Some designs make adaptive-reuse seem harder

Some designs make adaptive-reuse seem harder

By: Scott Henson

Jessica Dailey reports for Curbed: For ‘Newer, Odder’ Buildings, Historic Preservation Is Tough

During discussions of why the American Folk Art Museum, and its geometric cooper and bronze facade, could not be incorporated into the Museum of Modern Art’s expansion, one of the architects working on the expansion plan called the Folk Art Museum’s design, “bespoke,” meaning “that the architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien fitted it so artfully to their client’s needs that it won’t meet anyone else’s.”

As such, preservation efforts failed to save the American Folk Art Museum, and MoMA is now demolishing the structure. In light of this, New York archicritic Justin Davidson takes a look at six other “newer, odder” buildings that may one day be (or already have been) in the same position as the soon-to-be gonemuseum:

1) U.N. Secretariat Building, by Oscar Niemeyer, Le Corbusier, and Wallace Harrison: Davidson notes that the idea of tearing down the building was considered when the U.N. created its masterplan for upgrading the site, but “the U.N.’s Vatican-like aversion to change—plus a desire to avoid the international arguments that a new structure would foment” ultimately saved the building, leading to a $2.1 billion renovation instead.

2) O’Toole Building, by Albert Ledner: This odd bunker-like “over-bite” building was almost torn down in 2008 so St. Vincent’s could build a bigger complex, but the hospital closed before that could happen. Now, it’s being turned into an emergency medical center, “its architectural identity crisply restored.”
3) 2 Columbus Circle, by Edward Durell Stone: Now home to the Museum of Art and Design, 2 Columbus Circle was originally a marble-clad building with a curved façade, Venetian motifs, and a loggia at the top. People really hated it when it opened in 1964, and by the 1990s, Landmarks wouldn’t even consider it. So the museum gut renovated it and completely changed the façade, creating the glass zig-zagging design that now exists.
4) Fifth Avenue Apple Store, by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson: It’s hard to imagine that someone would want to Landmark this glass box, but Davidson points out that the structure “accomplishes a staggering number of architectural tasks.” But it’s a rather fragile structure—a snowblower shattered a pane this winter, and it cost $450K to replace—so if Apple ever vacates the space it would probably be demolished if it wasn’t protected. 5) IAC Building, by Frank Gehry: The day will likely come when one of Frank Gehry’s swooping, swirling creations is deemed a landmarked, but will that building be in NYC? And will it be the blue and white IAC building? IAC commissioned the structure, and Davidson says it “carries a message about the company’s defiance of conventional wisdom. However, if IAC’s empire should crumble, Diller retire, or tech get square, who will cherish Gehry’s folly?”
6) Queens Public Library, by Steven Holl: This building isn’t even a reality yet, but continuous delays with the Hunters Point project lead Davidson to believe it’s “potentially compromised” already. “The process for public building being a tortured one, the architecture could go all stolid by the time it’s built, and the conventional wisdom on book spaces is likely to have changed by then, too.”

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