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Thread: New Museum of Contemporary Art - 235 Bowery - by SANAA

  1. #61


    I am very ambivalent about this building.

    I like what they were trying to do in the building design, and where they were trying to place this building. The compromises on materials for the former, happens, but there was a heavy price paid in so doing. Obviously it is not a heavy price in money lost, but more in an opportunity lost. That zinc-glazed mesh might have elevated this building to a level that the abstraction of form could not do. What aluminium will now do, however, is yet to be seen.

    I am also anxious to find out what one really sees inside. The renderings are very stark, and the window question is frightening, based on what you can surmise.
    Last edited by Zephyr; August 22nd, 2007 at 02:27 PM.

  2. #62
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what is meant ^^^ by the "window problem" ...

    There are windows spaced around on the various facades. There are also skylights (where the stacked boxeds give a sky-facing exposure).

    And even though I reported that a workman said the facade going up is aluminum rather than zinc I'm taking that info with a grain of salt ...

    I'm hoping for some verification from someone in the know, but so far we've not been lucky enough to get a post here from such an insider.

  3. #63

    Default Not my words

    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1 View Post
    I'm not sure what is meant ^^^ by the "window problem" ...
    Since you placed this in quotes and led with it, I feel compelled to correct you a smidge on what you quoted versus what was actually stated in the post. Then I will take this admittedly subtle distinction, "flesh it out" a bit more, in order to explain not only what I meant, but also why this is more important at this stage of the reveal than one might think.

    My post never used the wording 'window problem.' The exact phrasing was 'window question,' and that was a deliberate choice. The difference in wording relates, on the one hand, to how one usually approaches any building of this type, but on the other hand, there is a separate reaction to the apparent uniqueness of the design where the window wall is not clearly presented in any rendering. Moreover, aside from the paucity of renderings on the windows, this is compounded by the difficulty of getting any detailed explanation of them from someplace else. What frightens me is what you must conclude based on what we have seen, subject to being addressed perhaps, when the building is finally completed.

    Typically, modern-styled museums built today, aloneside those equally modern-styled, spectacular additions, must still prioritise the issue of light - both natural and artificial. Light can destroy artwork, and it can age materials used to create the art - I am not just referring to paintings. From the opposite direction, light can be used to enhance the museum, as well as the artwork itself, if it is properly handled. The window question, aka the natural light question, for a museum patron will always be in the forefront whenever a newer structure is contemplated to house their art. That is because they are well aware of the penchant of modern-style architects for bringing more light into enclosed spaces that protect their treasures, whenever and wherever possible, with the expressed justification both to brighten the internals, and to exploit certain "efficiencies".

    To illustrate my point, Renzo Piano recently went to the podium inside of the Art Institute of Chicago, to respond to a then heated discussion about the fear of exposing precious art to natural light, inherent in his "flying carpet" design - a kind of mechanized sun-roof feature that would filter the sun's light through out the Art Institute's newest addition. You could tell that he had anticipated 'the ... question' because as he said, he had heard it before in other parts of the world. Interestingly enough, Piano's audience was concerned only with his roof, but Piano broadened that discussion to windows, and secondary shards of light due to reflections from man-made features on some sites, or natural features tied to the location of the building. Piano had done his homework in citing numerous examples from other architects, and then he turned to examine his own work with the signature flying carpet: where the idea came from, the experimentations at his research studios, the testing of exposed and covered materials, first site use, refinements, etc. At the end, he had succeeded implicitly, the gathered doyens of the prestigious Art Institute, even those who once doubted, exploded in applause.

    Piano's presentation on natural light was more thorough than most, but not entirely new. I have heard a form of it at several different museums and museum additions for buildings designed by world-renowned architects such as Pei, Calatrava and Libeskind. While natural light in the New Museum of Contemporary Art may be handled differently yet, it is obviously a newer design, and you would think, but I don't know in this case, that this topic has already come up.

    If I may be permitted, throughout this project I have seen some parallels to NMCA design, and especially as it relates to the window question. The problem is that the parallel is from a non-museum structure built at the other end of the continental divide in Seattle. In the early designs for Rem Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library, he supposedly considered a mesh-like surface on the exterior to diffuse light - but then a larger grid sufficed with the glass behind it recessed enough away to get a desired control of the light. Koolhaas then enhanced the diffusion of light with his spectacular interpretation of the shape of the building to achieve it. Who knows what ideas may or may not have been drawn from this Seattle design by the relatively unknown architects from Japan for NMCA, but I would like to see, first hand, if their solution was as clever as Koolhaas' result. As we all know, Koolhaas has also explored the stacked box well before NMCA was planned.

    The ledges created by the stacking of the boxes on NMCA immediately led me to think that they may disguise some limited use of skylights there. These are not indicated in any rendering, but if they become present on the final structure, I would consider it licence to further explore the window question from that perspective.

  4. #64
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Thanks, Zephyr, for expanding on what I should have termed the "window question" (rather than "window problem", as I lazily & incorrectly quoted).

    Perhaps, because I'm liking this building so far -- and have liked what I've seen / read about the plan, I'm cutting the design crew a break in regards to how they will solve the light issue here.

    It does seem odd that the north facade appears to have fewer windows than the other exposures (if it has any there at all).

    But I do appreciate it the way you make me re-think the issue (and how you do the same on your other posts).

  5. #65


    (Thank you lofter1 for your kind words.)

    I did leave out one of the most significant alternate approaches to the natural/artificial light question, when applied to a museum. I know many are aware of it because the architect is based in NYC, a thread here touches on it, and it was one of his most notable achievements.

    Specifically it is the addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City by Steven Holl.

    Holl's collaboration with others that led to the KC addition idea, is nothing short of brilliant. NMCA could not be expected to reflect every idea that comes down the pike. But the use of passive light in the way that Holl does it here, that in effect brings natural light from the day into the night, could be reworked into museums with a willingness to consider it, even when budgets are tight. The concept is based on a technology that projects out to be quite cost effective and should be part of the arsenal of all architects working on these questions of what to do if they don't let me do this or that.

    (One of these days we will need to create a separate thread on just this topic of light effects given to-day's technological options.)
    Last edited by Zephyr; August 27th, 2007 at 09:27 AM.

  6. #66


    The form of this building is so right... a shame about the mesh. If they could not use zinc, how about raw steel panels left to rust? The mesh looks banal.

  7. #67
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    From CURBED today ...

    New New Museum Getting All Mesh-y on The Bowery

    Monday, August 27, 2007
    by ROK88

    A few weeks ago we gave a little peak of something going up on the facade
    of the New New Museum rising on The Bowery. And now almost the entire
    building is covered in what turns out to be a metallic mesh. Workmen on site
    at the New Museum claim that the facade all around is actually aluminum,
    which doesn't match up with what was promised here. From an interview with
    the architects at SANAA posted on the New Museum website:

    SANAA: The exterior cladding will be galvanized zinc-plated
    steel, a material that is extremely strong, yet light. The
    character of it is a bit rough, just like the Bowery. It's textural in
    appearance, yet actually smooth to the touch and it is
    reflective in a way that abstracts its surroundings and suggests
    a different way of seeing them.
    Doesn't look too smooth to us. Was it budget cuts or that old bugaboo
    "artistic differences" which lead to the mesh-y-ness? Anybody in the know,
    please drop us a line.

    The New Museum looking west towards Prince Street.

    When the afternoon sun hits the west-facing facade it seems like spotlights
    have been turned on full. Good thing that Prince Street runs one-way in the
    opposite direction.

    Close-up view of the newly-installed facade.

    The crew puts up another mesh-y panel above The Bowery.

    The bright and shiny New Museum seen from a block north up The Bowery.

    A sneak peak of the glass-enclosed street level lobby of SANAA's New Museum.

    · CurbedWire: NewMuseum Opening in November [Curbed]
    · A Conversation with Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa []
    · New Museum website []


    It is essentially a giant form of expanded metal mesh that is coated with a
    white paint. Like
    It isn't the first time that it has been used. There are a few parking garages
    around the city that use this material for cladding.

    By DjUoh at August 27, 2007 1:20 PM


    The zinc plated steel is gone and its not under the mesh. I believe it had to
    do with two main issues ; cost and pollution.

    By bklyn


    i walked by there this morning. the angle of the openings creates a direct
    and unobstructed view (when seen from the sidewalk next to the building)
    of the clips that attach the mesh panles to the wall behind them. it does
    not look great, and it feels like an ooops we didn't think of that moment.
    that being said, i would wait to see what the building looks like once all the
    panles are in place.

    By Anonymous


    The cladding, sub panels and decorative mesh, is all anodized aluminum.
    The expanded mesh is like the off-the-shelf material that DjUoh linked to,
    but is much larger than what is typically mass-produced these days.
    SANAA found a fabricator in England to do the mesh to their size
    specifications as a custom job (though their size
    specifications were nearly identical to a product that
    the UK company had produced as road-reinforcing material
    in the mid-20th century) and that material was turned into panels
    by a Minessota firm called MG McGrath. I'm not certain about
    the change to aluminum from zinc-plated steel, though I'm
    sure that bklyn has the right idea: it was too expensive.

    By intheknow


    I was actually the metal procurement officer at my office and I think they
    did a superb job selecting this mesh. I used a similiar mesh to put in the
    front grill of my yugo back home and it actually looks quite beautiful.

    By Milenko


    have an apartment on Stanton Street around the corner, so I've been
    watching this building pretty closely. I think I like the "cheaper" off-the-shelf
    quality of the mesh. It reminds me of the way Dutch architects have been
    using inexpensive materials prominently where one might expect something
    more polished. It's, perhaps, an appropriate design statement for a museum
    that is about the very new, therefore provisional. But we'll see how it shakes
    out once the whole thing is finished.

    By Brian Rose

  8. #68
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    The sidewalk shed here has come down ...


  9. #69


    After completing my recent tasks in NYC, I decided to head back to Chicago and then onto Toronto next week, via motor car.

    On my itinerary were two art musuems with fabulous additions - Akron Art Museum by the Coop hummelblau architectural firm, and the Toledo Museum of Art.

    left - the Akron addition; right - the Glass Pavillion of Toledo Museum of Art

    The Glass Pavillion addition to the Toledo Museum of Art was the first American work by the architects that designed the New Museum of Contemporary Art. And after nearly causing an accident in Toledo as I tried to find this Toledo precursor, which was across the street from the older building, I was stunned at how beautifully elegant this glassy building was in the darkness of night. (I had not known that Frank Gehry had also designed a building for the University of Toledo that is connected to the Toledo Museum of Art, and that it was also within walking distance of the Pavillion.)

    Now I could understand why these architects were selected. Not because of the similarity of the structures - there was little of that - but rather for the bold yet simple designs that they explored in their structures. More on this in later posts.
    Last edited by Zephyr; September 16th, 2007 at 06:29 PM.

  10. #70


    How does the cladding look in person?

  11. #71


    Quote Originally Posted by alonzo-ny View Post
    How does the cladding look in person?
    From a distance it looks like seamless plexiglass. Up close it is clearly thick, frameless glass, that has been shaped on the corners, all of which are rounded. Behind the exterior glass is a second series of glass that outlines each room and is also part of the ventilation.
    Last edited by Zephyr; September 18th, 2007 at 11:18 AM.

  12. #72


    I meant the New Museum's mesh metal cladding, but what you're describing sounds very interesting!

  13. #73
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    Default This afternoon...

    I think it's looking alright, but the edges need somme trimming.

  14. #74
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    It really changes with the sun and clouds and time of day ...

    They're getting ready to pour the sidewalk in front of the building.

    But this afternoon there was some problem with the way the way things were lining up at the base.

    Looked like the big glass entry doors installed last week wouldn't clear where the top of the concrete will hit.

    LOTS of architect types with pencils were milling about & looking VERY concerned.

    I really like taking pictures of this building.

    Today at mid-afternoon it was blazing down the Bowery ...

    When the sun hits the aluminum at the right angle it's nearly blinding ...

    And then a cloud passes overhead and it goes all nice and soft ...

    Reflected in the window of a kitchen supply store across The Bowery ...


  15. #75
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Later on -- and from higher up ...


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