Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Report from NYC: The Museum of Arts and Design

I'm planning to go MAD this weekend. MAD is the Museum of Arts and Design, which is opening at its spiffy new location at 2 Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan with a weekend of free events. And in this city of $20 museum entrance fees, that's a big pull.

Photo courtesy David Heald on MAD Web site

I've been watching the building taking shape for a while now. You can see a video of the (much-abbreviated) process here. With its gently curved facade looking out on busy Columbus Circle, the building is situated at a major node of human activity. The mirrored towers of the Time Warner Center rise nearby, and Central Park beckons just across the street.

The architecture critics are having their say about the new building, with some detractors and some big fans. The New York Times has a wonderfully entertaining and informative multi-media feature about the building's transformation from Edward Durell Stone’s Gallery of Modern Art, which was built in 1964 to house Huntington Hartford’s art collection. "The galleries weren't elegant, they were snazzy - walnut panels, parquet floors, bronze fixtures and crimson carpeting," says the Times narrator about the old gallery space. Love that description, but my favourite part is where the narrator cites architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable's description of the old building as "a factory-made Venetian palazzo on lollipops!"

Personally, I love the way Allied Works Architecture, led by Brad Cloepfil, took a bulky oddity of a building and turned it into a shimmering, elegant edifice. Pearlescent ceramic tiles cover the exterior, taking on different sheens as the light changes.

The excisions into the exterior allow light to flood into the galleries and apparently the transparent glass bands traverse the building internally as well.

It's a building within a building. The architects removed the marble cladding of the old building (bottom left picture, below), but they kept the famous "lollipop" arcades on the ground floor as a reference to the building's past, which are only visible from the interior (above left picture).

Photos clockwise from top left: Hannah Whitaker (2); Ed Bailey/AP from the New York Web site

I can't wait to experience the building from the inside. More about that at a later date.


Anonymous said...

it's not an improvement, it's ugly and it spells "HI"

Felicia DelMonte said...

Sorry, I don't know much about the museum, but I was searching your blog for some info or articles about the Paris flea market. I thought that Elle Decor must have some cool info I can use. I'm going to Paris as part of an antiquing trip to Europe this winter. I am also shopping in Arezzo in Italy and the big antiques fairs in England. Are there any articles in back issues that I can read? The trip is really cool too. Check out the website for the trip at
I'm leaving my email address in case someone there has some secret advice for me. Thanks, Felicia

Petrus Abaelardus said...

For years I always had a soft spot for the Stone's building. I can't say I was a fan (in fact the claustrophobic aspect is something I really didn't care for) but I admired that he was trying something new and bold. I’m glad to see it revitalized in this way and very happy that the New York continues to grow culturally. For those interested, I found some more photos and info about today’s opening at: