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Archicritic: MoMA, Like Extell, Aims To 'Gobble Up Property'

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Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman once again takes pen to paper, this time to tackle what many see as an injustice in the realm of preservation vs. development: MoMA's ultimate decision, announced last week, to raze the American Folk Art Museum in the name of its glassy expansion. The planned move and Diller Scofidio + Renfro renderings of the MoMA of the future followed a protracted battle during which architects, critics, and others fought to save the neighboring museum's bronze facade.

Kimmelman is disappointed, to say the least, and thusly lays into MoMA's ulterior motives, arguing that the organization has strayed from its roots as a pioneer of contemporary art and is now not dissimilar to a corporate, development-hungry, property-eating real estate titan... like Extell. (Gasp! Is it like comparing apples and oranges, or an apt connection?)

1) It would be truly radical for MoMA to save the former folk art building, but that's not what the museum has ever really been about. MoMA wants more gallery space, and the expansion that drives the planned demolition is just more MoMA madness.

2) It's all the same flimflam: flexible spaces to accommodate to-be-named programming, the logic of real estate developers hiding behind the magical thinking of those who claim cultural foresight. It almost never works.

3) MoMA, far from being one of those outliers, has pretty much become like Extell and other Midtown developers, waiting to gobble up property and expand its own shiny glass palace. I walked around and looked at the four-story buildings in the area. How long can they last?

4) It was, from MoMA's perspective, never architecture, just real estate—business, nothing personal.

Oh, we see your Godfather reference, Kimmelman. Them's fighting words. The activist archicritic also takes issue with the recently resurrected condo building, Jean Nouvel-designed Tower Verre, that will house galleries in its lower levels. He also mourns the bronze facade of the folk art museum by Tod Williams Billie Tsien—which has "a rootedness, a materiality, an outsize claim to significance" compared with MoMA's renderings o' glass—and is destined for such a brief shelf life, erected as it was in 2001. A sad day of Kimmelmania, to be sure.
· The Museum With a Bulldozer's Heart [NYT]
· MoMA Unveils Its Glassy Redesign, Will Raze Folk Art Museum [Curbed]
· Why MoMA Should Not Raze the Folk Art Museum, In Free Verse [Curbed]
· American Folks Art Museum coverage [Curbed]
· All Michael Kimmelman coverage [Curbed]