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Folk Art Museum Architects Denounce Demolition, MoMA PS1 Proposed as Possible Site for Facade

by Mostafa Heddaya on April 16, 2014

Exterior of the Folk Art Museum in 2011 (photograph by Dan Nguyen)

Exterior of the Folk Art Museum in 2011 (photograph by Flickr user Dan Nguyen)

With scaffolding now shrouding its embattled façade, the architects behind the ill-fated American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) have broken their silence over the demolition of the acclaimed building, denouncing the “senseless and unnecessary act of destruction” in a brief statement posted online yesterday and a longer interview in the New York Times today.

Tod Williams and Billy Tsien, the husband-and-wife team for whom the AFAM was “one of [their] most important buildings to date,” had thus far withheld substantial comment on the frothy controversy surrounding the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) January decision to raze the building as part of an expansion designed by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio. Williams and Tsien also did not participate in a well-attended public forum held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in which Diller and MoMA Director Glenn Lowry defended the plans.

In today’s interview with the Times, Williams struck an introspective yet defiant note, arguing that the loss of the structure was unnecessary — though falling short of condemning Diller and Scofidio by name. Robin Pogrebin, the author of the Times piece, writes that Williams “declined to address the personal issues involved,” noting the “thorny” situation with Diller and Scofidio, “with whom he and Ms. Tsien were friends.” Williams also revealed that MoMA PS1 is being considered as a possible space for displaying the building’s façade, a proposal to be formally made in a meeting with MoMA next week by yet another architectural couple, Nina and Daniel Libeskind, and Fredric M. Bell, executive director of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Williams also acknowledged MoMA’s announced plans to store the façade’s panels (though not to accession them), but was dismissive of that strategy’s prospects: “the idea of installing a few panels somewhere doesn’t interest me.”

“There are many things that happen to us in life, but it makes us deeper and stronger. We get wrinkles, we lose hair. Our interiors become more rich with time and use,” Williams told the Times.

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Screenshot of AFAM statement from Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (via twbta.com)

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