Prominence of name has never guaranteed the preservation of architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Park Avenue Showroom was demolished in 2013 just blocks from his iconic Guggenheim Museum, Louis Kahn’s Philadelphia commercial storefront was torn down in 2014, just a couple of years after the grand unveiling of his Four Freedoms Park in New York. This month, as Marcel Breuer’s 1966 design for the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan is reborn as the Met Breuer, it’s worth looking at the precarious state of two of his other modernist buildings.
Liz Waytkus, executive director at Docomomo US, wrote this month that the nonprofit organization “is following recent developments concerning two other important Marcel Breuer buildings: the Central Public Library (1980) in Atlanta, Georgia and the Pirelli Tire Building (1970) in New Haven, Connecticut.” She notes that the library is “a likely target for development, closure or demolition,” while the Tire Building is empty and “primarily serves as an oversize IKEA billboard.”
The Tire Building is vacant as it looms over the Connecticut IKEA parking lot, its concrete tower an almost comical contrast to the flimsy furniture advertised in the banners strung across its rectangular windows. Its fate was the result of a compromise in 2003 in which IKEA saved part of the building, but removed the asymmetrical base that once stretched out from beneath the tower, as well as the greenery that surrounded it and emphasized its sculptural form. You can see its current state in this Google Street View capture from this January:
As for the library, Atlanta is focusing its funding on outer branches, and is considering replacing the Brutalist building with a new downtown base. Sean Keenan wrote this month for the Atlanta-based Creative Loafing, that according to Library Board Chairwoman Stephanie Moody, the Breuer library is non-essential. Its circulation is low, and its esteem among some city officials equally dismal. Keenan quotes Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts as saying it “looks like a jail.”
True, Breuer’s buildings aren’t beautiful in a classical sense, but with there’s nothing else like them. The Atlanta library has windows that angle as elegantly as those in the Met Breuer; the Tire Building has a soaring use of concrete similar to the lightness embodied by his best work, like the bell tower of the 1955 St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota. And advocacy attention could change their fragile futures.
Back in 2007, Breuer’s seemingly-doomed 1953 Central Library in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, was being considered for demolition. Helped by the World Monuments Fund’s Modernism at Risk program, it’s now being conserved along with its art collection, including a mural by Herbert Matter and a tapestry by Wassily Kandinsky.
The Architecture and Design Center in Atlanta currently has a MoveOn petition underway to protect their city’s Breuer library and rename it after the architect. Perhaps with the opening of the Met Breuer, the architect’s legacy beyond the Manhattan museum can get more national attention before more of it disappears, or is turned into the backing for a billboard.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Who Will Decide on the Future of a Miami Native Burial Ground?
Native activists say sacred remains and objects dug up from a Brickell construction site should remain there, but mega-developer Jorge Pérez is pushing back.
How Can a Curator Approach South Asian Futurisms?
How do I acknowledge my shortcomings while reckoning with obscured histories and the exclusion of subaltern narratives in the fine art landscape? A working checklist for curators.
MCA Chicago Presents On Stage: Frictions
Will Rawls, Shamel Pitts | TRIBE, and Barak adé Soleil explore Blackness, queerness, movement, and dance in performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The Complicated Legacy of Camilo Egas
The Ecuadorian painter, a leading figure of Latin America’s Indigenismo art movement, has been both praised and scorned for his representation of Indigenous peoples.
Tom Jones Zeroes in on Ho-Chunk Visibility
“I think about the young kids, the teenagers, and I think being able to see yourself represented in art is so powerful,” says the artist.
Haggerty Museum of Art Presents Tomás Saraceno in Dialogue With Dr. Somesh Roy
The artist and researcher will explore soot’s effects on climate change and public health in this online conversation.
Hundreds of Artworks by NYC Teenagers Go on View at the Met
The talented seventh through twelfth-grade students are recipients of the 2023 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
NYC’s Flatiron Building Sells for a Whopping $190M
The sale to outsider bidder Jacob Garlick puts an end to the protracted legal battle between the iconic skyscraper’s five former owners.
McKnight Visual Artist Fellows Discussion Series at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
The series features 2021 Fellows David Bowen, Mara Duvra, Rotem Tamir, Ben Moren, and Dyani White Hawk in conversation with renowned curators and critics.
The Best Memes Roasting the “We ❤️ NYC” Campaign
A graphic designer on Twitter created a hilarious send-up of the universally reviled logo, and the rest is history.
Did You Know These Museums Were Free for New Yorkers?
The “Free Admission” campaign is advocating to make ticket pricing information more transparent to visitors, who may be confused or misled by institutions’ language.
I worked at the Cleveland Museum of Art, which has a wing designed by Marcel Breuer. Like the Upper East Side Whitney, it was pretty to look at, inside and out, but wildly dysfunctional as a museum. I have to assume there’s a reason the Pirelli Building is vacant.
What an odd comment. Breuer’s Whitney Museum isn’t dysfunctional as a museum.
Comments are closed.