Wednesday, January 15, 2014

MoMA Steamrolls down 53rd Street

MoMA Expansion © Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Everyone is weighing in on MoMA's plans to raze Willians & Tsien's American Folk Art Museum, on West 53rd Street, for their next expansion. It's a local fight, but I am still a local when it comes to New York.

Some interesting quotes:

"The Museum of Modern Art is a perpetual work in progress. It’s never been finished.”
Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA Director

“I know the architecture community was hoping the conclusion would be different.”Elizabeth Diller, of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), who are designing the museum's expansion. Implying that this question is of no wider import, and does not affect the public interest?

“We don’t collect buildings. We take architecture seriously, but it isn’t art. Architecture is tied to function."
Boom! Glenn Lowry, in a verbal blitzkrieg of executive expediency. Run for cover!

“The current lobby, we feel, is quite mean. There’s a banality about it.”
Diller on plans to redo the existing museum lobby, result of last expansion by Yoshio Taniguchi. Finally someone said it.

Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for The New York Times, on the current museum:
"MoMA is now as jammed and joyless as the Van Wyck Expressway on a Friday in July. That’s not because it is a victim of its own success; it’s because the museum is a victim of its own philosophy. ... . I remember the temporary home the museum occupied in Queens during its last renovation. It briefly got MoMA out of its Midtown straitjacket and closer to its pioneering roots."
 And on the problems and virtues of the Folk Museum building:
"Wedged onto a narrow plot, the ill-fated folk art building is far from perfect. Inside, it’s mostly stairwells and passages, its galleries tricky to install. But the eccentricity helps to account for what endears it to architects. Those bespoke, domestic-size spaces, like the building’s sober hammered bronze facade, share something with the handicraft of the folk art museum’s collection; the building has a rootedness, a materiality, an outsize claim to significance. It stands proudly on the street, the unfashionable antithesis of generic, open-ended modernism, the opposite of what Diller Scofidio now envisions in its place, with its paradigm of indefinite and perishable culture."
Update January 20  
Later this week Diller was interviewed by architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne in the Los Angeles Times, with more interesting statements:
"I think the reason this [Folk Art] building was very difficult to transform into something else was its degree of idiosyncrasy. If we were to eliminate a lot of those idiosyncrasies, we could use it. But at a certain point it takes on another identity."
"Connectivity to the street [is] something we talked abpit on our first interview with MoMA: the art now is half a mile away from the entrance. MoMA could have a better civic presence generally, and the entrance on 53rd Street could be more generous, be a double-height space. There are a number of gestures that make the entrance more inviting. When it becomes more efficient and cleaned up, there could be great options for showing art there." (Edited by DC)
Hawthorne's original criticism of the proposal, published on January 9th in the LA Times, is also worth quoting:
"The idea that a museum would acquire and then demolish an important piece of contemporary architecture is unfathomable to many artists and architects in New York. While I admire the building, I don’t think the Folk Art Museum is the masterpiece some of my colleagues believe it to be; its interior is mannered and overdesigned, its dark and contorted façade presenting a kind of barricade along the streetscape."
"The idea that endlessly enlarging museum buildings will provide a better experience for visitors is almost never borne out by the architectural gigantism that results. On the contrary, the most powerful encounters we have with works of art tend to take place in the smallest and most intimate -- and even the most eccentric or impractical -- works of museum architecture. Efficiency and endless expansion are catnip to museum boards; they are often fatal to museum architecture."
The Folk Art Museum is hard to capture in photos. Here are a few, by my old friend Michael Moran:

Here's a schematic sketch of the new expansion prepared by DS+R and published in Architectural Record. The motor of the expansion is a new residential tower by Jean Nouvel, promoted by Gerald Hines, whose first floors will be given over to new gallery space -- a return to the real estate strategy behind the Cesar Pelli addition in the 1980s.
A couple of images of Nouvel's Tower Verre, as of last year, from Curbed:

I still miss the old Hotel Dorset on 54th Street, wiped out in the Taniguchi expansion. And every time I pass the sculpture garden I wonder how much longer the Rockefeller apartments can hold out across 54th Street. What would the garden be without that backdrop? But of course what i really miss is the old museum, which in memories from college trips in the 1970s was as intimate as a private club. Those were the days.

Diller, first Lowry  quote:
Cathleen McGuigan and Laura Raskin
MoMA to Demolish Tod Williams Billie Tsien Folk Art Building After All
Architectural Record, January 8, 2014

Second Lowry quote:
Fred A. Bernstein
MoMA Defends Decision to Raze Folk Art Museum Building at Public Forum
Architectural Record, January 29, 2014

Michael Kimmelman
The Museum With a Bulldozer’s Heart
The New York TImes, January 13, 2014

Christopher Hawthorne
MoMA reaffirms controversial plan to raze Folk Art building
Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2014

Christopher Hawthorne
Elizabeth Diller Defends MoMA Plan to Demolish Folk Art Building
Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2014

Sara Polsy
Moma Mia! New Renderings Revealed for Jean Nouvel's MoMA Tower
Curbed, December 10, 2012


David W. Dunlap
"Folk Art Building May Be Lost, But Facade Will Live: In Storage Some Place"
The New York Times
February 12, 2014

David Cohn
"The Short Life of Another Little NY Masterpiece"
The View from Madrid
February 10, 2014
Standford White's Madison Square Presbyterian Church lasted just 10 years. 

"MoMA Begins Demolition of Folk Art Museum Building"
Webpage news story
Architectural Record
April 14, 2014

Robin Pogerin
Architects Mourn Former Folk Art Museum Building
Talk with Tod Williams
The New York Times
April 15, 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment