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OUTRAGE: On Moma

Does anyone remember the Outrage/Delight sections of The Architectural Review? We should bring that back.

In case you missed it, the New York MOMA is planning on tearing down a 12 year old building. The building in question, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, housed the American Folk Art Museum. After going bankrupt, MOMA bought the Williams/Tsien property which was adjacent.

I have a lot of feelings on this decision and none of them are positive.

From a strictly reason perspective, this seems like a waste. This building isn’t even a teenager, and now, in a time in which we lament the economy, we’ve decided that it should be torn down. It is expensive to design and build something. There are hundreds of jobs, thousands of hours and millions of dollars that go into a project of this magnitude.

But wasted resources aside, the most angering part of this debacle is how one cultural institution wants to tear down another one. MOMA is an incredibly well-respected and established entity. And as a cultural institution of such clout, MOMA has responsibilities.

It has responsibilities not only for art exhibition but preservation and respect. The message the museum sends is disconcerting, their decision is to eliminate “the problem” and start from scratch rather than finding a solution. And the buildings of Tod Williams Billie Tsien are important, beautiful, pieces of modernist architecture. They embrace angularity with softness, color with modernity. Their works are important.

Lastly, there’s something displeasingly lazy about this decision made from MOMA. Have we lost the ability to work around existing buildings? Haven’t the best architects shown us that an existing skeleton can be transformed? Why raze a building when it can be raised?

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