exterior of the louis armstrong museum in queens
This June, the neighborhood of Corona, Queens, gave a warm welcome to the new Louis Armstrong Center. Located across the street from the Louis Armstrong House Museum and designed by Caples Jefferson Architects, the center showcases rotating exhibitions, a 60,000-piece archive, and a performance venue.

Caples Jefferson Architects’ Louis Armstrong Museum Shines in Queens

The new 14,000-square-foot visitor center opened across the street from Louis and Lucille Armstrong’s two-story house in Corona, Queens.

In 1943 the great American jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille, settled into what would be the last residence they shared: a two-story house in the New York neighborhood of Corona, Queens. As one of the world’s most famous musicians, Armstrong could have lived anywhere but he made 107th Street his home, and practiced there every day until he died in 1971. 

That house became a National and New York Historic Landmark, thanks to the efforts of Lucille. And thanks to Caples Jefferson Architects, a new, 14,000-square-foot visitor center opened this summer across the street, forming a kind of institutional duet. “Armstrong’s music didn’t come out of some fancy place,” says principal Sara Caples. “It came out of a deep tradition, a brilliant tradition, but very much part of a working person’s tradition.” The new Louis Armstrong Center also eschews fanciful gestures while staying in the pocket of the block. Its forecourt welcomes in the neighborhood, while its faceted facade embeds metal fins like music staffs even as the glazing appears to swing. 

interior of a gallery at the louis armstrong museum
Louis Armstrong Museum, Location: Queens NY, Architect: Caples and Jefferson Architects
image of a red performance room
Louis Armstrong Museum, Location: Queens NY, Architect: Caples and Jefferson Architects

Beneath beats the heart of the center. Faceted mahogany and perforated acoustic panels—some upholstered in what Caples calls the red of “sexy, joyous nightclubbing”—give the 75-seat sound room its shape. Its placement is intentional. “We wanted the archives to kind of just sandwich [the club],” says firm cofounder Everardo Jefferson. This way the concerts are “all built on the archives. They affect the music itself.” 

The spotlit glow of Satchmo’s brass trumpet echoes in finishes throughout the center, from the woven mesh within the facade’s double glazing to the interior columns’ incipits. They form a familiar refrain as you wander through Caples Jefferson’s architectural riffs. “The spaces are very distinct experiences,” says Caples. “When you listen to a piece by Louis, it’s just like an adventure.” Fittingly, each pops. 

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