ruminations about architecture and design

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

the folk art museum and destiny

These are pictures of what used to be the Folk Art Museum. It used to be located adjacent to MoMA in the grand city of New York. I come to bury Caesar, not to honor him, so pardon me if I jump to conclusions.

I've been to MoMA a few times, and I can't recall going into the Folk Art Museum. I've been dimly aware of the controversy surrounding its impending demolition to make way for MoMA space. After looking at these images, and reading a recent interview with one of the new architects, Elizabeth Diller, my lack of concern remains at the same level of indifference.

Diller said some very intelligent things about the temporary nature of buildings. She regrets having to tear something down, but she regrets spending resources making something that exists work in a compromised way for future users. She says that when she designs, she thinks of the occupants, and since occupants change with time, the building has to adapt or get demolished. She accepts the same fate for projects she has worked on. (Are those wrecking balls I see near the Boston ICA?)

Maybe I'm just feeling harsh about preservation today, but I will try to make one original observation: The scale and geometry of the Folk Art Museum resembles that of many urban structures that fill up urban streetscapes. A narrow front, an off-center entrance, and unique, but not spectacular details. These are the types of buildings in cities around the world that get built, get used, and then get torn down. They don't have the scale or properties to justify a lifespan of more than a few hundred years, particularly if they're in a hot neighborhood surrounded by bigger structures.

And MoMA itself is just ghastly.

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