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Witold Rybczynski on the poor exterior architecture of the MoMA

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2005

Witold Rybczynski on the poor exterior architecture of the MoMA. “The five-story wall slices down next to the sidewalk with the finality of a guillotine. The brutal scalelessness resembles something out of a Kubrick science-fiction fantasy.”

Reader comments

990000Mar 31, 2005 at 10:24AM

the harshness of the exterior only complements their admission pricing. I find it suitable (sadly).

BrianMar 31, 2005 at 10:55AM

He’s complaining about the back (north) side of the building? It is sort of wasteland-y, but that whole area of midtown is a soul-sucking pit. It’s not like there’s any actual living going on over there.

Dave AdamsMar 31, 2005 at 12:40PM

Brian: maybe, but wasn’t this huge MoMA renovation an opportunity to start fixing it?

BrianMar 31, 2005 at 1:17PM

Dave: I thought it was mostly an opportunity to fix what was wrong with the MoMA building, not with midtown, which I doubt anyone could fix.

r.Mar 31, 2005 at 6:56PM

This is a modern art museum in New York City. Was he really expecting some columns out front? Or maybe some “welcome friends” knick-knacks in the window? Even a small town in Spain has titanium exploding out of its museum.

(now the $20 admission - that’s something to get worked up about)

cApr 01, 2005 at 9:11PM

i haven’t seen the building, but it seems mr. ryb contradicts himself.

if the panels are modular, i see, literally from the picture, no way he can deny the sense of scale - the comparison between modular wall and human being is explicit and you can easily guess floor heights. his alternative example of the politely designed university club is an issue of proportion - the rusticated base makes you feel small precisely because the club is *unscaled* to the human body, it implies the proportions of the human body (rough feet, smooth torso and if this a beaux arts building, some capital flourishes on the head) at a non-human scale.

i don’t know about mr. ryb, but detractors of modernism confuse this a lot.

on the other hand the rest of his points makes sense. at a time when museums are becoming institutions of culture, it is a little silly to leave a hermetic box with a pittance of a foyer as the sole public interface. the architect’s duty, whatever the state of midtown is to seed appropriate programming and spaces to leverage some vitality out of the future.

on the other hand we have no where near enough monoliths. not even close.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.