UPDATE: Since we first reported on this story, the Architectural League of New York has written an open letter to the MoMA, calling for “a compelling justification for the cultural and environmental waste of destroying this much-admired, highly distinctive twelve-year-old building.” Signatories include Steven Holl, Thoma Mayne, Richard Meier, and Robert A. M. Stern. You can find the letter here.
As we reported
yesterday, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has announced their plans to demolish the 12-year old American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams & Bille Tsien. The MoMA, which has planned a new expansion on either side of Williams & Tsien’s building, claims that the building will prevent the floors from lining up and thus must be demolished. Moreover, officials claim that the building’s opaque facade isn’t in keeping with the MOMA’s glass aesthetic.
Designers and architects, outraged by the MoMA’s decision to destroy such a young and architecturally important part of New York’s urban fabric, are now challenging the validity of the MoMA’s claim. Not only has a petition been started to prevent the demolition, but many are pleading with MoMa to consider how the Folk Art Museum could be integrated into the new expansion. In fact, a Tumblr – crowdsourcing ideas for potential re-designs - has even been set-up.
See more designers’ reactions & suggestions on how to save the American Folk Art Museum, after the break…
Just as designers have reacted to the death sentence of Ted Williams and Billie Tsien’s American Folk Art Museum building, forming petitions and a tumblr (#FolkMoMA), architecture critics have also been wielding their weapon – words – and entering the fray.
Most critics have responded with outrage (it’s “nothing less than cultural vandalism” says Martin Filler), denouncing MoMA’s prioritization of corporate needs over cultural value. However, a few are actually defending MoMA’s decision, saying the building was never ideal for displaying art anyway. See a round-up of all the opinions – from Davidson to Goldberger – after the break…
It is a building, a building in New York City, a building erected in the dust of 9/11, a building that upon completion signaled hope for larger reconstructions, a building that presents itself to the world through the intricate patina and pocking of white bronze. White bronze. This alone conjures something alchemic, ancient, timeless.
But buildings are not timeless. They have their time. As architects we memorialize each one that resonates with the thoughtfulness of capital “A” architecture—in part because we understand what it takes to realize them.
Despite this, the Tod Williams and Billie Tsien-designed American Folk Art Museum may ultimately be doomed to the brutal translations of administrative efficiency, cruel syllogisms, that as Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of MoMA’s architecture and design department notes, are “painful.”
Among the many ironies of the MoMA’s decision to demolish Ted Williams and Billie Tsien’s 12-year old building for the American Folk Art Museum, 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.”
“There are of course the personal feelings — your buildings are like your children, and this is a particular, for us, beloved small child. But there is also the feeling that it’s a kind of loss for architecture, because it’s a special building, a kind of small building that’s crafted, that’s particular and thoughtful at a time when so many buildings are about bigness.” – Billie Tsien, quoted in The New York Times
After only 12 years, the Tod Williams & Billie Tsien-designed American Folk Art Museum is slated to be demolished. Despite the acclaim it has received from critics, including high praise from the likes of Paul Goldberger and Herbert Muschamp, and the importance it has been given in New York’s architectural landscape, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA, which bought the building in 2011) reports that it must tear down the building to make way for an imminent expansion.
At the time of its construction, the building was of the first new museums built in New York in over thirty years. Unfortunately, the building will more likely be remembered for its short life, taking, in the words of The New York Times reporter Robin Pogrebin, “a dubious place in history as having had one of the shortest lives of an architecturally ambitious project in Manhattan.”
Read more about the American Folk Art Museum’s imminent demolition, after the break…