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MOMA and it’s folk art fiasco

The eminent demolition of the Folk Art Museum for the expansion of MOMA has raised the lament of the architecture community as news once again.   The silence of the Folk Art Museum’s architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien was broken in a recent New York Times article.


There are many reasons to be upset for this unfortunate situation but for me it boils down to disappointment in MOMA’s lack of vision in it’s expansion planning. For an institution that sells itself on the promotion of progressive design and ideas, it is demonstrating an extreme lack of planning and vision. The new MOMA is only 10 years old. Plans for expansion could have been incorporated into the original design.   My biggest question for MOMA is why did they make it so short? MOMA’s planned expansions are shown in the February Architect Magazine article.


I feel the graphic of expansion makes this question seem obvious. Why does MOMA see the only option for expansion as horizontal? This is Manhattan – the sky is the limit.

There could also be other architectural options to deal with the Folk Art Museum location in the middle of the expansion site. Looking at the museum and merely saying it’s in the way, we must mow it down, is a weak argument. Similar situations have been dealt with in other projects. The one that comes to mind is the Sony Center at Potzdamer Platz and the Hotel Esplanade. The Sony Center was built over and around the hotel and incorporated it into the design.


A more sensitive design could have been accomplished if MOMA actually looked within it’s walls and tried to draw some inspiration and exemplify some of the vision and thoughtfulness of the works it contains.

1 reply »

  1. I think that this also demonstrates MoMA’s shift from an institution that provides a public, cultural benefit to that of a “brand.” MoMA and its ever growing gift shop, planned residential development, and – as you described – imperialistic horizontal rather than vertical expansion seems to indicate that MoMA believes it can be more successful as a lifestyle rather than a leader in art. While other institutions like the Whitney are building new spaces in order to better hold and expand their collection, anchoring their buildings through public accessibility, it is disappointing that MoMA’s objectives are more brand than patron focused.

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