In May 2013, architects and critics had a glimmer of hope regarding the fate of The Folk Art Museum building, located next to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on W 53rd Street. The Folk Art Museum (designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien) and its distinctive bronze facade was “much-admired,” according to The New York Times, and had “signaled the city’s recovery from Sept. 11” when it opened in 2001.
Initially, the museum announced that the building would be sacrificed in its latest expansion plan–which includes the 82-story residential tower by Jean Nouvel and four additional other buildings. The primary reasons were that the bronze facade didn’t fit aesthetically with the MoMA’s glass construction and that the floors didn’t line up. However, the selection of architecture firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro (DS+R) of the High Line and Lincoln Center renovation fame in May, opened up a re-evaluation of whether The Folk Art Museum could be saved.
At the unveiling of the new plans, Liz Diller broke the news that in the end, the museum will not be saved. As reported by Architizer, Diller stated, “The decision to abandon the building was a matter of function, not aesthetics. To save the building, we had to lose too much of the building . . . You pass a tipping point where there’s not enough of the original structure to actually maintain its identity.” She admitted it was difficult to “make peace for yourself” in a decision to take down a building that’s just 12 years old. And with many prominent architects part of the campaign to save the building, including Richard Meier, Steven Holl, Hugh Hardy and Robert A. M. Stern, the decision is particularly controversial.
The new plans revealed by DS+R show greater transparency and connectivity between museum and street, while also providing an expanded courtyard dubbed the “Art Bay” that will be free and accessible to the public, including the existing sculpture garden.
Akin to the open air theater on The High Line, there will be a theater visible from the street called “Grey Box” that will host performance art and live works of art.
Read more about MoMA on Untapped Cities.