I’ve never loved the New Museum Building, in part because I know what SANAA is capable of achieving. The Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art, which was completed in 2006 (preceding the New Museum by about a year), is a truly original building, technologically inventive and formally stirring. A one-story structure, it soars–far higher than the New Museum’s teetering tower ever will. And yet I appreciate the New Museum for what it is: an ethereal, sculptural presence, a kind of apparition. It never looks better than it does at night, glowing, hovering, seemingly unconnected to the city grittiness around it. Its facade is gauzy, gossamer, “less like a wall than a scrim,” as Paul Goldberger wrote in the New Yorker. Which is why the decision to place a heavy, kitschy artwork on the façade is so infuriating. When the museum opened in 2007, the artwork–a rainbow hued sign that declares Hell, Yes!–was described as a temporary adornment. Now, according to the museum’s communications director, Gabriel Einsohn, it is a “semi permanent” installation; the museum has no plans to remove it. Read More
At the turn of the last century, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie offered grants for 67 library branches in New York City, a boon for book-lovers across the five boroughs. More than a century later, however, many of these aging buildings are more than a little dog-eared, and the New York Public Library has been working to reclaim them as bright community hubs. The latest of these spaces to be revived, the St. Agnes Library on the Upper West Side, is back in shape after a two-year, $9.5 million restoration that library officials see as a model for the system’s Carnegie legacy. Originally designed by the New York firm Babb, Cook and Willard, the 1906 building had suffered typical alterations: Dropped ceilings occluded architectural details, and skylights were covered over, dimming interior reading rooms. Read More
It may be the original glass house in New York. Many years before Richard Meier’s Perry Street glass towers opened up domestic rituals to the public’s gaze, Donald Judd was living and working in one of the finest cast-iron buildings in Soho. The huge windows opened up his minimalist aesthetic to the public beginning in 1968, when he purchased the building and practically defined the “loft” look of New York for the public. Now openhousenewyork is offering a rare visit for a small group on March 11, with a tour of the building and meal catered by Christina Wang of the French Culinary Institute featuring “Swedish and Mexican” hors d’oeurves—Judd’s favorite. To reserve your place, contact OHNY.
The Environmental Protection Agency balked at the Bloomberg administration’s controversial proposal to clean up the Gowanus Canal, favoring its own Superfund program in an announcement today, as had been expected. In a statement, regional administrator Judith Enck said that, after much consultation with concerned parties, the EPA “determined that a Superfund designation is the best path to a cleanup of this heavily contaminated and long neglected urban waterway.” The Bloomberg administration opposed the designation for fear it would stigmatize the waterway and drive off developers who were planning projects on the polluted canal’s shores. Read More
Two years ago, the Brooklyn-based Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) asked housing advocates and community groups what educational tools they needed the most. The topic of affordable housing was at the top of the list, so designers set to work devising a handy way to help New Yorkers comprehend the much-debated subject. “Affordable housing is a term that has been thrown around for a long time,” said CUP staff member John Mangin. “A lot of people are suspicious of it, it is complicated, and the technical meaning behind it is not always apparent when you hear the word.” Read More
When I first encountered the work of the architect and painter Anthony Candido, it was moving—or rather, the dancers whose costumes he had splashed with black paint were moving across the floor in a work choreographed by Nancy Meehan. The irregular black strokes and drips seemed to both follow and impel the dancer’s movement, melding abstract thought and nature through gesture. Candido’s current exhibition, The Great White Whale Is Black at Cooper Union in New York, more than fulfills the promise of the costume designs, for it offers a rich body of work spanning five decades of an extraordinary career. Read More
Love Nicolai Ouroussoff or hate him, Alexandra Lange’s takedown, “Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough” on Design Observer, is a highly engaging read. The design community seems to tire of its most visible critic after a few years, and Lange begins her piece by revisiting Michael Sorkin’s takedown of then Times critic Paul Goldberger from the mid 1980s. Many of us recall a similar fatigue that set in during Herbert Muschamp’s time on the job. Lange, a frequent contributor to AN‘s “Crit” column, hits Oroussoff with a three pronged attack, with sections subtitled, “He Doesn’t Seem To Live in New York City” (a jab at his globetrotting), “He’s Slippery” (on vagueness of his writing), and “He Doesn’t Care” (an accusation that he’s passionless). She is anything but passionless: “When I see a terrible building, or even just one with large, windy, unmanageable public spaces, I get mad,” she writes. The popular press could always use more voices with such informed conviction.
In this week’s Friday review, Mark Lamster parses Don Argott’s new documentary The Art of the Steal, a film that critiques the relocation of the Barnes Foundation from suburban Merion, Pennsylvannia to downtown Philadelphia. Whatever your view of the move, the trailer makes the film look like stimulating viewing. Opens tonight in New York and Philadelphia and On Demand. In select cities nationwide beginning March 12.