An Open Letter to MoMA: The Museum of Mediocre Aspirations
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BUILD responds to MoMA's decision to demolish the American Folk Art Museum.
[Image source: The Fox is Black]
We’ve had our differences over the years, no doubt. In 2008, we criticized the Home Delivery:Fabricating the Modern Dwelling exhibit and in 2011, we took issue with the Foreclosed:Rehousing the American Dream. But in general we’ve found the exhibits and the philosophy of MoMA to be exemplars of the modern mindset we stand for. The redeeming quality of both shows was that they sparked public debate and put a spotlight on important issues, whether or not we saw eye to eye. We agreed to disagree; keeping loyal to our MoMA membership (yes, we’re card carrying members all the way from Seattle), and continuing to make your museum the epicenter of each and every trip to NYC.
[Image source: Ozier Muhammad for the New York Times]
Last Friday we logged onto the New York Times and read Robin Pogrebin’s article 12-Year-Old Building at MoMA Is Doomed and our relationship with you took a turn for the worse. We read that, in the ongoing effort to expand your facilities, MoMA intends to demolish its adjacent neighbor, the American Folk Art Museum, a carefully designed building that has become a diamond in the rough of Manhattan architecture. Not only is this a reckless design move, but it’s just plain irresponsible. Negligently erasing the Folk Art Museum from the urban fabric to create a blank canvas is the sort of move that a second year architecture student makes, not the master stroke of the wise architect that MoMA has been up until now. This move seems so hasty to us, in fact, that we’re severing our ties with you. We’re not renewing our MoMA membership, we’re not giving you any more money, and we’ll be focusing on some alternative venues for our next NYC trip. Our paltry $140 annual membership, our small donations, and our critique of your decision may hardly register on your radar (being an organization of $150M+ in annual revenue and all), but here is what should matter to you:
1. You are failing modernism.
Modernism seeks thoughtful solutions to challenging problems. One of the main reasons you offered the New York Times in support of the demolition was the varying floor heights between the two buildings. Are you kidding? You can’t figure out an elegant solution to handle the differing floor heights? Isn’t resolving something like incongruent geometries exactly what modernism excels at? If your architects can’t provide a handful of exciting solutions to do so, send the plans on over, Team BUILD would be more than happy to deliver on it.
2. You are practicing anti-sustainability.
The environmental impacts of bulldozing a perfectly functional, 12 year old building are shameful. We get a headache just considering the consequences: the effort it will take to raze the building, transport the debris, and the amount of space it will consume at the landfill—not to mention the wasted energy, time, materials, and financing of the original structure. Don’t even try pulling off some exhibit on “green” design after this foolish move.
3. Your feet no longer touch the ground.
You’re losing touch with the design-conscious public, also known as your patrons. Those of us with both feet on the ground in the design world are concerned with the built-environment and how we relate to the world around us. We also honor our fellow women and men—some of whom put in a great deal of time and energy on the American Folk Art Musuem. When you make decisions that lack sensibility, you lose us.
[Image source: ARTCASTE]
MoMA, you are America’s largest modern art institution and you should be seeking dynamic, engaging design strategies in your architecture, just as you do with your exhibits. Demolishing the Folk Art Museum is mediocre design move. It lacks imagination. To be blunt, it’s lazy. In our opinion, this decision has taken you dramatically off course; you are no longer leading the charge on modernism and we can’t go along for the ride.
[Image source: BUILD LLC]