I spoke to my brother Mike this weekend about the reopening of the New Museum, a relevant conversation only because he works as an architect and has a greater depth of background to draw on than me when discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a building. Aside from wanting a response to the building on architectural terms, I’ve had some questions about the effectiveness of the mess facade visa vi its “striking expression of the neighborhood's warring identities”. As far as I was concerned the material, even close up, looked a little too ornamental to address the grittier aspects of the Bowery, as suggested by Nicolai Ouroussoff in the Times last Friday. My brother however took a slightly different approach to this writing,
The New York Times did a good job of explaining the finer architectural points of the building, but I still feel uncomfortable with the structure as a whole. Maybe my disappointment in the museum relative to Sanaa’s previous work forces a harsher review then necessary or called for but the facade seems like a cheep trick. The mesh screen may create a subtle sense of depth, but it’s still just a facade. It doesn’t tell me anything about the interior spaces or allude to a structure. All it does is break up the monotony of the white exterior surface, which, unadorned, might do the building more justice.
Ultimately, I worry the building does not take a clear enough position. How much of a connector between a troubled past and a bright future can it be when it sticks out like a sore thumb? Trying to clad it in a protective shield of metal isn’t going to make it look more accepting giving the surrounding context, at the same time the protective shield takes away from it’s purist form. If it is going to be that different celebrate that difference don’t muddy the waters.
Neither one of us knows if the mesh will rust over time, though we both agree that it might be more interesting if it did. My brother went on to discuss the use of light in the building, and while I’m not republishing it here, the conversation did lead me to search out the proposed look of the building at night, and what the Museum actually ended up with. You’ll note in the photo comparison below, the proposed museum looked a lot more like their Christian Dior building in Tokyo than the final project.
Left: Actual New Museum at night, Right: Proposed New Museum at night
Oh well. We’ll be discussing the art inside the museum shortly.