Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum is the oldest continuously operating museum in the United States. It has been constructed in several phases over the past 150 years. The former Peabody Museum of Salem, founded in 1799 as the East India Marine Society by sea captains and merchants merged with the China Trade Museum of Milton in the mid-1980s. A merger in 1992 with the neighbouring Essex Institute, established as a repository for the decorative arts and cultural life of Boston's north shore, formed the Peabody Essex Museum. As the nation's oldest museum, the Peabody Essex occupies a two-block campus and includes a total of 28 historic properties, some of them period houses in adjacent neighbourhoods.

Safdie's concept was to create a public courtyard nicknamed the "hull" - which forms the spine of the new wing located over the existing street. A series of "house-like" galleries, scaled similar to Salem's Federal style two-storey residences, is strung along the east side of a curved, glazed arcade the "street". Profiles of these galleries are reminiscent of the tombstones in the memorial witch graveyard next to the museum. The two-level galleries have spaces between them that form light shafts bringing natural light into both the upper and lower levels. Unlike the National Gallery of Canada, the shafts are open to the exterior so that the buildings read individually. Each has a unique roofline and hence forms a unique interior space.