12 year old Manhattan Museum to be demolished, it's "too opaque."

American Folk art Museum/ Flickr ox294/CC BY 2.0

In the UK there is the Rubble Club, "an organisation to remember buildings demolished in their architect’s lifetime." Its members are few in number and are generally older; most buildings used to outlive their architects. Tod Williams and Billie Tsien may well be the youngest architects ever to be inducted into this august institution; their work is being reduced to rubble in just twelve years. They really are the new kids on the block.

When their American Folk Art Museum opened in 2001, architectural critic Herbert Muschamp called it a midtown icon. It's timing was important, just after 9/11, and Muschamp noted in the New York Times:

The Rebuilding of New York has already begun. The new American Folk Art Museum in Midtown, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, is a bighearted building. And its heart is in the right time as well as the right place. The design delves deeply into the meaning of continuity: the regeneration of streets and cities; the persistence and mingling of multiple memories in the changing polyglot metropolis; and the capacity of art to transcend cultural categories even as it helps define them.

It was a gem, and an expensive one, too much for the Museum, which sold it to the neighboring Museum of Modern Art, which has announced that it going to demolish it. According to Robin Pogrebin in the New York Times:

MoMA officials said the building’s design did not fit their plans because the opaque facade is not in keeping with the glass aesthetic of the rest of the museum. The former folk museum is also set back farther than MoMA’s other properties, and the floors would not line up.

ox294/CC BY 2.0

For a museum that has always considered architecture to be an art, they are being awfully cavalier with an important work, just because they like glassy boxes. For a museum that has curated shows about green building and design, they are being awfully wasteful and extravagant, throwing away a perfectly good building as if it was a "happy to serve you" cup. Andrew S. Dolkart tells the Times:

The building is so solid looking on the street, and then it becomes a disposable artifact. It’s unusual and it’s tragic because it’s a notable work of 21st century architecture by noteworthy architects who haven’t done that much work in the city, and it’s a beautiful work with the look of a handcrafted facade.

We repeat the mantra: The greenest building is the one already standing.

Tags: Ban Demolition | Demolition | New York City

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