Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Funeral Concluded for 2 Columbus Circle; New York City Waits for the Wake

This post at Gothamist reminded me of how much the saga involving 2 Columbus Circle bothered me and continues to bother me. Now, I no longer live near that part of town, so to some degree for me to blog about it is disingenuousness. But the Gothamist post led me to a story about the progress of the building's -- what would you call it, evolution? -- in today's Times. As always, Robin Pogrebin does an excellent job with the story. (For those unaware, the building, erected by the kooky and dotty Edward Durrell Stone in the 1960s, is the New York world of architecture's version of the pug: You either think its beautiful or you think its ugly. Ironically, the building will be the new home of the Museum of Arts and Design.)

Bear in mind, I'm not an architect. I'm more of an armchair preservationist with a real love of architecture. But certain quotes in Robin's story made me boil. Something about the tone of the interviewee, Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, led me to wonder whether this fellow was being far more disingenuous than I could ever be.

The first quote, in reference to the "lollipop" supports on the street level of the building "will now be behind glass, since the lobby will extend toward the sidewalk. And the building’s signature portholes are gone, along with Stone’s Venetian-style loggia."

Now, forgive me, but it seems to me these elements were among the primary reasons why the preservationists fought so hard against the remodeling of the building. Behind glass? So as to prevent, what, artists and designers from appreciating them?

The article continues: "Preservationists had argued that the redesign would erase the historical importance of the building, which originally housed a supermarket magnate’s art gallery and later, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Mr. Cloepfil said that he did not dismiss the preservationists’ concerns but wished the debate had been framed differently. “It could have been a more fascinating conversation about the nature of preservation,” he said. “The debate never got beyond whether this piece of work merited critical preservation.”

Well, that's true, but obviously, since his firm got the gig, it's not in his interest to allow the frame of the discussion to continue on any other terms. The problem is the Landmarks Preservation Commission never handled the problem correctly in the first place.

The last quote: "Mr. Cloepfil also directly took on the project’s most vocal and high-profile critic, the architect Robert A. M. Stern, who is also dean of Yale’s School of Architecture. Mr. Stern had argued that the building was an important example of postwar design. “It was really an attempt at historicism — a desperate gasp at historicism,” Mr. Cloepfil said, as if Mr. Stern were bent on romanticizing the recent past, as opposed to rethinking it.

How dare this guy presume to refer to any attempt at historicism as desperate! This is a fellow wouldn't understand historicism if he tried. And I don't think the uproar over the desecration of this building is a matter of romanticizing the recent past so much as determining that the recent past is not, by New York standard, all that recent anymore (the 1960s were almost 50 years ago). To be consumed, as this fellow seems to be, in a race for profit and power and prestige so extreme as to so easily dimiss, blithely and without apology, the concerns of analysts, critics, thinkers, and historians, is to be consumed, I fear, beyond all redemption.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: