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.
If you thought the Eurocentric gods may have been toppled from their comfortable perches at the top of Mt. Met, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
New Yorkers caught a glimpse of a hidden, historic slice of the Whitney Museum last week when the original inscription of the institution surfaced for the first time in over 50 years.
The obliteration of the McKim, Mead & White-designed Pennsylvania Station in 1963, just a half-century after its completion, helped galvanize grassroots preservation efforts that eventually led to New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner signing the Landmarks Law on April 19, 1965.
PARIS — “What should a museum look like, a museum in Manhattan?” architect Marcel Breuer asked in explaining his design for the Whitney Museum of American Art. “Surely it should work, it should fulfill its requirements, but what is its relationship to the New York landscape? What does it express, what is its architectural message?” An exhibition in Paris looks at the career of the architect as the Whitney prepares to move on from the building he designed.
This week has been pretty huge for New York City’s museum community. Newly announced shake-ups mean that the Metropolitan Museum will be taking over the Whitney’s uptown Breuer building as the younger institution heads downtown to a new Renzo Piano-designed space. The Museum of Modern Art is buying the embattled American Folk Art Museum’s 10 year-old building down the block, a sale that has become necessary with the Folk Art Museum’s low admission sales and mounting debt, caused in part by the construction of the building. With all this property-buying and hotel museum-building, New York City has become a giant Monopoly board for art institutions. The question remains — who gets the railroads?
In a New York magazine article, Justin Davidson calls for the Whitney’s Breuer building to be turned into an architecture museum, a space devoted to exposing a side of the practice that we don’t normally see. Davidson points out New York’s lack of an institution to educate the public about architecture. But is that what the Breuer is meant for? As the Whitney moves downtown, we’re faced with different possibilities for the iconic building. Could an architecture museum take the place of a huge contemporary art museum in the architectural icon?