Posts tagged with "The Museum of Modern Art MoMA":

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On Plastic Plants

There is a lot to like about Chicago's Quincy Court, an alley turned public space outside the Mies van der Rohe-designed Dirksen Federal Building that opened this summer. The General Services Administration (GSA) initiated the project to help beef up security around the federal campus, and they can certainly be praised for hiring a design firm to reimagine the space, in this case Rios Clementi Hale of Los Angeles, instead of just bolting a bunch of bollards into the ground. And while the design has a certain whimsy, which may appeal to some, we're having a hard time getting over the giant plastic palms. According to the press release the "sculptural grove" mediates between the monumentality of federal campus and the smaller scale of State Street. The seating and tables are nicely detailed and the project's Pop sensibility is sure to change the way people think about this alley way. But in this age of ecological crisis, and in a city that has made sustainability one of its hallmarks and has worked hard to green the Loop, the plastic palms seem like the wrong message for the GSA to send. Real deciduous trees, after all, provide shade in the hot summer and loose their leaves in the fall when sun is welcome. Ken Smith's artificial rooftop garden at MoMA, which boasts fake rocks, plastic plants, and few environmental benefits, seems like a similar missed opportunity, a one liner that provides intriguing views for neighbors but does little to improve the hardscape environment of midtown Manhattan. Are we being too rigid in our thinking? Should we loosen up and go shopping for some silk flowers?

MoMA Makes for Bad Neighbor

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.
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A New-vel Skyline

After both impressing and frustrating the Landmarks Preservation Commission last year, Jean Nouvel's Torre de Verre is making its way through the public review process in order to secure a few zoning variance to allow the funky Moma-ttached tower to be built. Curbed reports the tower was panned by the local community board (it's a largely symbolic vote, however), but the most striking thing to us was this new rendering, which shows how the now-1,250-foot tower would look from Central Park. Quelle horror!

Esto-ordinary Videos

"Everybody's doing it." That's how Erica Stoller of Esto described the august architectural photo agency's foray into web video. Now don't fret. At the heart of these videos remains Esto's unparalleled still camerawork, but given these changing times, experimentation is in order. And, as Stoller's colleague Joel Sanders explained, the philosophy remains the same. "Esto has always been about expressing architecture in its truest, purest, most honest form," Sanders told us over the phone. "We see these videos simply as an extension of that. It's a means to describing the architecture." For its first two videos, Esto showcases the work of photographer Albert Vecerka. One documents the restoration, more than 13 years later, of P.S. 70, a burned out Bed-Stuy school that was transformed by Robert A.M. Stern into the Excellence Charter School. The other presents a time lapse installation from last summer of KieranTimberlake's Cellophane House at MoMA's prefab show, Home Delivery.
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MoMA and Taniguchi Get Comfortable (with a little help from Pipliotti Rist)

When the Modern reopened its Yoshio Taniguchi-designed doors in 2004, critical opinion of the new building was split. Some critics and museum visitors complained that the building, and the institution it housed, seemed to lack a point of view, and that it was geared more toward moving hoards of tourists than to contemplative art viewing. One longtime MoMA watcher, however, cautioned me, “We always hate the new MoMA. Then you get used to it and grow to love it.” While hoards of tourists have not gone away, recently the museum seems to be getting more comfortable in its skin. In the architecture and design galleries, small thematic exhibitions have helped to focus the viewing experience, breaking down the Greatest Hits approach that has made so many design galleries indistinguishable from showrooms. Currently on view are strong capsule exhibitions on Jean Prouvé, the graphic designer George Lois, and a group show called Rough Cut: Design Takes on a Sharp Edge (which is a bit of a rehash of Safe: Design Takes on Risk, but is full of interesting work). Perhaps the most challenging area of the new building is the vast five story atrium, currently, and pleasantly, inhabited by a massive video installation, Pipliotti Rist: Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), commissioned by the Museum specifically for the space. While large-scale installations have become common in museums, and are geared to spectacle hungry cultural travelers, there is something joyful and welcoming about Rist’s piece, especially during the holidays in congested midtown. Pour Your Body Out invites you to recline on a massive circular couch, embedded with speakers, to take in the color saturated show and immerse yourself in what chief media curator Klaus Biesenbach called an image “pool.” Rist has said she wanted the installation to “kiss Taniguchi.” Even at 25 feet high, Rist’s video only begins to fill the atrium, though she cleverly covered the high catwalks with pink curtains, containing the sound and providing some much needed warmth and intimacy to the vast white space. In the video below, Biesenbach discusses the installation and how it is meant to work in Taniguchi’s gallery. Pour Your Body Out is on view through Feburary 2.