A group of prominent architecture editors and critics, including AN's William Menking, have written a letter to the New York Public Library (NYPL) protesting the proposed renovation by Foster + Partners, under the banner of the "Huxtable Initiative." The letters requests that the NYPL's Board of Trustees reconsider the current plan to remove the library's massive iron and steel stacks for a new atrium and reading room "before such an irreversible decision is made." Letter to the Board of Trustees of the New York Public Library February 4, 2013 The late Ada Louise Huxtable’s last essay (Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2012) criticized the New York Public Library’s plan to remove its seven stories of stacks in the main branch at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue to make room for a circulating library designed by Foster + Partners. While she had not been able to convince the library to show her Foster’s scheme by that date, Huxtable contended that the 19th-century iron and steel stacks were an important engineering feat and should be preserved. Now Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic for the New York Times, argues on the front page of the newspaper (January 30, 2013) that the schematic design Norman Foster presented on December 20, 2012 has “the elegance and distinction of a suburban mall,” and is an “awkward, cramped, banal pastiche of tiers facing claustrophobia-inducing windows.” He further questions a plan where the budget of $300 million keeps rising, and asserts that the trade-off in square feet simply does not make a strong case for proceeding. We architecture writers, editors, critics, and historians urge the trustees of the New York Public Library to reconsider their plans for the 42nd Street building. The library’s lack of transparency in involving the public in its planning process angered Huxtable, as it has us. We, like Kimmelman, are convinced the proposed intervention would do much to damage the architectural character and experience of Carrère and Hasting’s magnificent Beaux Arts landmark. The scholars among us do not object to the public or to teenagers sharing this space. But considering all the trade-offs, the library should seriously reconsider renovating the 40th Street branch for a circulating library where Foster’s talents could be used more appropriately. Why is the board of the New York Public Library in such a rush that it remains deaf to the well-publicized misgivings of so many in the community? Before such an irreversible decision is made, we ask the board to stop and open the proposal affecting such a significant public institution to significant public discussion. Thomas Bender Mosette Broderick Rosemarie Bletter Elisabeth Broome Martin Filler Joseph Giovannini Carol Krinsky Mark Lamster Paul Makovsky Cathleen McGuigan Mary McLeod William Menking David Morton Victoria Newhouse Joan Ockman Clifford Pearson Mildred Schmertz Suzanne Stephens Carol Willis Gwendolyn Wright
Posts tagged with "Critics":
Rumors have been circulating that Paul Goldberger was leaving his prized perch as architecture critic at the New Yorker. It appears he's been given a golden parachute from Condé Nast in the form of a contributing editor title at Vanity Fair, where he will cover architecture and design. AN has obtained an undated press release from that magazine confirming the move. “This is an appointment that thrills me profoundly,” Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair, said in a statement. “Paul is about as gifted a commentator on architecture, urban planning, and design as anyone you’re going to find these days—in other words, he’s just a brilliant writer.”
According to an in-house memo, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff is “moving on” at the end of this month. The sweet but short memo about the critic—who this year submitted his own Pulitzer nomination package—was sent around this morning from culture editor Jonathan Landman. Ouroussoff’s plan, the memo said, is:
to write a book about the architectural and cultural history of the last 100 years, "from Adolf Loos's Vienna and the utopian social experiments of post-revolutionary Russia to postwar Los Angeles and the closing years of the 20th century," as Nicolai describes it.
That's the level of ambition we've come to take for granted in Nicolai. He's a critic whose seven-year run has been distinguished by qualities of unfailing intelligence and integrity and the kind of relentless journalistic drive that propelled a worldwide search for steel-and-concrete manifestations of big, important ideas. His recent series on efforts to use architecture to transform the Middle East was only the latest example. And a grand one it was. On a different scale, I have another favorite, a review that shows off all of Nicolai's discernment, courage and skill in a smaller package. That was his appraisal of our new building. There was a lot he didn't like about the place and he said so - there's the courage part. On the discernment front, there are fascinating observations about the building's interplay with the history and ideals of modern journalism. Skill? Look at the direct and good humored way he handles the problem of reviewing the boss. No doubt there's much more where that came from. There's a ton of Nicolai's trademark ambition in the plan for his book, to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which aspires to put a century of architecture into the kind of social and political context he always aimed for within the more limited constraints of newspaper writing. We'll miss him. He'll miss us.The question is will the readers, too? The sporadic critic was known more for chasing down exotic locations and predictably championing all things Californian than analyzing local conditions and his even-handed voice sometimes had us all missing the impassioned harangues of his predecessor, Herbert Muschamp, but at least he was there writing about architecture for the general public, one of the last of a rare and rarer breed.
Apparently the art world hates the American Folk Art Museum building! (Who knew?!) In the wake of the news that MoMA is buying the Todd Williams Billie Tsien-designed building, two of the art world's more prominent voices both bashed the building and argued it hastened the Folk Art Museum's decline. The esteemed Times critic Roberta Smith called it "unwelcoming" and argued that the museum's fate was sealed by "lackluster, visionless leadership; the weak economy; and inappropriate architecture." Smith's husband happens to be Jerry Saltz, the pugnacious art critic for New York, who went much further in a piece titled, "Architecture Killed the American Folk Art Museum." He called the building, "ugly and confining, it was also all but useless for showing art." Not everyone agrees! The ever incisive New York architecture critic Justin Davidson rallied to the building's defense, calling its facade an "alluring exception to the tough sleekness of midtown." He blamed poor fiscal management, not architecture, for the museum's woes. He added that given the building's small lot, which by necessity called for a vertical museum, "the architects didn’t just do the best they could; they did far more than anyone had a right to expect." But what will happen to this complex little building now that MoMA owns it? MoMA remains noncommittal. Late yesterday AN received a statement from Hines, MoMA's development partner for the planned Jean Nouvel tower surrounding the site. "Hines wasn't involved in the transaction, and no, it will not change our plans for the tower. That deal is all MoMA's," wrote Kim Jagger, director of corporate communications for Hines, in an email. So perhaps the building have a new life with the Modern. At this point, only MoMA knows.
Few buildings have sparked as much architectural criticism as Two Columbus Circle, the new home of the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD). Brad Cloepfil's firm Allied Works has designed the new museum, set within the bones of Edward Durrell Stone's old building. Critical reaction has been split, though the MAD haters seem to outnumber the fans. In the haters column: Nicolai Ouroussoff, who called the building "poorly detailed and lacking in confidence"; the now shuttered (sorry neocons) New York Sun's James Gardner, who called it "emphatically not good"; and Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times, who deemed it "schoolmarmish." Ouch. Among the fans and apologists: The New Yorker's Paul Goldberger acknowledged Cloepfil's difficulty in dealing with Stone, when he wrote, "rarely has an architect been pulled so completely in opposite directions,” but he added that the interior is “functional, logical, and pleasant to be in”; Blair Kamin, in the Chicago Tribune, offered mild praise when he wrote that the building, "while no masterpiece, turns out to be a better example of architectural recycling than its critics predicted"; the project's strongest defense came from the keyboard of Bloomberg's James Russell, who called the museum a "work of subtlety and substance." In a second piece, Ouroussoff called for the building's demolition, prompting blogger CultureGrrl at artsjournal to write, "it's time to demolish Ouroussoff." The woman arguably at the center of the debate (and the debate about the debate), Ada Louise Huxtable, is notably silent to date. Will she take up the subject once again?