Monday, August 25th, 2008

What Do You Think of This Building?


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
9 Comments » | Published in Architecture, Design Press, Events & Exhibitions, New York, Preserving Modern Architecture, Urban Planning  |  9 Comments

Hmmm, I was looking up an exhibit that looks cool so that I could link you over to it, and then I spied a picture of the redesigned Museum of Art and Design. I thought it was either (a) a really ugly building or (b) that I just wasn’t getting it, so I decided I’d do a blog post about it and see what you all thought. As I started digging around some more, I thought “how did I miss this???” In my defense, I live in Atlanta, but still! Turns out, the original building, built in 1964, was designed by Edward Durell Stone, and the new one has completely desecrated it. YIKES! How does a museum of design ruin a classic marble building in order to construct a structure that looks like an ugly plastic building blocks set? I just don’t get it. Can anyone help me see why anyone would do this? Is it uber-sustainable? Do the form and the facade fit into the context like a puzzle piece? Is the redesigned interior a million more times more stunning than the exterior? Does it spell out the world “Heil,” or is there an “EFH” which makes me think it’s E.F. Hutton’s headquarters?

It should be stated that one should not critique a building without experiencing it in person. There is no way to feel your own body in the space, truly understand the context of the site and the site itself without actually visiting. But one can tsk tsk a museum of design for not valuing an historic building, and sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover. The redesign’s facade is fugly as hell, and my usually high regard for Manhattan’s dedication to preservation and for its architecture in general just went down a small notch. Oh well, at least it’s not a Trump building.

By the way, the upcoming exhibition called Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary looks really cool. It opens September 27.

Check out the transformation process here.

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!



  1. Robin Cailloux says:

    August 25th, 2008 at 4:46 am (#)

    I actually think it’s a fantastic interpretation of the existing building. It would be a bold statement if the new building were located next to or near the current building. But to cover the 1964 building in this new “skin”, the wit and humor of the skin is completely lost. Without the original building visible to relate to the new ‘building’, then I completely agree with your analysis- a sad and sorry loss of a historic building, and part of our own cultural history.

  2. Khurt says:

    August 25th, 2008 at 5:59 am (#)

    I like it. I can’t see the other sides of the building from the photo. What do the letters spell? I just see H and E.

  3. Cheryl says:

    August 26th, 2008 at 9:33 am (#)

    Maybe it’s a joke and they’re going to peel off the plastic shell to reintroduct the fabulous original.

  4. kds says:

    August 27th, 2008 at 7:18 am (#)

    Ouch. I was never especially fond of this building, but I respected that it was unconventional and expressed itself honestly. I had presence. Same goes for some modern painters–even though I may not be fond of it, I wouldn’t dare consider painting over it!

    I could understand the owners of a generic corporate tower being shallow enough to tack on trendy doodads to update their image, but this is a museum of art and design fer Pete’s sake! Respect the artist/architect!

  5. Joey says:

    August 29th, 2008 at 12:53 pm (#)

    Although I’m not thrilled with the re-design, I thought the original structure was ugly. I didn’t “get” the idea of a predominantly windowless building which faces one of the most beautiful intersections in the country: Columbus Circle. At least they didn’t just tear down the original structure like so many developers do in NYC these days.

  6. Debra says:

    August 29th, 2008 at 1:21 pm (#)

    The original is beautiful. I think the redesign was a mistake. It is a very conventional shape, so uninteresting, and then the letters aspect of it is just weird. I don’t care for it at all.

  7. Victor says:

    September 2nd, 2008 at 7:12 am (#)

    I was in Architecture school at Columbia when they were deciding what to do with the original building. This was the compromise against tearing it down. I actually would have preferred tearing it down to this.

    I didn’t like the first building and this just made it worse. It’s an eyesore and takes up valuable space that could be used for something exciting. Instead, we replace one monumental slab of marble with a giant Lego block. Hideous! At least the original had some style. They removed what little style the original had and now it’s just a big ugly block stuck in the middle of, to quote an earlier responder, “one of the most beautiful intersections in the country”. Another mistake of the preservationists.

    Just because something is old isn’t a reason to either tear it down or keep it. The original building added nothing to the surrounding area and this one just looks really bad, like they really didn’t know what they were doing but had to do something. It would’ve been better to leave it or just tear it down. It adds nothing but an eyesore.

  8. Genevieve says:

    September 3rd, 2008 at 11:36 am (#)

    I loved the old building and don’t feel it detracted from the circle by any means.

    In fact, I think the Time Warner Center is much more of an eyesore… mall store windows are suppose to be the surrounding area that we were trying to “improve” for? ugh. And in the process, we lose an amazingly unusual marble building that, imo, was gorgeous across from the park when it was green.

    there was a lot of convo about it on gothamist a long while back, if you’re interested:

    the new one has much less character. such a shame.

  9. Becky says:

    September 3rd, 2008 at 11:53 am (#)

    It’s so interesting to read all of the varied opinions on this, especially since my radar did not pick up on it at this late date. Thanks for the gothamist links as well!

    What does everyone think of that siding material? I’m so over it. It makes me want to see architects rebel against it with big Gothic dark gray stone!

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