How Graves, Koolhaas, and Piano would have altered Marcel Breuer’s iconic Madison Avenue museum

Architecture East
(Courtesy Wikipedia)

The Breuer Building (Courtesy Wikipedia)

This month, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is opening the Met Breuer, replacing the Whitney Museum of American Art that called the Brutalist showpiece home for nearly five decades. Last year, the Whitney moved to Renzo Piano’s building in the Meatpacking District. The Met is renting the Breuer (now the Met Breuer) on an eight-year lease while David Chipperfield works on a new space for contemporary art.

The site of the Met’s latest acquisition, however, has a colourful past, fending off near misses from Graves to Koolhaas and Piano.  AN Takes a look at what so nearly could have been.

Graves' proposal (Courtesy Renovating NYC)

Graves’ proposal (Courtesy Renovating NYC)

In 1989, the New York Times ran the headline: “The Whitney Paradox: To Add Is To Subtract.” Such was Paul Goldberger’s distaste for what Michael Graves had originally proposed to lie adjacent to Marcel Breuer‘s building. Indeed, Graves’ Postmodern proposal gave rise to Goldberger questioning: “What value does the Breuer building have, both as a work of architecture unto itself and as a part of the streetscape? And how gingerly, therefore, should it be treated?”

The Breuer's abstract facade (Jules Antonio / Flickr)

The Breuer’s abstract facade (Jules Antonio / Flickr)

Built in 1966, Marcel Breuer’s Modernist granite building may be the epitome of abstract architecture, having remained detached for so long, shooing away any potential plunderers of its monumental message. Breuer, a Hungarian and product of Gropius’ Bauhaus, went so far as to erect concrete walls to resist interaction with adjacent buildings, keeping them at arm’s length.

(Courtesy OMA)

Koolhaas’ proposal (Courtesy OMA)

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