Saving face is no longer limited to disgraced public figures — architects and their patrons can also get in on the action. This is now the case with the beleaguered expansion plan for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which in recent weeks has weathered a rocky public reception to its announced intention to demolish the widely admired American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) building. The New York Times is reporting today that MoMA actually intends to preserve the metal panels, though a fully reconstructed façade is unlikely.
At an event held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture two weeks ago, Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio and Renfro — the firm responsible for the MoMA project — gave a detailed presentation defending the process by which the decision was made to axe the AFAM building. As we noted in our report on the talk, Diller did specifically discuss an alternative, proposed but ultimately rejected, that saw the copper-bronze AFAM façade preserved and reincorporated as a vestigial element on the face of the new structure. Now MoMA Director Glenn Lowry has told the Times, “We will take the facade down, piece by piece, and we will store it. We have made no decision about what happens subsequently, other than the fact that we’ll have it and it will be preserved.”
Though an obvious olive branch to the seething opposition in the critical and architectural community — a sentiment out in force at the well-attended New York Society for Ethical Culture event — the decision contradicts the letter, if not the spirit, of Lowry’s previous comment on the subject: “We don’t collect buildings,” he said.
Update, 4:35 pm EST: In a statement to Hyperallergic, MoMA has clarified that they are “not adding the facade to the collection; it will be removed carefully and stored, but is not being accessioned.”