MoMA to Demolish American Folk Art Museum Building

by Mostafa Heddaya on January 8, 2014

Façade of the American Folk Art Museum (image via Flickr user 0x294)

Façade of the American Folk Art Museum (image via Flickr user 0x294)

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is proceeding with its controversial plans to bulldoze the American Folk Art Museum building, the Wall Street Journal has reported. The museum was previously persuaded to recant their April 2013 decision to raze the 2001 building by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and promised to work to incorporate the structure into the museum’s expansion. But the architects responsible for the 105,000 square-foot redesign ultimately balked at this compromise. “Here, there’s a kind of ethical problem that to save the building … you end up losing so much of it that in the end, the integrity is gone,” architect Liz Diller of the firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro told the Wall Street Journal.

The structure’s original architects, Williams and Tsien, were reportedly informed of the decision in person by Diller and her husband, Ricardo Scofidio. In a statement cited by the Journal, “Mr. Williams and Ms. Tsien said the decision was a ‘missed opportunity to find new life and purpose for a building that is meaningful to so many.'” (The full statement is posted on the blog of the Architect’s Newspaper.) The American Folk Art Museum sold the building to MoMA in 2011 and moved to a space one-sixth its size at 2 Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side.

Paul Goldberger has an early critical reaction over at Vanity Fair:

The brooding, somber façade of the folk-art museum, made of folded planes of hammered bronze, combines monumental dignity with the image of delicate handcrafting, and it is a majestic, if physically small, architectural achievement. A city that allows such a work to disappear after barely a dozen years is a city with a flawed architectural heart. A large cultural institution that cannot find a suitable use for such a building is an institution with a flawed architectural imagination.

Update: At 6:40pm EST, MoMA released a statement from director Glenn Lowry on the subject of the expansion. Regarding the fate of the American Folk Art Museum building, it reads:

The plans approved today are the result of a recommendation from the architects after a diligent and thoughtful six-month study and design process that explored all options for the site. The analysis that we undertook was lengthy and rigorous, and ultimately led us to the determination that creating a new building on the site of the former American Folk Art Museum is the only way to achieve a fully integrated campus.

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  • Juliana Driever

    AFAM sold the building to MoMA in 2011, not 2009.

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      Thanks, we’ve fixed it.

  • punktoad

    Another wasteful day in hell, I mean the NY art world.

  • Elena Erenberg

    A sad day for contemporary architecture!
    Shame on MOMA!

  • Paul Werner

    “Campus” !!! Has this clown been hanging with John Sexton?

    Paul Werner
    Editor, WOID, a journal of visual language

  • Chris

    With its own architecture and design program it seems incomprehensible that the building can’t become its own exhibit and/or house aspects of this critical museum function/department as part of an “integrated campus?” The architects should heed their own quasi-moral stance and back away from this project. Yes, messing with another architect’s work is, in this particular case, an unqualified act of vandalism but demolition is irreversible. This is not a parking garage but sadly it’s not clear MoMA can tell the difference.

  • Phil Irish

    In this postmodern age, is the goal to “achieve a fully integrated campus”? Perhaps the MoMA is stuck in an outdated paradigm. Including some difference, at the expense of conformity, would be a generative way to go.

    • davvid

      There is PS1.

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