Barry Bergdoll Breaks Silence About American Folk Art Museum

© Flickr User CC Wallyg

Among the many ironies of the MoMA’s decision to demolish Ted Williams and Billie Tsien’s 12-year old building for the , is the most obvious: as a cultural institution, the MoMA is meant to value and protect, not demolish,  architecture.

Critics such as Justin Davidson and Martin Filler have pointed out that the irony is particularly acute considering the MoMA’s “distinguished” and “revivified” department of architecture and design, curated by Barry Bergdoll. They note that Bergdoll, who they both praise highly as “visionary”, has remained conspicuously silent on the decision. Davidson even claims that the MoMA can only appreciate such innovative “individuality [such as Bergdoll's] under glass.”

However, a week after the decision first went public, Bergdoll has finally broken his silence to Architect’s Newspaper. See what he has to say about the MoMA’s decision, after the break…

Bergdoll told Architect’s Newspaper that the decision, although “painful”, was an administrative necessity. He noted that the building “was designed as a jewel box for folk art,” and told AN that it wasn’t flexible enough to house a different collection or a different purpose. What’s more, he pointed out that any significant change to the building (such as retaining only the facade or drastically restructuring it, as some have suggested) would “denature its total design aesthetic” and integrity.

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Story via Architect’s Newspaper 

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Barry Bergdoll Breaks Silence About American Folk Art Museum" 17 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • John

    Frankly, this still sounds like a cop-out and a decision to take the easy route. Granted, Mr. Bergdoll’s position is difficult. Surely, the importance of the building warrants some inconvenience.

  • brawnchip


  • Daniel Fougere

    The American Folk Art Museum is a jem of a building and is just as unique as the art work presented inside. Demolishing this building would be very depressing.

  • George

    I saw Todd Williams and Billie Tsien lecture just before this decision went public. They presented this project and said they were confident that it could be retrofitted, but conceded that not ALL works could go there, but that they thought MOMA had existing collections that would work. They indicated that they hoped to get the project to do the retrofit. I defer to them.

  • John-David Carling

    A reversal of this Demolition decision is in respectful order.

  • Vic

    As nice as the exterior is, I do agree that only preserving the facade is not a viable solution. The real beauty of this building is its interior…

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  • Dan halsted

    I think what barry said is right and takes courage. Actually the folk art museum turned down an offer from moma over a decade ago to swap land which could have preserved the structure. They ran their museum badly and now moma is made out to be the villain when there will be millions of visitors who will enjoy moma new addition over the coming years. I applaud barry for having the balls to speak up and defend the decision.

    • marinagp

      Bary Bergdoll is not ‘defending’ the decision…he is just diplomatic…

  • albert williams

    I wish I was the architect. I would propose to encapsulate the building and make it a sort of peice of art that you can walk through: like art within art. Hell MOMA is a museum so if anyone can make it happen they surely could. But I also have to agree with Dan; Barry had to know that he was going to take a lot of heat. That’s why those guys get paid the big bucks.

  • h.a.

    actually the point here is that it has been a long time now since MoMA stoped being a leading institution for architecture. it´s not me saying it, it was keneth frampton

  • tk

    The inability of the project to grow and evolve is a major oversight by both the architects and MoMa. You are building a museum in New York City. How many times has the MoMa expanded already?? Tear it down. Next time plan ahead, fools.

  • CatC

    I think sometimes buildings need to come down. Its not always the best option to keep stuff (energy efficiency issues are a big decider these days for example). Although I think it’s sad it’s going, I’m sure what they’re planning will be spectacular!

  • Douglas Moss

    For MOMA to destroy one of the finest buildings in NYC is sad and inappropriate for an institution of its character. There are literally dozens of options for MOMA to implement for this fine piece of architecture. More of the Taniguchi building will not make the museum better, most likely worse.

    The NY architectural and preservation community should rally around this building and force MOMA to reconsider their poorly considered decision.

    Douglas Moss