In today’s New Yorker, Paul Goldberger reviews the new Museum of Arts and Design that will open next month at 2 Columbus Circle. The Museum is a refurbishment of the former Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art — a controversial building, Goldberger notes, “excoriated by critics when it went up, then championed by preservationists when it was threatened with destruction.”
Indeed, when late attempts to landmark the old building failed, the then-New York Cultural Center attracted many nostalgic backward glances. In 2005 Gothamist lamented, “Simply based on how weird and wacky it is, Gothamist would like it to stay as is.” And at the New York Sun just this April, James Gardner praised the late building’s “smooth, windowless expanse of gleaming white marble,” and deplored the new facade as “so mind-numbingly dull as to lack even the posture of ambition.”
The old Edward Durell Stone design is not far from Golberger’s thoughts, and he suspects it won’t be far from yours, either.
“(Architect) Brad Cloepfil ended up all but demolishing the original building and creating a new one of exactly the same shape and size, and almost the same color,” writes Goldberger. Contingencies of space, location, and use, he speculates, left Cloepfil “trying as hard as he can to be different while trying also to be the same.”
The result: “If you knew the old building, it is nearly impossible to get it out of your mind when you look at the new one. And, if you’ve never seen Columbus Circle before, you probably won’t be satisfied, either…”
Goldberger does like the new interiors, which he says succeed in “opening up space on every floor and making decent-sized exhibition galleries possible.”