also takes inspiration from vertical Chinese landscape paintings. Rising from a stone plinth, the solid body of the building, like a tree-covered mountain, disappears into a cloud-like lattice that holds a two-story lecture hall/auditorium.

The façade floats off the ground, welcoming visitors through a glass wall into a light-filled atrium. From there, the public can ascend through the building for various uses: from a casual lunch in the canteen to school children participating in hands-on learning to international visitors exploring the museum’s collection to families researching their genealogy.

Last year, the museum launched MOCA on the Road, a national tour designed to capture stories and gather new artifacts to expand its collections after a five-alarm fire at its Collections and Research Center in January 2020 at 70 Mulberry Street in Chinatown. MOCA held listening sessions in Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and New Haven and collected textiles, heirlooms, photographs, and newspapers from families, individuals, and institutions. At the same time, MOCA recently extended its free exhibition “Responses: Asian American Voices Resisting the Tides of Racism,” through September 2022. Launched in July 2021, the exhibition details the historical roots of anti-Asian and Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) racism from the early days of American history until the rise of anti-AAPI racism and violence today.

Click here to explore the capital campaign, and contact MOCA's campaign team at to learn more about supporting this exciting chapter in our journey.




Public Unveiling of Renderings and Architectural Model by Maya Lin Studio at 2022 MOCA Legacy Awards Gala


Museum of Chinese in America Exterior Rendering - Centre Street Day | Maya Lin Studio © 2022


Museum of Chinese in America Exterior Rendering - Lafayette Street Night | Maya Lin Studio © 2022


Museum of Chinese in America Interior Rendering - Lobby looking West | Maya Lin Studio © 2022


Museum of Chinese in America Interior Rendering - Auditorium | Maya Lin Studio © 2022




Museum of Chinese in America