Contract - May 2013 - (Page 22)
photo: Meg Walton
What Is Modern and Worth Saving, Celebrating, and Reissuing?
Welcome to our annual May NeoCon® preview issue, with a focus on
modern office design featuring six outstanding workplace interiors,
ranging from the exuberant interiors of the BBC in England to the
sublime Paul Hastings Atlanta office. We’ve been busy here at Contract,
producing this fantastic issue, preparing for NeoCon®, and covering
design news regularly on contractdesign.com and in social media. With
that in mind, I am going to connect our world of commercial interiors
with one of the hot-button news items from the past month.
At this year’s NeoCon®, a number of companies have exciting
new products and materials, while some of what is new this season is
actually old. Classics are reissued, such as Herman Miller’s archival
reintroduction of the Charles and Ray Eames molded fiberglass chair.
Originally designed in metal for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
1948 International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design, the chair
was then produced in fiberglass beginning in 1950. More than 60 years
later, the chair is a classic, and Herman Miller is celebrating it this spring.
It’s not just a chair; it is a piece of design culture that will be admired
and enjoyed by new generations.
Seeing reissues such as the Eames chair begs a question: What
is worth saving in terms of the culture of design and architecture?
As many of you are now aware, MoMA announced in early April that it
planned to tear down the 12-year-old former American Folk Art
Museum building that it now owns. Immediately to the west of MoMA,
the American Folk Art Museum building was designed by Tod Williams
Billie Tsien Architects, and opened in 2001. The folk art museum,
deeply in debt, sold the building to MoMA in 2011 for $31.2 million,
and its collection is now in a smaller location on West 66th Street.
Hailed as the first important new building in New York City in
the twenty-first century, the folk art museum opening was a highlight in
an otherwise dark 2001. The crafted, modestly scaled building received
rave reviews from the beginning and continues to be critically
acclaimed and even studied in architecture schools. It is a subtle-yetpowerful, humane, idiosyncratic building that is a prime example for
how a complex museum interior can fit within a 40-foot-wide urban site.
The visually striking exterior clad in tombasil panels is thoroughly
modern, yet is in stark contrast to the bland, corporate-appearing,
glass-and-steel exterior of the neighboring Yoshio Taniguchi-designed
addition to MoMA, completed in 2006.
MoMA had initially said its expansion plans for the block did not
allow for the folk art building to remain. West of the folk art museum,
a new Jean Nouvel-designed 82-story tower, with MoMA gallery space
and condominiums, is to be built by 2018 by Hines in cooperation with
MoMA. The folk art building was essentially in the way between the
existing MoMA complex and the Nouvel tower. MoMA also claimed that
the folk art museum galleries were too small for modern art, and that
the two museums’ floor plates did not line up.
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, recipients of the 2013 AIA
Architecture Firm Award, won a 2003 AIA National Honor Award for the
folk art museum. Williams has said that at least one of the upper floors
of the folk art museum could line up with a floor in MoMA. And, broadly,
Williams and Tsien were disappointed by the potential destruction. In a
statement in April, they said, “We believe that the greater issue is the
loss that this decision represents to the City of New York, and to the
broader cultural, architectural, and design worlds.”
Architects and designers were extremely critical of MoMA’s
demolition plans. How can MoMA, within which the first architecture
and design curatorial department was established in 1932, initiate the
destruction of a 12-year-old excellent example of modern architecture
right next door? How can a museum that curates and exhibits great
design—such as Eames chairs—and architectural drawings, not find a
way to creatively make use of the Williams and Tsien building?
Real estate was trumping the art of architecture for MoMA until it
announced on May 9 that it hired Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design a
new museum building and at least study the possibility of maintaining
the folk art structure. That announcement was a positive step. See my
continued commentary about the folk art museum on page 160.
John Czarnecki, editor in Chief
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - May 2013
Contract - May 2013
Columnist: Attending NeoCon® to Enhance the Knowledge Base of You and Your Client
Exhibition: GlobalShop 2013
Exhibition: Coverings 2013
Exhibition: Salone Internazionale de Mobile
Product Focus: Midcentury Made Modern
Product Focus: Uninterrupted Workflow
Paul Hastings Atlanta
Federal Center South Building 1202
An interview with Vijay Kumar, author of 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization
Designers Select: Office
Commentary: On MoMA’s Plans for its Modern Neighbor
Contract - May 2013