View Poll Results: Should 2 Columbus Circle be preserved?

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  • Yes.

    10 58.82%
  • No.

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

  1. #796
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    >> SNAP <<

    Plant some big trees on that block ASAP.

  2. #797
    Forum Veteran TREPYE's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    Quote Originally Posted by nycstef View Post

    New Face, Renewed Mission

    Published: September 25, 2008
    The chiseled towers of the Time Warner Center, completed in 2003 just to the west along the circle, look great in the skyline, but they are planted atop a dismally generic urban shopping mall.
    I almost choked on my coffee when I read this, from a NYTimes architecture critic noneless. This is dumbest thing I have ever read from an architecture critic!

    Aside from the glass facade (which is nice) these towers are an atrocious representations of bulk. Unless you are looking at them directly west to east they look like one big abusive bulk tower that does its best to flatten the skyline. It kills the skyline.

    The best part is the base that adds some momentus backdrop to the streetscape. Generic??? Nicolai what are you a dope?? Go walk across Green acres, or Kings plaza, Queens mall or even Manhhattan mall and take some pictures and compare, you'll see that you really dont know what the hell you are talking about.

    This statement is upside down and backwards. And considering that he was kissing Gerhy's ass with his diluted tower DT this moron Nicolai has lost total credibility in my book.

    Note to the Times editor: Time to get a new archtiecture review writer cuz he is the one thing that is dismal.

  3. #798
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TREPYE View Post

    This is dumbest thing I have ever read from an architecture critic!
    As dumb as this (possibly excused because it was not written by an avowed AC):

    Quote Originally Posted by TREPYE View Post

    ... they look like one big abusive bulk tower that does its best to flatten the skyline. It kills the skyline.

  4. #799
    Forum Veteran TREPYE's Avatar
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    I never claimed myself to be one lofty. What I write is a personal, not expert, impression of (what I percieve to be) a horrible archtiectural observation made by a writer for a prestigous paper.

    But if you want to put me in that category, thanks. But then I begin to wonder if you can the difference between an expert or non-expert. Which kind of minimizes your categorization.

  5. #800


    Close reading: Annotating Ada Louise Huxtable's infamous 'lollipop' review

    2:30 PM, September 25, 2008

    Six years ago, the city of New York sold Edward Durell Stone's 1964 building at 2 Columbus Circle (above left) to the Museum of Arts and Design. With the sale came permission to replace the controversial building, the subject of a passionate preservation battle, with a new piece of architecture. But museum officials weren't sure they wanted or needed to knock down the old structure altogether. They decided, in the end, to use the concrete skeleton of Stone's building as the template for a new design (above right) by Portland, Ore., architect Brad Cloepfil and his firm Allied Works Architecture. Cloepfil sliced through the concrete with narrow, snaking window bands and covered the exterior with a taut new skin of terra-cotta tiles. He has described the process as “editing” Stone's building.

    Any architecture critic attempting to judge Cloepfil’s efforts (as I do in today's Calendar section) has a similarly imposing historical object to contend with -- namely, Ada Louise Huxtable’s New York Times review of the Stone building, which appeared on Feb. 25, 1964, and remains one of the most infamous and influential essays in all of arts journalism. Huxtable described ...

    the museum galleries as “lavish” and “smothering” and said Stone's exterior resembled a “die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops.”
    It was the last part that really stung and stuck: Not only was the building forever after known by New Yorkers as “the lollipop building,” but “lollipop building” also became a kind of shorthand, used to dismiss any piece of architecture one found insufficiently serious. (Cloepfil's replacement, as I explain in my review, may become known as the "Hi" building.) During the protracted debate in recent years about the fate of 2 Columbus Circle, Huxtable’s phrase hung over the place like a noose.

    With that long history in mind -- and sensing that many architects and critics have never actually read the review, for all its influence -- I decided to try dealing with Huxtable the way Cloepfil dealt with Stone. In other words, to create something new by slicing through and annotating something old. The result should be taken in the spirit in which it was produced: as a sign of respect for Huxtable’s forceful criticism -- even though we happen to disagree on the value of this particular building -- and as an experiment, one designed very much with Internet journalism in mind.

    Huxtable’s words (which have in certain sections been trimmed, noted with ellipses) are in italics, mine in Roman text.

    Architecture: Huntington Hartford’s Palatial Midtown Museum
    Columbus Circle Gallery Will Open in Mid-March
    By Ada Louise Huxtable

    On Columbus Circle, which some people have long remembered as a sordid and dismembered open space on West 59th Street watched over by Christopher Columbus on a column, a small white palace is approaching completion. Two things to note here, beyond the evocative pairing of "remembered" and "dismembered." One is that Columbus Circle, now home to David Childs’ sleek, somnolent Time Warner Center, among other boring buildings, has in the last decade been spiffed up to the point of sterility, which makes losing the idiosyncratic energy of Stone’s design all the tougher to take. The other is that it would be wrong to characterize Cloepfil's approach to the Stone building -- however full of hubris or lacking in humor it may be -- as careless or entirely disrespectful. He studiously matched the new design's size and color to the old one, so that as an object in the cityscape the building continues to read as a “small white palace.”

    Columbus now points a hortatory finger at a 10-story arcaded and screened marble building that is causing more talk and speculation among New Yorkers than anything since the Guggenheim Museum. History repeats itself: No building in New York has attracted more attention this year than Cloepfil’s.

    In spite of its name, the Gallery of Modern Art is primarily a museum for a collector who does not admire modern art, if modern art is understood as including a hard core of progressive, experimental abstraction. Is this a clue? Is Huxtable arguing that "progressive, experimental abstraction" is at the heart not just of authentic modern art but also of the architecture she most admires -- or at least most admired in 1964? The building is by Edward Durell Stone, an architect who rejects the provocative, puzzling and sometimes brutal aspects of today’s architecture in much the same way. No traditionalist, he simply prefers a less controversial idiom, avoids the more provoking and stimulating experiments, smooths off the rugged edges, and pads well with wall-to-wall luxury. Nobody can emasculate an architect with serious and yet above-the-fray panache quite like Huxtable. “Avoids the more provoking and stimulating experiments, smooths off the rugged edges, pads well”: Every critic dreams of being able to strike such a blow, offhanded and punishing at the same time -- an uppercut delivered while stifling a yawn.

    And yet Stone’s building has had plenty to say to later generations of architects and critics, particularly in the way it deploys ornament. The idea of a façade as decorated, punched-through screen, or the closely related idea of digital pattern stretched across a wall or a room, has shown up recently in the work of Herzog & de Meuron, Peter Zumthor, the young duo Aranda\Lasch and many other innovative architecture and design firms. Huxtable has generally sounded impatient over the years with the idea that younger critics might see Stone's building as worth fighting for. The main problem with that stance is that it assumes the value of a piece of architecture is fixed the moment it opens. But many of us born after the building was have found it not only likable but highly relevant to contemporary questions in architecture and urbanism.

    Outside, the new museum resembles a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollypops. They spelled "lollypop" differently back then; when we quote Huxtable's review today, we usually silently change the ‘y’ to an ‘i.’
    It begs for a canal or a garden setting, rather than the dusty disorder of a New York traffic circle. Again, the current clean-scrubbed, high-end version of Columbus Circle -- and much of Manhattan, for that matter -- is predictable enough to make “dusty disorder” sound attractive.

    Inside the new museum there is much more than meets the passing eye. The irregular-shaped building is only about 96 feet on its longest side, but its plan is an accomplished demonstration of one of the basic principles of architectural design -- the expert manipulation of space by an expert hand. We tend to forget that this review, which had the effect of permanently gutting Stone’s reputation, paused on several occasions to praise him.

    This interior planning is the building’s conspicuous success, an achievement to command considerable admiration. What will be admired by the public, however, are the building’s cosmetics — many running feet of rich macassar ebony, walnut, bronze, glasscloth, thick red and gold carpets, parquet floors, the celebrated Stone grilles — all applied with lavish generosity and occasionally smothering overtones of domestic luxury. Cosmetics, rich, celebrated, lavish, smothering, even public: These were among the most loaded words in Huxtable’s critical arsenal, meant to inflict serious damage.

    The Hartford Gallery will provide a sybaritic setting (Here, precisely at "sybaritic," we’ve reached the heart of Huxtable’s problem with Stone’s work: that it is indulgent and perhaps self-indulgent and tries to be both architecturally ambitious and luxurious, which for the critic was a nearly criminal contradiction in terms) for some interesting, offbeat shows that New York might otherwise not see.

    The building works well, poses no challenges, asks no hard questions and gives no controversial answers. The thesis statement. There will be Polynesian luau lunches in the ninth-floor penthouse (you better believe I am kicking myself for not mentioning the phrase “Polynesian luau lunches” somewhere in my own review), an espresso bar in the eighth-floor lounge, and the soothing strains of a 23½-foot-high Aeolian-Skinner organ accommodated between the second and third floors. Ditto for the “Aeolian-Skinner organ.”

    A small auditorium in the basement seats 154 persons. Like “lollypops,” “persons” stands out as an anachronism, as dated linguistically as any of the "celebrated Stone grilles” ever became architecturally. Four floors will be devoted to exhibitions. It is a costly, comfortable building that breaks no architectural frontiers, but seems perfectly suited to its functions, purposes and patron.

    Since 1964, Stone’s building has proved perfectly suited in one other important way: as a kind of screen onto which New Yorkers could project their feelings about aesthetics, history, memory and the value of aging architecture. In addition to Huxtable, those New Yorkers have included Herbert Muschamp, who wrote a moving if typically overlong valentine to the building while filling Huxtable's old chair, and Tom Wolfe, who was also moved to defend it at some length.

    That screen is set to rise one last time. Huxtable, now well into her 80s and having lost none of her rhetorical fire, continues to write occasional pieces for the Wall St. Journal. Her review of Cloepfil's design is apparently set to appear any day now.

    -- Christopher Hawthorne

  6. #801


    My New York Public Radio Commentary on the Museum of Arts and Design This Morning

    Edward Durell Stone's 1964 Gallery of Modern Art, aka "The Lollipop Building"

    In the same spot on Columbus Circle, Brad Cloepfil's Museum of Arts and Design, aka "The 'H' Building," with CNN's offices behind it and Norman Foster's Hearst Tower beside it

    If all goes according to plan, you can hear my impressions of the new Museum of Arts and Design this morning at about 6:46 a.m. on New York Public Radio, WNYC, 93.9 FM. Or you can listen to me live on the web here, by clicking the red arrow in the lefthand column.

    Architect Brad Cloepfil has completely reclad the exterior and reconfigured the interior of the white elephant on Columbus Circle that was famously called "a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollypops [sic]" by architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable in her mostly favorable review of the new building in the NY Times on Feb. 25, 1964.

    I don't get to say much about the architecture of the building in my soundbite, so let me say that Cloepfil did not use the front view of the building, above, in the promotional materials that his architectural firm handed out to the press. I assume that's because he is still steaming about the big horizontal glass gash cut across the ninth floor, which forms the letter "H" that you see in the above photo. This window was added because the museum wanted diners at its new restaurant (opening in March) to enjoy sweeping views.

    When I asked him about this window after the recent press preview, Cloepfil fumed through grit teeth:
    It was against my intention and it is not my architecture.
    But let's move on to the important stuff: What about those lollipops?

    Cloepfil declared:
    They're neutralized. I gessoed them out.
    And so he has: They're mere ghosts of the formerly colorful lozenges that you can see in the top photo. Now they've been brought indoors and coated white, and they function more like borders for the distinctively shaped lobby windows than as the attention-getting architectural elements they once were.

    Here they are, as seen from the lobby:

    And here, behind glass windows and photos of objects from the collection, as seen from the street:

    But what we REALLY all can't wait to find out is what Ada Louise thinks of this transformation. Her appraisal is to appear on the "Leisure & Arts" page of the Wall Street Journal, but I don't know when.

    Although the official ribbon-cutting by Mayor Bloomberg will occur this morning, the museum doesn't open to the public until Saturday. But MAD's shop, with unique or limited edition personal and home adornments by artisans and designers, opens today. I don't buy much except books in most museum shops (in fact, I'm not much of a shopper at all), but I must confess that I've picked up some appealing gifts at the museum's former 53rd Street location.

    I will post on CultureGrrl the podcast for my WNYC musings, if and when that's available online.

  7. #802


    New York City, Tear Down These Walls

    Published: September 26, 2008

    EVEN the most majestic cities are pockmarked with horrors. The knowledge that every shade of architectural experience, from sublime to excruciating, can exist in such compressed space is part of a city’s seductive pull. Yet there are a handful of buildings in New York that fail to contribute even on these grounds. For them the best solution might be the wrecking ball.

    Not a day goes by, I would guess, that a Parisian strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens doesn’t glance up at the lifeless silhouette of the Montparnasse Tower and wish it away. The endlessly repeated joke is that the tower offers the best views in the city because it is the only place from which you cannot see it.

    Many New Yorkers feel the same way about the MetLife Building (formerly the Pan Am Building), whose dull gray concrete facade punctuates the southern end of Park Avenue like an anvil, blotting out a once-glorious view of Grand Central Terminal. In my own neighborhood near Union Square I’ll occasionally catch people shaking their heads as they pass by a bizarre confection decorated with a vulgar pattern of gold rings on 14th Street.

    So here’s what I propose. True, the city is close to broke. But even with Wall Street types contemplating the end and construction of new luxury towers grinding to a halt, why give in to despair? Instead of crying over what can’t be built, why not refocus our energies on knocking down the structures that not only fail to bring us joy, but actually bring us down?
    Ugliness, of course, should not be the only criterion. There are countless dreadful buildings in New York; only a few (thankfully) have a traumatic effect on the city.

    For this reason buildings that I’ve often ridiculed failed to make my list. I toyed with the idea, for example, of including the AT&T Building (now the Sony Building). I’ve disliked it since 1984, when it appeared (in miniature) cradled in the arms of its architect, Philip Johnson, on the cover of Time magazine. Its farcical Chippendale top was an instant hit, and a generation of architects grew up believing that any tower, no matter how cheap and badly designed, could be defended if you added a pretty fillip to the roof. Yet Johnson’s building also represents a turning point in architectural history. And I eventually came to the conclusion that destroying it would be cultural censorship.

    Nor have I included the MetLife Building, although it is one of the most resented structures in New York. (The name change made things worse. Pan Am evoked the glamour of 1960s air travel; MetLife makes you think of life insurance and car crashes.) The tower’s chiseled concrete exterior does create a nice tension with Warren & Wetmore’s 1929 Helmsley Building. And while the lobby was callously renovated in the 1980s, it could be restored, amplifying the flow of movement from 45th Street down into the station.

    So the list will not include affronts that are merely aesthetic. To be included, buildings must either exhibit a total disregard for their surrounding context or destroy a beloved vista. Removing them would make room for the spirit to breathe again and open up new imaginative possibilities.

    Here, then, are my top candidates for demolition.
    MADISON SQUARE GARDEN AND PENNSYLVANIA STATION No site in New York has a darker past than this one. The demolition of the old Pennsylvania Station, the monumental McKim, Mead & White Beaux-Arts gem that stood on this site until 1964, remains one of the greatest crimes in American architectural history. What replaced it is one of the city’s most dehumanizing spaces: a warren of cramped corridors and waiting areas buried under the monstrous drum of the Garden.

    Over the years the city has entertained dozens of proposals to improve the station, but none have amounted to much of anything. A decade ago Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan unveiled a multibillion-dollar plan to relocate the entrance at the grand old Farley Post Office Building, a McKim, Mead & White treasure on Eighth Avenue, which would free up more space underground. But the plan became entangled in New York’s byzantine development politics and fizzled.

    A few years ago two of New York’s biggest developers, Vornado Realty Trust and the Related Companies, came up with an ambitious plan to move Madison Square Garden to a site west of the Farley Building. New towers would rise on valuable land above and around Penn Station, but the plan would also have opened up enough space above the station that light and air could filter into the waiting areas below. Unfortunately that all unraveled when a scandal brought the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who had been a supporter of the project. With little room to maneuver, the state and city are now desperately trying to patch together a modest proposal that would create a new entrance to the station from Eighth Avenue.

    The lesson from all this? Demolish the Garden. As arenas go, it is cramped and decrepit. And with it gone we could begin to imagine what a contemporary version of the old Penn Station might look like, with light and airy spaces and cavernous entry halls. In short, it could be a monumental gateway to the 21st-century metropolis. Any other plan is just fiddling around.

    TRUMP PLACE Several years ago I had the opportunity to peer into Donald Trump’s heart over a brief lunch. The meal was pretty sedate until Mr. Trump seized on the topic of Mar-a-Lago, his palatial estate in Palm Springs, Fla. “Have you ever watched craftsmen apply gold leaf?” he asked, his eyes lighting up. I hadn’t. “You really have to see it,” he said. “The sheets are so thin that if you hold one up to the ceiling and blow, it takes the shapes of the molding. It just sticks there.”
    Extending his fingertips in front of his lips as if they were supporting a sheet of gold, he blew into the air.

    The moment summed up the magic of Donald Trump. You may find his Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue gaudy, but doesn’t its cockiness makes you grin?

    So how to explain Trump Place? A cheap, miserable contribution to an area of the city already in need of some mending, this luxury residential complex is about as glamorous as a toll plaza.

    Viewed from the West Side Highway its regimental rows have the mind-numbing regularity of Soviet-style housing. A few concrete planters try to soften the complex’s relationship to the elevated highway, but the effect only makes the buildings look more inhuman. On a recent visit I watched a nanny pushing a stroller up the sidewalk and found myself wondering what effect such a dehumanizing environment would have on the little creature bundled up inside.

    It could be that Mr. Trump was out of his element on the Upper West Side, which until recently at least was culturally distant from the glitzy boutiques of Midtown. But what is more likely is that it was a cynical effort to cash in on the Trump name. One answer is more gold leaf. A better one is to demolish the complex and start again.

    JACOB K. JAVITS CONVENTION CENTER Pei Cobb Freed & Partners’ Javits Center was never considered one of the firm’s best designs. Many of its most graceful features, like a glittering entry hall that would have opened up to the Hudson River, were eliminated because of budget constraints. And the black glass exterior gives it the air of a gigantic mausoleum.
    Javits officials, meanwhile, have been complaining for more than a decade that the building is too small to compete with bigger convention centers. The city has considered several expansion plans, but there was never money to pay for them.

    It wasn’t until a few years ago that a number of planners pointed out the obvious: With the continuing redevelopment of the Hudson River, the convention center stands on some of the most promising — and valuable — land in the city. As is, it cuts Midtown off from the waterfront. The site would serve better as housing than as a shed for dog shows and car fanatics.

    ANNENBERG BUILDING, MOUNT SINAI MEDICAL CENTER What inspires architects? Central Park, conceived as a place of social healing, is one place to start. The pledge of medical workers to do no harm could be another.

    So what were the designers at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill thinking when they created the Annenberg Building? Completed in 1976, this towering structure, clad in rusted Cor-Ten steel, looks like either a military fortress or the headquarters of a sinister spy agency. The narrow horizontal bands of bronzed windows add to the sense of hostility.

    But what’s more disturbing is the tower’s savage effect on its surroundings. The tower anchors a sprawling complex that extends from Fifth to Madison Avenue, just north of 98th Street. Seen from Central Park the complex bears down on pedestrians with brutal indifference. To the east it faces the grim towers of the George Washington Carver public housing development. Together the two complexes break the rhythm of low brick prewar buildings as they march up Madison Avenue from Midtown, creating a silent barrier between the world of the moneyed classes to the south and East Harlem to the north. It’s a vision conceived without compassion.

    375 PEARL STREET During the 1970s AT&T built several towers to house wiring systems. The giant windowless boxes, clad in panels of pink granite or limestone, added nothing to the skyline.

    But the New York Telephone Company (now Verizon) tower at 375 Pearl Street is a unique kind of horror. Seen from the Brooklyn Bridge’s elevated walkway it blots out one of the world’s greatest urban vistas, from the neo-Gothic crown of the Woolworth Building down to City Hall Park and across to the massive Beaux-Arts Municipal Building — a “wedding cake” building in the mold of Moscow’s Stalin-era apartment towers. Each time I cross the East River, I find myself wanting to throw my cellphone at the building.

    So when I learned a few months ago that a proposal was in the works to transform the building into an office tower, I went to take a look. Could anything possibly save this horror? The plan was not only elegantly conceived; it also demonstrated a keen understanding of the tower’s singular qualities. The design, by Cook & Fox, would strip away the tower’s gray limestone cladding and rewrap it in glittering sheets of glass. The location of the elevator core at the building’s west side would allow for big open floors inside, and office workers would have some of the most stunning views of the city, from the Brooklyn Bridge and its tangle of offramps across to Wall Street and up to the Midtown skyline.
    Unfortunately, what is needed is beyond the capacity of an upbeat developer and an enthusiastic architect. Anywhere else, the proposed redesign of this building would be a revelation.

    ASTOR PLACE Some patches of earth are cursed. Nearly a decade ago Cooper Union had ambitious plans for a small parking lot between the school’s main building and Lafayette Street. Ian Schrager, the hotelier, agreed to develop the site and hired two of architecture’s brightest stars: Rem Koolhaas and Jacques Herzog. Their collaboration led to a likable wedge perforated by round windows, giving it the look of a slab of Swiss cheese. But the budget quickly spun out of control, and Mr. Schrager eventually fired his architects.

    A few years later he tried again, hiring Frank Gehry, who designed a hotel with an elaborate glass skin that resembled a woman’s billowing skirt. But then came the World Trade Center attack. The hotel business died, and Gehry too was dumped.

    Frustrated, the school turned to the Related Companies, one of the city’s biggest developers, which hired the New York firm Gwathmey Siegel & Associates to design a luxury residential tower.

    Though the tower’s curving glass-and-steel skin is an obvious reference to one of the masterpieces of early Modernism, Mies van der Rohe’s unbuilt 1922 Glass Skyscraper project, the crude quality of its execution is an insult to Mies’s memory. His vision was slender and refined. Gwathmey’s tower is squat and clumsy. Clad in garish green glass, it rests on a banal glass box that houses — what else? — rows of A.T.M.’s inside a Chase bank.

    But lack of taste is not the point here. Neighborhoods are fragile ecosystems. And while enlightened designs can challenge the past, that is not the same as being oblivious to it. Astor Place would seem more comfortable in a suburban office park.

    The East Village is saturated with memories of youthful rebellion. In recent years it has emerged as a crossroads between the world of would-be punks, awkward students and rich Wall Street types. The Gwathmey building serves only the last camp: it’s a literal manifestation of money smoothing over the texture of everyday life.

    2 COLUMBUS CIRCLE Edward Durell Stone’s building, which opened as the Gallery of Modern Art in 1964, incited one of the most bitter preservation battles in recent memory. Its defenders, who ranged from the writer Tom Wolfe to youthful preservation groups like Landmarks West, hailed its faux Venetian exterior as a slap against the prevailing standards of mainstream Modernism. Detractors, who would have been happy to see it leveled, mostly held up their noses, denouncing its swanky décor and cramped galleries as an urban eyesore.

    The result? Everybody lost. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was too cowardly to render a verdict and never reviewed the case. The building was turned over to the Museum of Arts and Design, which gutted it to make room for new galleries and stripped away its white marble exterior.

    If the city had chosen to preserve it, a key historical landmark would still be intact. If the building had been torn down, a talented architect might have had the opportunity to create a new masterpiece on one of the choicest sites in the city. Instead we get the kind of wishy-washy design solution that is apt to please no one: a mild, overly polite renovation that obliterates the old while offering us nothing breathtakingly new.

  8. #803


    Connecting rods. Not lollipops. The building would have made a great NASCAR headquarters North. Instead, it's humiliated by being dressed in a Wall-Mart negligee. Oh well.

    Last edited by 195Broadway; September 29th, 2008 at 01:07 AM.

  9. #804


    Did anyone attend the Free weekend opening?
    Took a look around....everything from the building to
    what it displays is pretty much a bad joke!

  10. #805
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    in Limbo


    The reviews are in from across the country...

    Nation's Critics Line Up to Opine on New 2 Columbus Circle

    Tuesday, September 30, 2008, by Joey

    Now that Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff has opened the floodgates on trashing the Museum of Arts & Design's facelift of 2 Columbus Circle, other archicritics around the country are weighing in. Archinect points us to a few of these reviews, and while some are mixed, the consensus seems to be a pan. Some color:

    1) Boston Globe: "The building looks like an upended carton, the kind you might get in a delivery from a mod store like IKEA." ... "As a presence on a key site in the streetscape of New York, MAD is a huge disappointment."

    2) Chicago Tribune: "While no masterpiece, turns out to be a better example of architectural recycling than its critics predicted. What it reveals, other than the questionable judgment of those who insisted upon inflating Stone’s kitsch to masterwork status, is that second-rate buildings can have successful, albeit controversial, second acts."

    3) Washington Post: "A building that was hard to love has been turned into a building that is hard to hate."

    4) Los Angeles Times: "Cloepfil's attempt to mummify Stone's 1964 building at the same site -- hardly looks poised to succeed as an act of architectural closure. Instead, it may only remind many New Yorkers that idiosyncratic, romantic architecture like Stone's is increasingly rare and valuable these days in Manhattan, an island being slowly overtaken by a phalanx of straight-backed glass towers." ... "On its two most prominent facades, the building now spells out the word 'Hi,' as peppy as Kathie Lee Gifford at 9 in the morning. And the message is not hidden or cryptic. It's delivered in letters five stories high facing Columbus Circle -- a massive architectural text message."

  11. #806


    2 Columbus without the "H"

    In response to Ouroussoff's article, are there any large pre-war buildings that we detest and would like to tear down? Funny how good buildings are now the exception.
    Last edited by Derek2k3; September 30th, 2008 at 04:38 PM.

  12. #807



    I guess it's a little better without the H, but there's still the double dose of giant E's... which is what you'd have to be on to love this building.

  13. #808

    Default NY Times Editorial

    The Missing Landmarks Commission
    Published: October 17, 2008

    Late last month, the Museum of Arts and Design reopened in its new home at 2 Columbus Circle. That home is the controversial reworking of Edward Durell Stone’s eccentric building — much loved and much hated by New Yorkers ever since it was finished in 1964.

    The Times’s architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, dubbed Stone’s original building “a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops.” To us, it looked almost Moroccan, as if the casbah had gone high-rise.

    Brad Cloepfil’s bland redesign — which somehow suggests the technological polish of a desktop computer — will stir no such emotions, except as a potent symbol of the failure of the preservation process in this city.

    Despite a public debate over the fate of Stone’s building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission never held a public hearing. The commission’s chair — with the encouragement of the Bloomberg administration — had the matter shelved. In June 2005, the city issued a permit to destroy the old facade and rework the building.

    The Landmarks Preservation Commission should be a vital part of the planning process in New York City. Instead, it has become a bureaucratic black hole, the place where requests for evaluation — the formal nominations of buildings or districts to be landmarked — go to get filed and forgotten.

    There are hundreds of requests from all across the city waiting to be acted upon. Some have been held up for years. Moving as slowly as it does — and nearly always without public hearings — the landmarking process is routinely outflanked by developers. What is clearly missing is the political will needed for the landmarks commission to do its job. For that, it must have the full backing of the mayor, who appoints the commissioners.

    No one wants to see the city frozen by overly rigid landmarking. But New York is such an extraordinary place because of both its past and its future. The commission — in full consultation with the public — should play a critical role in balancing the two.

  14. #809


    Those of you who are trying to elevate Edward Durrell Stone to the pantheon of Great American Architects would do well to consider that MANY of his buildings are scheduled to be demolished—mainly because they are dark and dysfunctional.

    The Stanford Hospital, for instance, has been the site of almost constant architectural vivisection since it was built. Strange ganglions and add-ons are all over it; the inside has been almost completely gutted and replaced with a sterile, generic hospital, like a film set. And now there are plans to tear it down.

    The old Huntington Hartford was quirky, yes, and a tad lovable. But the only reason anyone loved it was because of the style of the exterior, because of its appearance. The interior had always been hated, and could find no occupants. That is why the building was renovated: to make it a functional building once again. But it seems many New Yorkers would rather have empty monuments collecting dust than usable buildings that serve a purpose.

    I don't know that the appearance of Cloepfil's building is amazing. But then, it's a shallow, shallow critic who judges a building only on how it looks, rather than how it functions. Architects are not sculptors. The necessary domain of their knowledge is much greater than mere sculpture. I've been reading this post for a number of months, and the most scathing criticisms came when only the top floor of the building had been revealed. Preemptory decisions to hate the building were, it seems, made well in advance of its unveiling.

    One thing that Cloepfil does well is to create functional spaces that engage their surroundings from the inside. Most of the reviews of the new Columbus Circle have pointed to the new engagement to Central Park that the building offers, as well as, finally, gallery spaces that can actually hold art and a viewing public.

    Architecture is not only about appearance, folks. We've had plenty of bombastic buildings in the last few years that have functioned horrendously, yet received acclaim (the new Denver Museum by Libeskind, for instance.) Edward Durrell Stone's buildings simply did not age well, whatever their visual charms. That they are being torn down en masse is a testament to two things: 1. the ineptitude of the original architect, despite his flamboyant promoters (Stern, Wolfe) and 2. a realization that shallow historicism can never improve architecture that was bad in the first place.

  15. #810
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Quote Originally Posted by farwest1 View Post

    I don't know that the appearance of Cloepfil's building is amazing.
    Faint praise, at best. You must be able to SEE that the exterior -- however it is tied to what was re-constructed within -- is a mess.

    Quote Originally Posted by farwest1 View Post

    ... shallow historicism can never improve architecture that was bad in the first place.
    your argument would be stronger if you were advocating for the complete razing of the building.

    Cloepfil failed to create a building that works in its context (and please don't try to tell anyone that the exterior doesn't matter -- and that it only exists to serve the interior function). The maddeningly coined MAD (and the museum gang) who called for this creation have proven themselves to be hacks of a sort -- and apparently have no eye whatsoever for DESIGN (rather than architecture).

    btw farwest: What might your position at MAD be?

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