View Poll Results: Should 2 Columbus Circle be preserved?

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    10 58.82%
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    7 41.18%
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Thread: 2 Columbus Circle Redesign - Orginal: Edward Durell Stone - Redesign: Brad Cloepfil

  1. #31


    October 13, 2003


    The Building That Isn't There, Cont'd


    The exterior of 2 Columbus Circle.

    Oh, they had thrown a regular fit before, hadn't they, they being the critics and the architecture scholars and the rest of the International Style crowd, over his American Embassy building in New Delhi. But once they got through their yawping and muttering over the marble, the gold, the water garden, the maharajah grillwork, etc., the name Edward Durell Stone was bigger than ever. It stood for imagination, daring, aloofness from the whole cult-programmed bunch of them.

    They might — in fact, they surely would — throw another fit over his new museum for Huntington Hartford . . . the tons of white marble, the precious wood veneers, the gold rugs, the red carpets, etc. At the same time, they would also surely have to deprogram themselves long enough to give credit for genius where genius deserved it. They weren't crazy, after all . . .

    Take the red carpets, for example. They played an integral role in one of the most ingenious pieces of engineering ever attempted in a building that tall, 10 stories. Stone had divided the galleries into split levels connected by short, luxuriously wide flights of red-carpeted stairs, creating a grand central staircase with the galleries themselves serving as the landings. Any ambulatory person could walk from the ground floor to the topmost gallery, looking at pictures the whole way, without even realizing he'd done it. Not even Frank Lloyd Wright's spectacular spiral ramp in the Guggenheim Museum could compare in originality or function.

    Today there is scarcely a living soul under the age of 60 who ever set foot in the Gallery of Modern Art during the time Mr. Hartford owned it . . . or has any idea of what it was once like . . . other than from the radioactive contamination remaining from the attacks upon the museum launched even before it opened in March of 1964. If there was a single major critic that year who was not a messenger girl for International Style orthodoxy, I never read her.

    The critic who inflicted the cut that keeps on bleeding was Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic for The New York Times, with the never-to-this-day-forgotten comment that Mr. Hartford's museum reminded her of "a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops." The "lollipops" referred specifically to the columns and their inset dark-marble discs, but the quip had le tout New York sniggering over the entire building.

    The truth is, the columns constitute a highly sophisticated repetition of the arches of the loggias up above in the form of both solids (the black marble discs) and voids (the arched spaces between columns) down below. The student of architecture might wish to go over to Columbus Circle and take a look at the virtuosity of this extraordinary interplay of positive and negative space before it is destroyed.

    The museum's often-derided "Islamic grillwork" is not grillwork at all but rows of portholes letting in light at the corners. The building contained no applied decoration . . . not even Stone, the avowed apostate, could get the old-time religion completely out of his bones in launching this, the first revolt by any established Modernist, against the icy grip of the French and German International Style orthodoxy.

    But none of that mattered. The damnable lollipops gibe just wouldn't get tired and go away. In fact, while researching this article, I went into a library, and the first librarian I spoke to said, "Oh yes, the lollipop building."

    As a going enterprise, Mr. Hartford's Gallery of Modern Art lasted only five years. The storm of derision in the press was a killer. Worse, no big donors were going to come forth to help him keep it going. Mr. Hartford was a good-looking, well-brought-up rich boy who had a reputation for big woolly projects that never panned out. He didn't fit anywhere in the New York network of corporate moguls who underwrite and climb such approved social ladders as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art or even the Whitney Museum of American Art, which is, hmmmm, a bit sketchy. Without big donors, those institutions couldn't stay open 30 minutes — and the Gallery of Modern Art, thanks to the press, was beyond sketchy. Carrying the museum all by himself quickly became too much for Huntington Hartford. In 1969, he gave this historic masterpiece to Fairleigh Dickinson University, just to get out from under the load.

    "Historic masterpiece." Here I take as my text Dean Stern. On this point, too, both sides will agree: Robert A. M. Stern is not only a noted architect but also the definitive historian of 20th-century New York City architecture. His Gibbon-scale trilogy, "New York 1900," "New York 1930" and "New York 1960," is a sweeping but rigorously scholarly 2,684-page study of the city's architecture from 1890 to 1976.

    In a letter in February to a civic organization's panel on whether 2 Columbus Circle should be declared a landmark, he wrote: "No one will disagree that Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum is a masterpiece, though a highly idiosyncratic one, to say the least . . . I bring up the Guggenheim because there was a strong, mutually acknowledged kinship between Frank Lloyd Wright and Edward Durell Stone, whom many thought was the master's leading disciple."

    Mr. Stern went on to characterize the museum as one of Stone's "masterworks," along with the embassy in New Delhi and Stone's own town house on East 64th Street in New York, whose entire facade was grillwork.

    Lever House and the Seagram Building "represent the epitome of the correct, the orthodox in postwar Modernism," said Mr. Stern, while Stone's Huntington Hartford museum "pushed the envelope very far toward what would become Postmodernism. This building is a landmark in the history of architectural taste." He closed with an appeal: "Preserve this landmark whole. Preserve this public provocation, this embodiment of artistic risk-taking."

    The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission preserved Stone's own town house, by landmarking it years ago, but refuses, despite constant appeals, to so much as hold a hearing on the museum. From the day the museum became eligible for landmark status in 1994, the commission's behavior puzzled me and many others. Naïvely, as it turned out, I had been thinking of landmark status in aesthetic and historical terms. The game proved to be about something else entirely.

    In the hog-eat-hog economy of the 1990's, big porkers kept getting eaten up by bigger ones, and Gulf & Western, the first commercial buyer of the museum after Mr. Hartford's financial troubles, disappeared down the gullet of Viacom, and Viacom gave the building to the city in 1994 in return for tax breaks.

    The landmarks commission seemed to be getting a clear message from City Hall: lay off 2 Columbus Circle.

    The city envisioned a bidding war. It would sell the property for hundreds of millions to a developer and on top of that wind up with a big corporate taxpayer or two on the Department of Finance hard drive. From that day on, every time the question of a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle came up, the landmarks commissioners, as I see it, dove under their desks, clapped their hands over their ears, cried out to their secretaries to shove history and the concept of landmarks preservation itself through the shredder, and hid.

    The fantastic bidding war, however, never occurred. By November of 1998 there were only two interested parties, Donald Trump, who wanted to demolish the museum and build something new, and the Dahesh Museum, which wanted a home for its collection of 19th-century academic art. Then Mr. Trump pulled out. The city's dreams of a tax-paying bonanza were over.

    At this point the American Craft Museum moved in to challenge the Dahesh. Being far better connected politically, with a former chairwoman of the landmarks commission, Laurie Beckelman, on the payroll, the craft museum renamed itself the Museum of Arts and Design and flicked the Dahesh aside like a dead Taiwanese watch battery. In came Architect Brad Cloepfil and Ephemeralism — which brings us to where we are today, awaiting, unless the plans change drastically, the first example of the old peekaboo, I-see-you-game ever built on Columbus Circle.

    Soon, during the next few days, weeks, months at the most, an appalling smack will be heard throughout New York. It will not be hostile fire. It will be the sound of the landmarks commissioners hitting the deck once more . . . while one of the most important buildings in the history of 20th-century architecture is vaporized and small urban creatures sniff the stench that's left in the air.

    Well . . . one can always hope the Museum of Arts and Design's retro trek back to Ephemeralism will be "fun" at least:

    In yesterday's polluted air
    I saw a museum that wasn't there.
    It wasn't there again today.
    O how I wish it would go away.

    Postscript: It so happens Stone had a vision for the Circle itself that was never realized. He wanted to eliminate the traffic lanes that ran through it, make it whole again and ring the outer edge with three-story-high Doric columns salvaged from the Seventh Avenue facade of Pennsylvania Station, whose demolition had begun barely four months before the Gallery of Modern Art was completed. He had two things in mind: creating a proper stage for the towering monument to Christopher Columbus at the center — and a proper memorial for Penn Station, a masterpiece of New York architecture by the great architects McKim, Mead & White, that had been sold to the highest bidder and destroyed, columns and all, and fed to the Jersey marshes in a senseless but innocent-by-reason-of-uncontrollable-cupidity act of vandalism.

    The what-have-we-done shock that followed led directly to the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965. As the French say: "Après la mort le médecin." After death, the doctor shows up.

    The architect Brad Cloepfil in his office at Allied Works Architecture in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 3, 2002.

    Tom Wolfe is author of "A Man in Full."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #32


    October 15, 2003

    What a Building Says About Us (6 Letters)

    To the Editor:

    Re "The Building That Isn't There," by Tom Wolfe (Op-Ed, Oct. 12 and 13):

    Having read "From Bauhaus to Our House" 20 years ago, I was pleased to see that Tom Wolfe is still keeping an eye on architecture.

    The glass-box towers that dominate the skyline of most United States cities have more to say about our culture than we may realize.

    You can always tell about a culture by the biggest building in the city. Two hundred years ago, it was the church. Today, it is the office tower.

    Our buildings reflect more than fashion. They reflect our culture. Just like the clothes we wear, the cars we drive or the way we speak.

    Many of these office towers will be here long after the culture has changed.

    They will say much to future observers, just as ancient artifacts dug from the ground tell us about our distant past.

    Look closely at the buildings around you and ask yourself how they make you feel. What do they say to you?

    Chelmsford, Mass., Oct. 13, 2003

    To the Editor:

    After two days of fulmination, Tom Wolfe not only doesn't convince us that 2 Columbus Circle is a significant piece of architecture, but he also seems to protest too much (Op-Ed, Oct. 12 and 13).

    The facts speak for themselves. Edward Durell Stone produced a quirky little building for an ill-conceived museum that never caught on with the public or the press or the patrons. Surviving such an institutional flop, spectacular as it was, is no reason for landmark status.

    From whence the passion in Mr. Wolfe's apologia? Perhaps the identification is sartorial. After all, they are both to be found clad in dazzling white, full speed ahead on the frills and the pleats. Even so, is it too much to expect a little change now and then?

    New York, Oct. 13, 2003
    The writer is chief curator, department of architecture and design, Museum of Modern Art.

    To the Editor:

    Many thanks to Tom Wolfe (Op-Ed, Oct. 12 and 13) for bringing us up to date on the mess of politics and financial interests that threaten to destroy Edward Durell Stone's masterpiece at Columbus Circle.

    I remember well the construction and opening of that fabulous building. I still think it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. It reminded me of the Taj Mahal.

    I return to New York several times a year, and when I go past the Stone building, I grieve.

    That building should be a showplace, a stop for tourists and residents. It should be made whole again, as an integral part of the fabric of Manhattan.

    Who are these people who want to tear down that building? Should we call them the Muggles, or the Yahoos? Please put this jewel in an appropriate setting and make it come alive again.

    Carlisle, Pa., Oct. 13, 2003

    To the Editor:

    Tom Wolfe (Op-Ed, Oct. 13) suggests that leading architects of modernism dogmatically demanded white walls, steel construction and straight lines, while eschewing luxurious materials. Yet many important buildings by modern masters refute that narrow interpretation.

    Mies van der Rohe famously used travertine and onyx at his Barcelona Pavilion; color is integral to Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation, and its sculptural curves are made possible by concrete construction.

    Mr. Wolfe perpetuates a flattened, exaggerated and false impression of architectural Modernism.

    Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 13, 2003
    The writer is editor, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

    To the Editor:

    Tom Wolfe has it right (Op-Ed, Oct. 12). The high priests of architectural religion spout their theoryspeak. Regrettably, the novice students and clients accept this as truth. Yet this approach, which disregards everything else for the artistic statement, produces dysfunctional and costly "installations" that most people dislike. Exactly the point, the fanatics say; eventually, the public will follow. But the public has not followed, and the avant garde has often moved on to its next new thing.

    Architecture needs a shake-up to replace its high priests of theoryspeak with a down-to-earth approach to solving real problems.

    Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 13, 2003
    The writer is a professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University.

    To the Editor:

    Regarding Tom Wolfe's Op-Ed articles (Oct. 12 and 13), who can match his verbal pyrotechnics or his evident architectural sophistication? Still, I've always thought that the Huntington Hartford building looked like a vertical brick of white Swiss cheese.

    Rockville Centre, N.Y., Oct. 13, 2003

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  3. #33


    November 8, 2003

    Groups Sue to Prevent Sale of Columbus Circle Building


    Three preservation groups filed suit yesterday to stop the city from selling the vacant city-owned building at 2 Columbus Circle to a museum that wants to strip off the building's modernist facade.

    Taking issue with an environmental review that cleared the way for the building to be transferred to a quasi-public agency that would handle the sale, the preservationists demanded a new environmental impact statement on the proposed alterations. They also accused the city of moving to dispose of a building worthy of landmark status "without adequately considering the consequences of its loss."

    The lawsuit alleged that because the city wanted to sell the building, the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission was reluctant to hold a public hearing on designating it a landmark. "The city's economic objectives infected the process for considering the potential landmark status of the building and subsequently tainted the environmental analysis that it performed in order to gain legal authorization for the sale," the lawsuit said.

    The lawsuit named a number of municipal officials and agencies as respondents, along with the Museum of Arts and Design, formerly known as the American Craft Museum, which hopes to renovate the Columbus Circle building as a new home for its collection. Susan Kath, a lawyer with the city's Law Department, which will represent the city officials and departments in the case, said, "We support the project wholeheartedly, and we feel it received the proper environmental review." A spokeswoman for the landmarks commission, which was not among the respondents, had no comment.

    Holly Hotchner, the director of the museum, noted that the museum's plans had been approved by every city agency to which they were submitted. "I guess it is fair to say this suit is not unexpected because there is a small, vocal minority — and I would emphasize small — that continues, I guess, to feel that the building should be a landmark, and that is not in the museum's purview," she said.

    The lawsuit was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan by officials of Landmark West, a preservation group on the Upper West Side; the Historic Districts Council, which helps neighborhoods pursue landmark designation; and the New York-area chapter of an international preservation group known as Docomomo. Among the five people who joined in filing the lawsuit was Julie Hartford, whose father, the supermarket heir Huntington Hartford, commissioned the building to house his art collection. Fairleigh Dickinson University later operated a gallery there until 1975, when Gulf and Western Industries bought the building as a gift to the city.

    The building, completed in 1964, was the work of the architect Edward Durell Stone, who also designed the Museum of Modern Art at 11 West 53rd Street and the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, among many other buildings.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  4. #34
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    The Catskills


    Establishing Landmark status for the former Huntington Gallery will do little to nothing to aide the transformation about to take place at Columbus Circle. The proposed design by Brad Cleopfil of Allied Works Architecture (Portland, OR) creates a conversation with the Time Warner Center (isn't that the rationale for the TWC prow?)

    To quote from the NYT article posted at the head of this thread:
    "Behind the terra-cotta panels would be glass-enclosed openings of varied dimensions, some as high as 70 feet. Holes would be opened through the floors to create uninterrupted interior glass columns, three or four feet square, that would be filled with artworks.

    "In another gesture to unify the building vertically, a processional staircase would be built on the Broadway side of the building, linking the six public floors."

    * * *
    We have yet to experience the radical transformation of Columbus Circle. But in a few years we will know firsthand the fruits of imaginative architectural design. Jazz at Lincoln Center will offer a new interpretation of the concert hall. Not only will the city itself be an amazing backdrop to performances in the main house (facing CP), but the life of the street will be invited into the concert hall.

    This drama of interactive performance is simply a variation on Brad Cloepfil's vision: Art as active, not static; and high-art as admitting its relationship -- no matter how tenuous -- to the life of the streets outside.

    Lincoln Center could learn much simply by observing what is happening a stone's throw down Broadway.

  5. #35


    November 20, 2003


    Embracing a Father's Creation, if Not His Tastes


    JULIET HARTFORD has become accustomed to talking about her father.

    She grew up, after all, in a world he created, a glittering cocoon of titles and money, presidents and pop stars. As the heir to the A.& P. supermarket fortune, her father, Huntington Hartford, could give his daughter virtually anything she wanted, and did.

    So it is hardly surprising that Ms. Hartford, a painter and part-time fashion model, has joined a legal battle to save one of Mr. Hartford's last remaining legacies: the white marble palazzo he built in 1964 at 2 Columbus Circle to house his art collection. Two weeks ago, she added her name to a lawsuit filed by three preservation groups seeking to stop the city from selling the building to a museum that wants to strip off its much-maligned modernist facade.

    "I think it's beautiful," said Ms. Hartford, as she flipped her long brown hair over a shoulder and tucked into a breakfast of fried eggs and hash browns at the Carlyle Hotel. "Everyone I've ever met in the art or fashion worlds likes it."

    A svelte, dark-eyed woman who allows that she is in her late 20's, Ms. Hartford has the brittle smile of someone who is used to being photographed. She chose the Carlyle as a meeting place because she lived there for several years as a child after her parents' divorce.

    As for her father's building, it has inspired a wide range of views over the years, with some architects pronouncing it a masterpiece and others deriding it as a monstrosity of white marble lollipops.

    Ms. Hartford never wavered, and began drumming up support as soon as the city announced in 1997 that it would sell the building. She rattles off the names of the illustrious friends she has enlisted to help save her father's creation: Brooke Astor, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and Erivan Haub, the majority shareholder of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.

    "I always thought the building could have been sold to someone cool," she said a little wistfully.

    In some ways, Ms. Hartford is an unlikely champion for her father's work. She paints dense, collagelike canvases, and considers them works of Abstract Expressionism.

    Her father hated modern art, and especially Abstract Expressionism. The gallery at 2 Columbus Circle, designed by Edward Durell Stone, was intended as a vehicle for his moralistic effort to reform the visual art of his age. Tom Wolfe called Mr. Hartford "the Martin Luther of modern culture," a zealot with "the most flagrantly unfashionable taste anybody in New York had ever heard of."

    Mr. Hartford, who at age 92 is in poor health and lives in upstate New York, has seen some of his daughter's paintings, she said. But he has never said anything about them.


    "Obviously I don't agree with my father's taste in art," she said. "He was way off base. He was very eccentric."

    Despite their differences, Ms. Hartford says she has been visiting her father over the last year, and they have grown closer. She saw little of him during her childhood, she said, especially after he remarried and developed a drug habit.

    Yet if her father has been a distant figure, her life clearly revolves around her status as his daughter. Recently, she appeared on the HBO documentary "Born Rich," about the lives of people born to great wealth.

    She liked the movie, in which she appears only briefly and does not say anything particularly obnoxious or self-revealing, unlike some of the other scions on display.

    In one scene, she mentions that her father spent or lost nearly all of his $100 million fortune. Which poses this question: Is she really an heiress?

    "Well, I was born rich," she said with an unusually big smile. She has not inherited anything yet, she said, and does not know how much is coming to her. She does get financial help from her parents, enough to help maintain her comfortable life as an artist in London, Paris and New York.

    Growing up, she said, she did not understand how wealthy her family was. Yes, there were constant trips to Europe and the family's Caribbean resort. There were ponies and country estates. There were those years living at the Carlyle. But she went to the Hewitt School (across the street from the hotel), where there were plenty of other rich kids.

    "I didn't get the special conversations" about her inheritance, she said. "But when I got older, there was publicity."

    By that time, she was at Le Rosey, a boarding school in Switzerland, along with some other heirs and heiresses, including her good friend Casey Johnson, whose cousin, Jamie Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, conceived and directed "Born Rich."

    LATER, she took art classes at Marymount College and Columbia University. "They were very lenient in letting me in," she said. "My grades were terrible."

    Her social world still centers on people of fabulous wealth, and her conversation sometimes resembles a blizzard of names. Ivanka Trump is a friend. Recently she has begun doing portraits, too, mostly of friends and acquaintances: Alexandra von Furstenburg, Barry Diller, former King Constantine of Greece.

    Yet a sadness often creeps into her voice when she discusses her father. "I think he's changed," she said, when asked about his career. "I think he was a visionary."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  6. #36


    It will look better than the AOL time Warner building for sure.

  7. #37


    November 24, 2003


    A Building's Bold Spirit, Clad in Marble and Controversy


    Edward Durell Stone's 2 Columbus Circle (1964) departed from his allegiance to the International Style.

    Let us now celebrate the aristocratic satisfaction of not pleasing. Huntington Hartford gave himself that pleasure when he commissioned Edward Durell Stone to design the Gallery of Modern Art (1964), the legendarily exotic building at 2 Columbus Circle.

    A campaign is under way to have the building declared a city landmark before it undergoes a major renovation. I would regret the loss of the building. Whether the campaign succeeds, I hope that New Yorkers will take the opportunity to renew the independent spirit the building embodies.

    The Preservation League of New York State has put 2 Columbus Circle on its Seven to Save list, an annual selection of the state's most endangered landmarks. Along with Landmark West! and other civic groups, the Preservation League is seeking a hearing before the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The groups want to prevent the building from being remodeled by its present owner, the Museum of Arts and Design, formerly the American Craft Museum. (More information is available on the Preservation League's Web site, .)

    Designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture in Portland, Ore., the remodeling plans propose to reclad the building with terra cotta and glass, creating a scrimlike effect. The building's marble skin, porthole windows and Venetian-Gothic-inspired details would be eliminated. The proposed facades appear intentionally underwhelming. The small, invited competition organized by the museum included more impressive efforts. Perhaps the museum hoped to forestall opposition by choosing the least aggressive design.

    If so, the strategy backfired. The problem is not Mr. Cloepfil's plan. It is his client's choice of a design that stood little chance of rallying supporters. You can forgive the museum for making what it probably took to be a highly civic gesture. But what's so civic about fearfulness? Or so historically minded? The distinction of 2 Columbus Circle is that Stone was out of step. You do not necessarily improve on such a building by replacing it with something recessive. If anything, you punch up the idea of difference, as Zaha Hadid did in her proposal for the project. You go with a design that stands a chance of kicking up a storm.

    I support the league's position. But I regret that its interpretation of the building is so badly skewed; 2 Columbus Circle is hardly the "icon of the Modern movement" described by the group's literature. Modern architects and critics reviled Stone for what they called aesthetic apostasy. Those who esteem the building as a precursor of Postmodernism are on historically firmer ground, but is this anything to be proud of?

    That depends on which Postmodernism you have in mind. If by that we mean explicit references to historical styles, 2 Columbus Circle can be blamed for pointing the way toward the decline of New York architecture. If we mean drawing inspiration from the past, then there was no need to have a Postmodernism at all. Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn are just a few of the modern architects who acknowledged their indebtedness to historical precedent.

    The truth is that Stone's use of a style like Venetian Gothic is barely incidental to the importance of 2 Columbus Circle. The style was merely the means by which Stone broke ranks. Breaking ranks is what mattered, and I suspect that the attachment many of us feel for the building is due in large part to nostalgia for the period when New York was more hospitable than it is now to the kind of controversy breaking ranks can create.

    The ideal of "not pleasing" is fundamental to modern art and modern criticism. The primary job of the critic who takes after Baudelaire is to cast off fear, the fear of saying the wrong thing, forming the wrong judgment, thinking the wrong thought. Criticism, like research science, is based on the absolute right to be wrong.

    Like the museum it was designed for, Stone's building was intended as critique. Up to a point it was autocritique. A designer, with Philip Goodwin, of the Museum of Modern Art in 1939, Stone was initially a disciple of the International Style. In the 1950's he had some kind of conversion experience, which I believe involved being seated on a plane next to Aline Saarinen, an art critic for The New York Times. Thereafter he began designing ornamental screens.

    The late 50's and early 60's, then, became the great era of ornamental screens. They were to that period what fritted and translucent glass facades like that designed by Allied Works are to ours: veils. The reference was not to the past but to the East, and to a sanitized version of the erotic energies associated with it. Rita Hayworth as Salome. The Forbidden. In this sense Stone was part of America's great libidinous awakening in the postwar decades, architecture's Peppermint Lounge.

    Hartford was part of it, too. His crusade against the formalist orthodoxies of the Museum of Modern Art was largely a liberation of the repressed, with Salvador Dalí standing in for Freud. At the top of Stone's building, behind the screen of the loggia, was the two-story Gauguin Room (the museum's restaurant), and also its crowning impulse: the escape from civilization and its constraints on the senses.

    Ms. Hadid's design picked up on the confidence of Stone's design and the era that produced it. Taking the porthole windows as her point of departure, she enlarged their size by several orders of magnitude, producing facades that evoked classic Pucci fabric designs. Now these were some scary veils. And I think the city was ready for it. At least the audience for contemporary architecture would have had something worth fighting for.

    The fight itself is worth fighting for. Only a decade after Hartford's museum opened, New York architecture began to be overtaken by a tyranny of politeness, a fear of breaking ranks that has yet to loosen its grip. The battle cry for architectural consensus that followed the attacks on Sept. 11 shows how deeply entrenched is the city's resistance to facing the unknown.

    Historically, preservationists have been part of this resistance, not just, or even mainly, because some of them may oppose change, but because their criteria for conferring value are obsolete. This is becoming increasingly clear as more postwar buildings come eligible for landmark status. "Typical of its period," "an important example of its style": criteria like these betray a 19th-century historicist approach to the past. They do not account for the dynamic, dialectic role that buildings play over time.

    Peter Eisenman is right to suggest that buildings create problems: this is what 2 Columbus Circle has in common with Lever House, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Met Life (originally Pan Am) Building, the T.W.A. Flight Center at Kennedy Airport and other works of the period. All of them were great problems. All of them deserve to be valued as such, if their history is not to be falsified, and if we are to regain a healthy appetite for more of the same.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  8. #38


    that scrim might make it worse. why not accentuate the positive?

  9. #39
    Forum Veteran
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    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    That ain't bad.

  10. #40


    Yeah! I like that.

  11. #41


    December 22, 2003

    Polynesian on the Park


    To the Editor:

    In "A Building Still Looking for Respect" (Metro Matters, Dec. 15), Joyce Purnick says Huntington Hartford's museum at 2 Columbus Circle had a blank front wall "blocking one of the greatest urban views anywhere" — Central Park.

    As long as Mr. Hartford owned the building, the top two of the 10 floors were devoted to a lavishly appointed lounge, the Polynesian Room, and restaurant, the Gauguin Room, which provided a spectacular vista of the entire sweep of Central Park from 59th Street to 110th, with the luxurious high-rise walls of Fifth Avenue and Central Park West receding into the distance on either side.

    It was the only time the public had access to that great urban view. The plans of the likely new owners of the building, the Museum of Arts and Design, restrict that view to the staff and shroud most of the rest of the building in terra cotta panels with small perforations.


    New York, Dec. 16, 2003

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  12. #42


    The view of 2 Columbus Circle from the 35th floor of the new Mandarin Oriental New York Hotel.

  13. #43
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    N40° 44' 53.977" W073° 59' 10.812"


    Check out the back page of today's Wall Street Journal D-section for a scathing, anti-preservationist editorial from Ada Louise Huxtable on 2 Columbus Circle. This should become required reading for the NIMBY crowd.

  14. #44
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    New York City


    Quote Originally Posted by GLNY
    Check out the back page of today's Wall Street Journal D-section for a scathing, anti-preservationist editorial from Ada Louise Huxtable on 2 Columbus Circle. This should become required reading for the NIMBY crowd.
    Ada makes some good points. However her lashing out at the "lack of fact checking or balanced point of views" of the preservationists is diminished by her own labeling the Time Warner Center - "AOL Time Warner". Everyone knows its not AOL anymore.

    I get the WSJ delivered every day but usually use the editorial page for picking up dog poop. This time I actually agree with them. That building is not Penn Station.

  15. #45
    Senior Member DougGold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    LA, formerly NY


    I enjoyed the slideshows I used to find going on the side of that building--to hit columbus circle and find a huge photo of a cockroach on that big white slab. Wonder why nobody ever tried selling advertising space like that--to show giant movie trailers on it or whatever.

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