When MoMA debuted its Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R)–led expansion and renovation plans in 2014, the reaction from the public was overwhelmingly negative. Those plans called for demolishing the Tod Williams and Billie Tsien–designed American Folk Art Museum and creating a glass curtain wall that would open MoMA's entire first floor to the public, for free. It's not the free part critics took issue with: It was the perceived chaos of the museum-goer experience and wholesale destruction of the folk art museum. MoMA took note, and pulled plans back. This week, revised plans were revealed. DS+R is still the architect (with Gensler), and the original objective—to create unfettered movement between galleries—remains. But a lot has also changed. Plans call for connecting galleries in Jean Nouvel’s planned residential tower at West 53rd Street, the new DS+R addition, galleries in the site of the former American Folk Art Museum, and the current MoMA building to broaden public access and accommodate skyrocketing attendance. Renovations and new construction will add 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, and expand the lobbies. When construction is complete, MoMA will be 744,000 square feet, or 17 percent, larger than it is today. The fluidity of the program, museum officials and observers contend, signal MoMA’s move away from traditional departmental categories towards more interdisciplinary collaboration. Martino Stierli, the museum’s chief curator of architecture and design, told the New York Times that MoMA is “really using this moment of renovation to explore other ways to see our collection—looking at how media can interact. We want to make use of this time to try new things.” Given the museum's increasing popularity, more people will see these new concepts in practice. Since 2004, the year that Yoshio Taniguchi's $858 million addition opened to the public, the collection has grown by 40 percent, the number of yearly exhibitions has increased from 15 to 35, membership has reached 150,000, and attendance has doubled to three million annual visitors. The project is being split into three phases so the museum will not have to close completely. DS+R’s structure will be the last of the three: The first phase will be changes to the Lauder Building, where audiences now enter for film screenings, followed by renovations to the Taniguchi building. The Lauder building's east lobby will be expanded to improve crowd flow to the main lobby, and the gift shop and bookstore will be moved below ground to facilitate the expansion. Broadening public access will be achieved by different means than those put forth in the plan's first iteration. A new public entrance to the 54th Street sculpture garden was nixed due to security concerns. The “Art Bay," a retractable glass door would have allowed museumgoers to enter ground-floor galleries straight from the street, has also disappeared from plans. Instead, the first floor will have a free gallery with two exhibition spaces (one double height, for MoMA's Project Series) that's open to the public, but accessed through the museum lobby. A new canopy and a double height ceiling at the 53rd Street entrance will give extra visibility to the museum's main entrance. The double height ceiling will displace the media gallery, whose contents could be moved to a fourth floor gallery for media and performance. To accommodate larger pieces, or pieces of the future whose spatial requirements cannot yet be determined, none of the new galleries will have permanent walls, and collections galleries will be almost column-free. The four third-floor galleries (including galleries for architecture, photography, drawings, and special exhibition) will be merged into two galleries of 10,000 and 5,000 square feet. Glass, steel, and stone will be traded for a warmer palette to unify the changes. Construction on the $390 to $400 million project will begin next month. Although completion is contingent on the project timeline of the Nouvel building, all construction is expected to be complete by 2019 or 2020.
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Diller, Scofidio + Renfro announced today that their reorganization of the Museum of Modern Art will include the replacement of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien's former American Folk Art Museum at 45 West 53rd street. Liz Diller said in her briefing that DS+R hoped to save the Folk Art building and repurpose it into a usable exhibit space or a connecting bridge between the new Jean Nouvel tower (which will have three floors of MoMA galleries) and the older parts of MoMA. However, "saving" the structure with its misaligned floors (to MOMA existing galleries) would mean compromising the integrity of the Williams Tsien structure. One can imagine the logic of DS+R's decision, but Williams and Tsien are, like any architects, sad to see the demise of their 2001 building that Herbert Muschamp said "transcend(s) cultural categories even as it helps define them." Here is Williams and Tsien's statement:
In response to the American Folk Art Museum building decision by MoMA January 8, 2014 We have learned of MoMA’s final decision to raze the former American Folk Art Museum building and replace it with a new structure. This action represents a missed opportunity to find new life and purpose for a building that is meaningful to so many. The Folk Art building was designed to respond to the fabric of the neighborhood and create a building that felt both appropriate and yet also extraordinary. Demolishing this human‐scaled, uniquely crafted building is a loss to the city of New York in terms of respecting the size, diversity and texture of buildings in a midtown neighborhood that is at risk of becoming increasingly homogenized. This is a building that we and others teach from and about. It has served as an invaluable learning resource for students, colleagues and scholars, and a source of inspiration for many more. It has a powerful architectural legacy. The inability to experience the building firsthand and to appreciate its meaning from an historical perspective will be profoundly felt. As architects, we must be optimists. So we look to the future and we move on.
Even after it was lopped off in 2009, Jean Nouvel's Tower Verre, aka the MoMA Tower, still remains one of New York City's tallest planned residential towers, sited adjacent to MoMA's headquarters on West 53rd Street. After fights with the neighbors, Nouvel's tower has been keeping a low profile, but Curbed (via NY YIMBY) has spotted a few new renderings of the tower at Adamson Associates Architects, the architects of record for the project. While the exterior changes are minor, fans of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien's now empty American Folk Art Museum can breathe a sigh of relief, for now, as the small, bronze-clad structure remains standing in the rendered views. Also of interest are a couple new renderings of the building's interior spaces.
Jean Nouvel feels like his MoMA Tower has been put under the guillotine. The starchitect behind the lopped-off Midtown Manhattan proposal told CBS News this weekend that "It's very French to cut the head, eh?" His 75-story tower would have rivaled the Empire State Building for supremacy over the New York skyline, standing 1,250 feet tall, but met significant opposition from neighbors worried the tower would drown their street in shadow. City Planning Commission officials voted earlier this year to allow a shortened version of the tower - chopping off 200 feet of the Pritzker Prize winner's design. Nouvel's vision has been sent back to the drawing boards, but he says it's "not in his character" to feel discouraged. Be sure to check out AN's cameo appearance at the end of the interview.
A group of Midtown residents and concerned citizens, many from the West 54th/55th Street Block Association, have been the leading opponents of Jean Nouvel's MoMA tower. They have been very vocal during hearings at Landmarks and, just a few weeks ago, City Planning Commission. Now, The Coalition for Responsible Midtown Development, as the group is calling itself, have launched a website, no2moma.com. There, they succinctly recast their previous opposition to the project--light & shadows, traffic & congestion, out-sized & ugly--as well as presenting a six minute documentary that makes the group's best case yet. Our favorite part is the clip above, where the Nouvel tower rises, Frankenstein-like, from "a lot no bigger than a McDonald's drive-thru." The full video is after the jump, but, given statements made by some commissioners during a meeting Monday, all this flash and frustration may be too little too late. At the very end of Monday's scheduled City Planning Commission meeting, the commissioners held an impromptu discussion of the project they were presented at the hearing two weeks ago. Impromptu because the full discussion, and likely the vote, will all come at the next scheduled meeting on the matter September 9. Still, the commissioners are clearly struck by this project, it's Pritzker Prize-winning architect, its heavyweight patron, its skyline-altering design. But as before, the discussion centered on the design and not its surrounding impact, which is the overwhelming concern of the tower's opposition. Asked by fellow commissioner Kenneth Knuckles how she would be voting on the project, chair Amanda Burden gamely demurred, saying she was withholding judgment until the actual vote. And yet at the same time, she seemed to be leaning strongly in favor of the project. "We're an optimistic city, we're a skyscraper city, so this project would not be out of place" Burden said. "It must be iconic, it must be distinguished. To get to that height in the sky, it's got to be great. I don't have a problem with the height. But let's see it, and see where it falls with the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building and if it deserves it." Burden added, underscoring the commission's concern with preserving the building as designed over other issues, "It's very important how we memorialize and freeze critical design elements." This way, the commissioners believe, and the applicant, Hines, seems to agree, Nouvel's tower and nothing else would or even could be built there. It's a valid concern (see: Frank Gehry, Atlantic Yards), but for the building's neighbors nowhere near the top of the list. Perhaps the coalition should have brought this video with them last month, as it might have helped sway the commission in its favor. Then again, there's always the City Council, where Speaker Christine Quinn, in whose district the project lies, has yet to take a position. Perhaps she's more of a cinephile than Burden. The coalition had better hope so.