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. #811


    Just curious, is anyone morally against reclading? I don't know how I feel about it. Seems like, at least in this case, you are replacing a significant architecture statement for its time with something that is trendy.

    Just cause something is "ugly", doesn't mean that it should be wiped from the face of the Earth. Are we going to hunt Brutalist structures to extinction just cause they are not in style anymore?

  2. #812


    ^^^I agree with you shadly, in that re-cladding isn't always the best solution, which I think is demonstrated by the Verizon Building (All they needed to do was take the sign off IMO). On the other hand, this building was dirty, and didn't really fit the area it was in, and I think we all would have supported the re-cladding, if it was something much much better. But yeah, most of the time I think they're sh***** all over some old architect's work when they reclad. It would be interesting to see their reactions to some of these jobs on their buildings if they were alive.

  3. #813


    The solution to a dirty building is to clean it.

  4. #814


    I prefer Frank Lloyd Wright's solution: Plant vines.

  5. #815


    Philadelphia Inquirer
    Posted on Fri, Nov. 7, 2008

    Changing Skyline: A disconcerting cover-up of a swinging '60s folly
    By Inga Saffron

    Inquirer Architecture Critic
    NEW YORK - If Brad Cloepfil's new Museum of Arts and Design were simply another white box for art, it would be just plain mean not to give it a decent grade. It's humanly scaled, nicely detailed, and allows light to flutter into the galleries through strategically placed horizontal and vertical slits. Visitors get intimate bird's-eye views of Central Park and Columbus Circle, along with congenial spaces to contemplate art. It's a conscientious if unspectacular effort.

    Yet it's impossible to forget that this decorous little tower was once something flamboyant, fun, and maybe even a little foolish, a swinging '60s art museum designed by Edward Durell Stone for the eccentric heir to the A&P fortune, Huntington Hartford.

    Cloepfil and his team at Allied Works Architecture literally wrapped their new museum around the concrete bones of Stone's white marble folly. But they failed to exorcise its ghosts, and now they hover in eternal reproach. It feels as if all the idiosyncrasies were focus-grouped out of the place.

    As a work of architecture, Stone's pulled-taffy version of a Venetian palazzo never qualified for great-building status. But its casual destruction, after a bitter, celebrity-studded preservation battle, has secured it a place as a great architectural martyr, along with the likes of New York's Penn Station and Wright's Imperial Hotel. Its demise reminds us how little our society tolerates the weird, even in a metropolis like New York.

    Americans have never been kind to buildings of the recent past. By the time a structure turns 40, even once-lauded examples can make people cringe. That's been especially true for the work of the '50s and '60s, a fertile time when architects were trying out new materials, forms and styles without knowing what sort of trouble they were getting into.

    It's common now to cite the malfunctions as a demolition excuse, as Philadelphia did recently when it trashed Mitchell/Giurgola's little midcentury modern bank on Broad Street. But several spectacular rescues, like Kahn's Yale Art Gallery, prove that functional perfection isn't the most important criterion for judging a building.

    Perhaps if Cloepfil's Columbus Circle facade had been more assured, more assertive, more edgy - in other words, if it exhibited the positive traits of Stone's 1964 design - we could rationalize the loss. It's understandable that museums change and cities evolve. Most great architecture displaced something else. What's sad is that Cloepfil's replacement is so much less good than the original.

    Stone's museum, which is now seen as a harbinger of postmodernism, has always divided critics. Because Stone codesigned the Museum of Modern Art, certain critics, most famously Ada Louise Huxtable, were appalled by his breezy betrayal of modernism's creed. Her nickname for the museum - the Lollipop building - was hurled like a bitter epithet. What detractors tend to forget is that Huxtable lavishly praised its interior, calling it an "expert manipulation of space by an expert hand."

    But it wasn't until Hartford's vanity museum collapsed in 1968 that the building became known as the standard for failed architecture. It had the bad luck to be pressed into service as city offices, even though the only windows were its corner portholes and the galleries were unsuitable for cubicles. By the time it was bought by the Museum of Arts and Design - formerly the American Crafts Museum - the conventional wisdom was that it was a functional and aesthetic failure. New York's Landmarks Commission wouldn't even hold hearings on historic designation.

    The Museum of Arts and Design might have demolished the building but instead decided to retain "the memory" of Stone's concept. So, while the marble facade was stripped off and the interior gutted, Cloepfil was encouraged to preserve its rhomboid footprint and white color, as well as the derided Venetian arcade and basement auditorium.

    It's fascinating how this approach caused Cloepfil to recapitulate Stone's mistakes. Take his meandering window incisions, which were intended to redress what was considered the biggest flaw of Stone's museum, its blank walled midsection. While they succeed in bringing more light and views into the galleries, the museum exterior feels just as inscrutable as ever. We're seeing similar outcomes at ground zero and Independence Mall, where designers are also unable to escape their original project's bad logic.

    Stone employed an offbeat aesthetic, but it was fully realized, down to the voluptuous brass door handles. Even now the best moments in the new museum are those that preserve vestiges of the past, in this case the cascading gold lamé ceiling in the glam auditorium and the arches.

    Cloepfil's facade, meanwhile, is the opposite: flat and confused. Through a series of last-minute design changes imposed by the museum, an immense, H-shaped window was unintentionally branded into the Columbus Circle facade, similar to the symbol you see on highways directing motorists to the nearest hospital.

    The effect is disconcerting. What does the H stand for? The confusion heightens when the building is viewed from the west, where an I-shaped window marks the facade. H? I? Why is the Museum of Arts and Design giving us the 'Hi' sign? And are we supposed to wave back?

    Cloepfil, who is based in Portland, was a student of Tod Williams, who, along with his wife, Billie Tsien, is designing the new Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Like Williams and Tsien, he uses hand-crafted materials to humanize and enliven a minimalist aesthetic. But Cloepfil's elaborate, iridescent ceramic facade tiles can't match the brooding mystery that Williams and Tsien achieved at the Folk Art Museum and Penn's Skirkanich Hall.

    Cloepfil's museum will surely function better than Stone's. And yet its excessively quiet design reminds us that cities are defined by their eccentricities and vanities. It's possible to dispense selectively and judiciously with the past, but there ought to be a better motivation than embarrassment.

    Contact architecture critic Inga Saffron at 215-854-2213 or

  6. #816

    Default Preservation and Development, Engaged in a Delicate Dance

    Most notably, the landmarks commission was accused of succumbing to political and development pressures when it refused to schedule a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle, the 1964 building by Edward Durell Stone known for its Venetian-style touches, portholes and “lollipop” columns. After a sweeping redesign by the architect Brad Cloepfil, the building reopened in September as the new home of the Museum of Arts and Design.
    A Freedom of Information request in 2004 by Landmark West!, a preservation group, brought to light e-mail exchanges between Mr. Tierney and Laurie Beckelman, a former landmarks commission chairwoman who led the museum’s effort to buy 2 Columbus Circle from the city.
    The day after Community Board 5 voted in favor of the city’s sale of the building, Ms. Beckelman wrote: “We got the vote 18-8, but I see trouble ahead. Thanks for all of your support.”
    Mr. Tierney replied: “Let me know how I can help on the trouble ahead. Bob.”
    Landmark West! filed a lawsuit accusing Mr. Tierney of collusion and seeking his removal from any decision on 2 Columbus Circle. The case was dismissed in September 2005.
    Complicating the dance, the big players sometimes change sides.
    Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture and former head of the historic preservation program at Columbia University, for example, was among the most prominent defenders of 2 Columbus Circle. He not only faulted the city and the art museum for their decision, but also criticized Mr. Cloepfil for accepting the commission.
    “I find it hard to believe that any architect can’t be a preservationist,” he said in a recent interview. “Picasso didn’t say, ‘I don’t like Goya,’ in fact the opposite: he said, ‘I’m going to learn from Goya and Velásquez and other artists.’ ”
    Yet Mr. Stern was also the architect behind the soaring condo developments made possible by the razing of Superior Ink in the West Village and the Dakota Stables on Amsterdam Avenue at 77th Street.
    Asked whether he saw a contradiction in his stance, Mr. Stern said: “I’ve made judgments. Some buildings are not worth saving.”
    As for the landmarks commission’s judgments about which buildings are worth saving, preservationists suggest that the current economic slump may prompt frank discussion in the city of what was sacrificed in a decade-long boom without a hearing by the agency.
    “They really need to look at a way to be more forthcoming, more explanatory, so you could at least understand their reasoning,” Peg Breen, the president of the advocacy group New York Landmarks Conservancy, said of the preservation commission.
    Without that, she said, “It opens them to never-ending argument.”

  7. #817


    Setting the Record Straight About Ed Stone and Brad Cloepfil
    New York

    It may seem low on anyone's list of priorities at this moment of political change and economic crisis, but now that Ed Stone's little seraglio has been converted into the new home of the Museum of Arts and Design and the reviews have set some kind of record for irresponsible over-the-top building-bashing, it is time to look at the facts and close the books on 2 Columbus Circle.

    Hlne Binet

    The bitter controversy over whether to save the building's Scheherazade façade or accept the radical redesign needed to serve the new museum went beyond the local and parochial to a total breakdown of objective evaluation that silenced more responsible voices and threatened the hard-won credibility and authority of the preservation movement. Real issues were abandoned for the elevation of feeling over reason and a win-at-any-cost mentality. The invention of instant mythologies fed the studious evasion of unwelcome facts. It was an unworthy performance that did little credit to anyone who cares about preservation and can only serve as an object lesson of how not to go about it.

    In such a poisoned atmosphere, it has been all but impossible to judge the successes or failures of the completed redesign. For many, the movie-set lushness of the not-to-be-taken-too-seriously galleries of modern art as defined and built by Huntington Hartford in 1964, consisting almost entirely of richly carpeted stairs topped by an irresistible Polynesian luau, stranded incongruously in the grimy traffic tangle of Columbus Circle, was an endearing aberration in a city where such things are all too rare. For the generation that had made the building a popular gathering place in the 1960s when they were newly arrived in New York and enchanted by its romance, the loss of this symbolic Shangri-La was too painful to contemplate. For others, the appeal was muted and the architecture second-rate. Some, like Philip Kennicott writing at a safe distance in the Washington Post, found it a hard building to love or hate. And so a mythology of its architectural significance had to be created for its defense, a well-promoted popular misconception that this observer, present then and now, would like to set straight.

    While I respect the revisionist impulse, I simply do not buy the argument that this little building was a bellwether of the postmodern movement, or that its architect, Ed Stone, was a prophet who made the break with orthodox modernism, as its champions claim. That assertion is specious history. Stone's charming potboiler has been falsely elevated by wishful hindsight. This was never an act of creative insurrection; it was accidental postmodernism, coinciding serendipitously with an awakening interest in more expressive referential and decorative enrichment. Two Columbus Circle was on the down curve of an architect who had done his best work in the 1930s; Stone's stunning A. Conger Goodyear house, in Old Westbury, Long Island, and the first Museum of Modern Art, designed with Philip Goodwin, were radical structures that introduced modernism to this country.

    His career was subsequently destroyed by alcoholism, and there was a long, fallow period until a new marriage returned him to sobriety and reinvented him as a new architect, Edward Durrell Stone. We who had known and admired him as Ed Stone were summarily informed by his wife and his publicists that he was to be called Edward Durrell Stone from then on.

    As Edward Durrell Stone he designed a much admired American Embassy in New Delhi that featured decorative screens. Screens sold; they were instantly popular with clients, appearing on everything from universities to pharmaceutical plants, in work otherwise undistinguished in quality and uninspired in plan. The ultimate klunker was Washington's Kennedy Center. Somewhere behind those screens, Ed Stone the architect was buried.

    Hlne Binet

    However, if faux history does not support a cause, neither does ignoring facts because they are obstacles to desires. The structural report on 2 Columbus Circle found the screen past reasonable preservation or repair. Granted that such reports should be looked at with a skeptical eye, but this one appears not to have been looked at by anyone at all. The fasteners holding the marble to the underlying frame were not all stainless steel; many had rusted and much of the marble had discolored and spalled. The façade would have had to be replaced at great expense, still with no idea of how the building could be saved.

    And right here I part company with those who believe that copies and replicas are acceptable substitutes for the real thing. Once the original is gone or beyond salvation you are faking it; when it's lost, let it go and move on. Blind sentiment and perverse tunnel vision kept the argument going.

    Two Columbus Circle had been owned by the city but not occupied for some time; it was now in serious disrepair. The city decided to sell the building to a cultural institution that had been looking for a home, the American Craft Museum, later renamed the Museum of Arts and Design. But because this would mean extensive redesign with no guarantee that the screen would survive, the opposition cried chicanery and foul. The sale went through, and a rising American architect, Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, was hired for the job.

    The building's distinctive shape and size has been kept, but the interior was gutted for more usable gallery space. The fairy-tale façade was stripped to allow the insertion of an updated vapor barrier required by the new museum and the replacement of outmoded systems between inner and outer walls. The most challenging problem was bringing light into the virtually windowless building. Because 2 Columbus Circle is a monolithic, poured-in-place concrete structure, the openings had to be limited and made in a manner that would not affect its structural integrity, a design and engineering feat few have bothered to notice.

    Mr. Cloepfil's unusual solution cuts narrow, ribbonlike strips in a tight geometric pattern across the building's surface that continue three-dimensionally through the inside as light slots along ceilings and floors. Running along the tops of galleries and down the walls, the strips frame stunningly focused views of Columbus Circle, Central Park, and the surrounding city. But this three-dimensional concept is not easy to grasp, nor, seen just from the outside, does it seduce the eye. Mr. Cloepfil is a very cool, very restrained architect with a minimalist sensibility; his work is out of sync with a public increasingly desensitized by today's can-you-top-this hypersensationalism and the expectation of in-your-face "icons." From Arabian Nights romance to rigid geometry is a big leap. And something has gone noticeably wrong.

    This is a precisely calibrated aesthetic that can be destroyed by one bad move, and that move has been the late insertion of a picture window on the restaurant floor. The client insisted and the architect resisted, and we will never know when and where the relationship fell apart -- but at some point it obviously did, and so did the design. There were other sticking points, but this is the one that counts. The eternal banality of the picture window is forever with us, the lessons of the vignetted view never learned, even as we have developed techniques and materials that make such subtleties possible. We persist in the denial of a visual principle that artists have understood for centuries. Everyone has to sit smack up against the glass.

    Even with the building's flaws, however, criticism of the structure has been alarmingly out of proportion and flagrantly out of control. The unreasoning rejection of the solution carried over into a reluctance, or inability, to see anything good about the result. This is a thoughtful and skillful, if imperfect conversion, with the enormous added value of an inviting new cultural facility as part of the handsomely upgraded landscaping and glossily rebuilt commercial mix of a reborn Columbus Circle. The ghosts of Araby still linger in the lollipop structural supports of the ground floor, and the '60s glitter alluringly in the perfectly restored auditorium. The custom-crafted iridescent white ceramic tiles of the façade change gently with the light. The building has presence, not prettiness; it has acquired form and focus. Mr. Cloepfil has turned camp into architecture.

    And there is enchantment inside. As craft has been broadened and redefined by the museum, the exhibits explore a special place between the grim seriousness of high art and the frivolities of fashion. It is easy art, ranging from truly beautiful to borderline kitsch, devoted to the pure pleasure of the eye. Too bad the unforgiving opposition can't enjoy it.

    Ms. Huxtable is the Journal's architecture critic. "On Architecture," an anthology of columns from the 1960s to the present, has just been published by Walker & Co.

  8. #818


    For there respective genre's, this one and the original are fairly effective. I still don't know why we needed this.

  9. #819


    Not a bad cladding, from a distance that is.

  10. #820


    I don't know, I'm kinda warming up to this one... from a distance

  11. #821


    From a distance ... more appliance than building.

    (No scale.)

  12. #822
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Jersey City


    Good from far..(walks closer)....far from good, also known as the 50 yard fake out. lol

  13. #823


    It's so nice of Huxtable to "close the books" for us but I still don't buy it. True there might very well have been sufficient issues with the existing state of the building but still I would have liked to see 2CC dealt with in a way that was sensitive -no, that celebrated the original. Why erase the circles of Columbus Circle? I guess that would have made Cloefield less of an architect to be so accomidating.

    What really gets me though is that Huxtable feels the need to bring up something as insignificant as Durrell's apparent drinking problem to discredit him. I did not know, or care to know about that. Really she sounds like a jilted ex-lover complete with a little jab at the new wife for rebranding him.

    Anyway at this point they might as well just go ahead and glass over 240 CPW and be done with the whole circle.

  14. #824
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Luckily 240 CPS is protected. It definitely seems that Ada liked Ed when he was young, but was not so impressed once he was transformed into EDS.

  15. #825


    Goodbye, 2 Columbus Circle
    A refurbished New York landmark fails to preserve the spirit of the original.

    By Witold Rybczynski
    Posted Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, at 4:31 PM ET An unspoken sentiment underpins the historic-preservation movement: the widely held conviction that it is worth saving old buildings from demolition because whatever will replace them is likely to be not as good. It's hardly a lofty ideal, but it is the result of too many lost masterpieces: H.H. Richardson's Marshall Field's store, Charles McKim's Pennsylvania Station, Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building. It is no coincidence that all these buildings date from the late 19th or early 20th centuries, when the quality of materials and construction was higher than today—even in run-of-the-mill buildings. That is why the public debate, four years ago, over the fate of 2 Columbus Circle in New York was unusual: The building in question was completed in 1964.

    The architect of 2 Columbus Circle was Edward Durrell Stone (1902-78), who studied at Harvard and MIT, set up shop in New York, and was responsible for the original Museum of Modern Art. In the 1950s, Stone broke with orthodox International Style Modernism and produced a series of buildings that incorporated ornamental screens, decorative motifs, and rich materials. Like Wright's late work, Stone's iconoclastic buildings made him an architectural renegade. Clients liked his work, however, and provided him with a steady of flow of prominent commissions, including the Florida State Capitol, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. 2 Columbus Circle, which was originally the Gallery of Modern Art, built for the millionaire Huntington Hartford, was classic Stone: a vertical Venetian palazzo supported on delicate scalloped columns with a white-marble facade perforated by scores of tiny portholes.

    By 2004, the idiosyncratic building on Columbus Circle had become an integral part of New York's urban landscape, which is why there was such an outcry when the Museum of Arts and Design announced that it planned to destroy Stone's facade as part of its renovation. I was one of many who defended the old building. "Stone's building, though not a masterpiece, is something equally valuable—a rarity, representing an unusual and interesting moment in the history of architecture," I wrote. "Which is why it would be such a shame if 2 Columbus Circle were given a terra-cotta wrapping, or any other up-to-date alteration."

    Well, Stone's building got its wrapping, after all. The newly refurbished area around the Columbus Circle fountain was full of people the day I was there. Young tourists, mostly Europeans judging from their speech, were taking pictures of the new building. What did they see? The Museum of Arts and Design, designed by Brad Cloepfil of the Portland, Ore., firm Allied Works Architecture, reminds me of those trendy eyeglasses favored by some architects: fashionably inscrutable and mildly intimidating. It also feels like an alien presence. Stone's curved facade deferred to the geometry of Columbus Circle, but the new version, though still curved, does its best to ignore the 70-foot granite column. Slots appear at random, and a continuous ribbon of fritted glass zigzags down the building, graphic effects that belong more to the packaging of consumer products than to architecture. At the base, several of Stone's original Venetian columns are preserved behind murky glass like body parts in formaldehyde. As for the glazed terra-cotta tiles of the exterior, they are dull and lifeless and make even the slick steel-and-glass facade of the Time-Warner Center next door look lively. The new Museum of Arts and Design is artsy and designy, but it is not good architecture, and it makes me miss Stone's winsome palazzo all the more.

    Witold Rybczynski is Slate's architecture critic.

    Article URL:

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