Nearly 650 people crowded the auditorium at the Society for Ethical Culture on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Tuesday to debate MoMA's expansion plans, which include the demolition of the Tod Williams Billie Tsien–designed American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) building. Organized by the Architectural League of New York, the Municipal Art Society, and the AIA New York Chapter, the event was packed with prominent members of the design community. MoMA Director Glen Lowry and chief curator of painting and sculpture Ann Temkin spoke of the Museum's growing collection and their need to show art from the "immediate past," the 20th Century, alongside art from the present, and cited large recent acquisitions like the Fluxus and Frank Lloyd Write collections. Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro gave an earnest presentation, repeating her firm's desire and lengthy investigations to save the Folk Art building, calling Williams and Tsien "admired colleagues." Rectifying the alignment of the floors of AFAM with MoMA and creating easy circulation between buildings proved impossible, she said, without destroying the "integrity" of the AFAM building. Cranbrook Academy director Reed Kroloff then led a panel discussion on the expansion plans. Former New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff dismissed the architectural merits of the AFAM building, calling it flawed, and comparing it to Edward Durrell Stone's Two Columbus Circle. Cathleen McGuigan, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record, called the building important and urged the Modern to move more slowly with their demolition plans. Columbia preservation professor Jorge Otero-Pailos said the problem called for a rethinking of what preservation means and about the particular qualities of the AFAM building (some of his work involves the senses, and he praised the "olfactory quality" of the AFAM building, while saying MoMA had "an airport smell"). Architectural consultant and writer Karen Stein questioned Diller's assertion that circulation should be a defining feature of the project, and argued that MoMA had an obligation to the discipline of architecture to save the Williams Tsien building or some piece of it. Architect Stephen Rustow, who worked for KPF on the Taniguchi MoMA expansion, praised Diller, Scofidio + Renfro for addressing MoMA's programmatic goals, but questioned if the institution had framed those goals too narrowly, thereby eliminating any possibility of saving the AFAM building. Simultaneous to the action in the auditorium, an equally lively debate was happening on social media, with competing twitter hashtags, #MoMAConvo (promoted by the Modern) and #folkmoma (initiated by activists trying to save the AFAM structure). Several people on twitter questioned if the event was a forum or a wake. Following the discussion, Lowry, Temkin, and Diller returned to the stage, and it became clear that the building's fate is set. "Our decision has been made," Lowry said. Responding to a question about the value of architecture versus art, Lowry underscored his point. "We don't collect buildings."
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Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Museum of Modern Art 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY February 1 to June 1 Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal will represent the first exhibit resulting from the recent join acquisition of the architect’s archives by MoMA and Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. The models, drawings, and films found within the extensive collection will allow the museum to illustrate the tension in Wright’s urban thinking in the 1920s and 30s. Even as he undertook projects that contributed to the increasingly vertical nature of American cities, he created a radical horizontal vision of urban life known as Broadacre City. The elaborate model of this agrarian metropolis created by Wright and his students will be displayed alongside the architect’s designs for the San Francsico Call Building, Mahattan’s St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Towers, and a largely theoretical mile-high skyscraper.
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.
Dante Ferretti: Design and Construction for the Cinema Museum of Modern Art The Roy and Niuta Titus Galleries and the Film Lobby Dante Ferretti: Designing for the Big Screen The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters Through February 9, 2014 When you enter the Film Entrance to the Museum of Modern Art at 11 West 53rd Street, you are greeted by two large lions. No, you are not 11 blocks south at the New York Public LIbrary, nor are you in Venice, Italy. You are entering the world of Dante Ferretti, the 70-year old multi–Academy Award–winning art director of films, opera, exhibitions, and even two New York City restaurants, Salumeria Rosi (design inspired by a scene in Federico Fellini’s Satyricon). Large, muscular, physically confident objects dot the floor—the clock-face from Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011), Art Deco chandeliers from Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975), and Arcimboldo figures comprised of vegetables, fruits and flowers (Milan World Expo, 2015). But these are actually lightweight, ephemeral objects made of fiberglass and not meant to last beyond the creation of the film or duration of the event. The clock and chandeliers were on the cusp of being tossed when curators Jytte Jensen and Ron Magliozzi salvaged them. We then descend from the lit ground floor to the darkened subterranean levels where the movie theaters nest and magic happens. Blueprints and models midway down indicate Ferretti’s working practice. Particularly noteworthy are his dividing lines for elements to be built in 3D butt up against a green screen for digitally rendered CGI. As film viewers, we see them seamlessly. The lowest level features a cinematic labyrinth, which echoes Ferreti’s own proclivities for intricate passageways and mazes, let alone the labyrinth of the mind. It is easy to get turned around in a labyrinth, but as Ferretti is our guide, we can rest assured that we will find our way to the end. This immersive 12-screen video maze is technically ingenious using Gerriet’s EVEN “front and rear” pure white screen fabric with identical distribution of image on both sides. Intentionally, the visitor can see projected images both from the correct orientation as you would seated in a cinema or in front of a monitor, and backwards. Upon seeing the screens for the first time just before the exhibition opening, Ferretti declared they would have to be changed since the material appeared too opaque. But once he saw the projection, he was amazed that the image penetrated to the verso without dimming or distortion. The BenQ MX822st projectors deliver short-throw, bright, sharp contrast images. No matter how many visitors are inside the labyrinth, no shadows are thrown. Scenes from many of Ferretti’s films are shown, and with the clips clocking in at different lengths you’ll never see the same combination twice. (This is the first time that MoMA insisted that clearances from all actors and guilds be obtained, rather than simply the studios, so it is doubtful that this sort of undertaking will take place again.) Mirrors at the end of the wall seem to extend the labyrinth to infinity. In fact, the original 1939 Titus lobby by Philip Goodwin and Edward Durrell Stone had full-length mirrors [see photo at top]. The walls are lined with paintings, which is how Ferretti starts the process. He paints wide-screen canvases depicting key moments in the film with central perspective, pronounced light sources, grids and catacombs, often in a palette of dark reds and browns. The directors then respond to Ferretti’s concept, whether Fellini, Scorsese, Pasolini, Franco Zeffirelli, Anthony Minghella, Kenneth Branagh, Neil Jordan, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Julie Taymor, Claude Chabrol, David Cronenberg, Jonathan Miller, or the many others for whom he has created worlds of the imagination for their films. Ferretti divides his output into three categories, which are represented in the screenings of 22 features shown in MoMA’s theaters: the historic “period” films (Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, 1975 and The Aviator, 2004) “fantasy” (Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1988 and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, 2011) and “contemporary” (Elio Petri’s Todo Modo, 1976 and Scorsese’s Casino, 1995). What does Ferretti surround himself with in his studio to create these designs? Classic Italian modernism.
2013 has proven to be a difficult year for post-war concrete architecture. While some iconic structures have managed to emerge from the maelstrom of demolition attempts unharmed, including M. Paul Friedberg’s Peavy Plaza in Minneapolis and (tentatively) the Paul Rudolph–designed Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York (the fate of which still remains uncertain), others have been less lucky. John Johansen’s daring Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama and, more recently, Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Woman’s Hospital in Chicago have all been doomed to the wrecking ball. Despite architectural historian Michael R. Allen's claim that the demolition of the Prentice’ Woman’s Hospital would be Modernism’s “Penn Station Moment,” the trend still pushes on. The next in line to fight for its survival is a set of Paul Rudolph buildings in Buffalo, New York. Tomorrow, November 6, at 8:15 a.m., the Buffalo City Planning Board will convene to decide the fate of five buildings included in Rudolph’s 9.5-acre Shoreline Apartment complex. Completed in 1972, the 142-unit low-income housing development was featured in both the September 1972 issue of Architectural Record as well as the 1970 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Like many of their contemporaries, the inventive, complex forms and admirable social aspirations of the development have been overshadowed by disrepair, crime, and startling vacancy rates (30 percent in 2006 according to Buffalo Rising). Now, Norstar Development USA, who have owned the property since 2006, are moving forward with their plans to replace five of Rudolph’s complex, brutalist townhouses with eight new buildings containing 48 new housing units. "With few exceptions, Paul Rudolph's buildings can be recognized by their complexity, their sculptural details, their effects of scale and their texture,” wrote Arthur Drexler, the longstanding Director of MoMA’s Architecture and Design Department, in 1970. Drexler exhibited Rudolph’s original, much more dramatic scheme for Buffalo’s Shoreline Apartments alongside pending projects by Philip Johnson and Kevin Roche in an exhibition entitled Work in Progress. The projects on display were compiled to represent a commitment “to the idea that architecture, besides being technology, sociology and moral philosophy, must finally produce works of art.” Rudolph’s original scheme, composed of monumental, terraced, prefabricated housing structures, provided an ambitious alternative to high-rise dwelling that was meant to recall the complexity and intimacy of old European settlements. Drexler wrote in the exhibition brief that, despite the project’s massive scale, it was “designed to suggest human use, affording both inhabitants and passersby a kaleidoscopic variety." The Shoreline Apartments that stand today represent a scaled down version of the original plan. Featuring shed roofs, ribbed concrete exteriors, projecting balconies and enclosed gardens, the project combined Rudolph’s spatial radicalism with experiments in human-scaled, low-rise, high-density housing developments. The project's weaving, snake-like site plan was meant to create active communal green spaces, but, like those of most if its contemporaries, the spaces went unused, fracturing the fabric of Buffalo. Since 2006, Norstar Development has reportedly spent $19 million sprucing up the complex, adding new facades, windows, and railings to some of the buildings, and combining smaller apartments to make larger family units. The next step of their redevelopment includes the demolition of five currently-vacant Rudolph buildings. This is only “Phase 1” of Norstar’s operation, so stay tuned for more (heart)breaking news from the Queen City.
Today MoMA announced the newest exhibition in its "Issues in Contemporary Architecture Series," Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities. Six teams will examine how tactical urbanism can be used to address challenges in six global megacities: New York, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lagos, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro. Like the previous exhibitions in the series--Rising Currents and Foreclosed--Uneven Growth will commence with a series of public workshops, beginning on October 26 at MoMA PS 1. The final projects will be exhibited at MoMA in November 2014. Each team is comprised of a local firm from each study city paired with an international firm. The six teams are: Situ Studio of New York with Cohabitation Strategies from Rotterdam; Rua Architectos of Rio with MAS Urban Design from Zurich; URBZ of Mumbai with Pop Lab from Boston; NLE Architects of Lagos with Intelligencias Colectivas of Madrid; MAP Office of Hong Kong with Network Architecture Lab from New York; and Superpool of Istanbul with Atelier d'Architecture Autogenérée from Paris. Pedro Gadanho is the lead curator on the exhibition. "In 2030, the world's population will be a staggering eight billion people. Of these, two-thirds will live in cities, and most will be poor and with limited resources. This unbalanced growth will be one of the greatest challenges to societies across the globe," Gadanho said in a statement. "City authorities, urban planners and designers, and economists will need to join forces in an attempt to avoid a major social and economical catastrophe, working together to ensure that expanding megacities will be habitable."
MoMA's renowned Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden will be open and free to the public from 9:00 to 10:15 am, beginning September 9. Designed by Philip Johnson—and preserved during the recent Yoshio Taniguchi expansion—the sculpture garden is one of the great modern landscapes in the U.S., and currently features sculpture by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Tony Smith, and others. With coffee and beverages available for purchase, the garden is sure to become a destination for quick business meetings and quiet moments of cultural immersion amid the hubbub of Midtown mornings.
Barry Bergdoll is stepping down as Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, a position he has held since 2007. He will return to teaching at Columbia University and will take up an endowed chair in the Department of Art History and Archaeology. He will stay on part-time at MoMA to continue working on a major exhibition on Latin American architecture currently scheduled for 2015. He will also advise on the use and development of the Frank Lloyd Wright archive, which is jointly owned by Columbia and MoMA. While at the Modern, Bergdoll has curated a wide variety of shows, addressing topics ranging from prefabricated housing to the Bauhaus to rising sea levels. His recent exhibitions have included a widely praised show on the french architect Henri LaBrouste, and Le Courbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes (co-curated with Jean-Louis Cohen), which is currently on view. Bergdoll's tenure as chair has been marked both by a deepening of the historical and scholarly quality of the exhibitions and programming as well as greater engagement with social issues, such as affordable housing and climate change. In an email to AN, Bergdoll wrote, "I look forward to...continuing to be associated not only with the world’s oldest curatorial department of architecture and design, but I think its most vibrant and finest." MoMA will begin a search for his successor at the end of August.
Cut ‘n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City The Museum of Modern Art 11 West 53rd Street New York, NY Through December 1 Cut ‘n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City, on view at The Museum of Modern Art from July 10 to December 1, examines the essential yet overlooked role of collage in architectural representation. The exhibition places Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s early photomontages next to the cut-and-pasted experiments of artists, photographers, and graphic designers. Together, these pieces suggest an immersive “collage city,” originally conceived by Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter in the 1970s, that becomes animated through superimposing various elements. Combining popular references and dynamic cultural connections, Cut ‘n’ Paste emphasizes early uses of collage to map out both its progression as an aesthetic technique crucial to architectural representation and as a cultural practice that constitutes the city. Pedro Gadanho curated the exhibit along with Phoebe Springstubb. In addition to works by Mies van der Rohe, featured artists include Ralph Schraivogel and Paul Citroen.
The gentle drumming sound of rainfall is one that many of us find soothing, but it is a natural phenomena that we can only experience at a safe distance without suffering the consequence of being drenched. With their one-of-a-kind installation, Rain Room, the designers at rAndom international made what you thought was impossible possible—presenting anyone who is curious for a new sensation with the opportunity to fully experience standing unprotected in the rain without ever getting wet. This novel, experiential installation has been on view in London at The Barbican’s The Curve Gallery since last October and received showers of praise from visitors, some of who determinedly waited on line for 12 hours just to see the installation. On May 12, the installation, which was allegedly well worth the wait, will move to New York City where it will temporarily make a new home for itself at the Museum of Modern Art. In order to create this surreal experience, the designers used a one hundred square meter grid of continuous pouring water. As visitors meander through the space, they are given the illusion that they are in control of the rain. The designers implemented a sophisticated tracking sensor that immediately responds to the movements and presence of a human body, instantly forcing the water valves overhead to seal (at super-high speeds) while all around them it continues to rain. Visitors are able to walk through the torrential downpour, enjoy the tranquil sound of a falling rain, and feel the moisture rise around them, without a drop of water ever touching their skin. This remarkable installation leaves people walking away dry and feeling as if they've witnessed a truly magical experience.
As the chorus of criticism swells against MoMA's plan to demolish the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, a pair of petitions have been posted urging the Modern to reconsider its demolition plans. Also, a crowd-sourced tumblr, #FolkMoMA, is soliciting ideas for reuse of Williams and Tsien's building. With all the action online, will anyone be taking to the streets for some old fashioned picketing? Will anyone chain themselves to the bronze facade? Has all this worry actually left the bubble of the architecture community?
The Art Newspaper is out with its latest listing of top exhibitions and museum attendance for 2012 and in the category "Architecture and Design" there are some surprises. MoMA, the first museum in the world to have an architecture department, has led this category for many years and in 2011 as usual had the top three architecture and design exhibitions in the survey. But for 2012 St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum's first show dedicated to a living architect, Santiago Calatrava: The Quest For Movement, broke MoMA's monopoly of the category and became the most popular exhibit in the world. The exhibit on the Spanish architect drew 430,000 visitors or 5,217 people per day during its run in St. Petersburg—making it the 23rd most popular show overall in the survey. The next two top-drawing shows were again at MoMA with their design show Century of the Child: Growing by Design and Foreclosed: Rehousing The Dream leading the way with nearly a million visitors for the two exhibits on 53rd Street. The Cooper Hewitt made the list this year with two exhibitions: Graphic Design: Now in Production and Design With the Other 90% coming in at number six and seven in attendance. Sadly as a result of its recent financial difficulties Rome's MAXXI Museum was nowhere to be seen in this years list though in 2011 it had two exhibitions in the top ten.