ARTS & CULTURE
05/09/2013 08:22 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2013

MoMA Reconsiders Razing Folk Art Museum, A Modernist Icon, After Protests

Remember when the Museum of Modern Art, an entity devoted to art and design, decided to raze the iconic building next door in the name of expansion, and people pointed out the seeming conflict? The New York Times reports today that after a month marked by unusual frenzy in the architecture world, the MoMa is now rethinking its stance on tearing down the quirky, young "cult classic" once known as the American Folk Art Museum.

The Times reports:

"In a board meeting on Thursday morning, the directors were told that a board committee had selected the design firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro to handle the expansion and to help determine whether to keep any of the existing structure."

The reboot lands almost exactly a month after the MoMA announced plans to demolish its diminutive neighbor -- once awarded the title of Best Building In The World -- which it purchased after the beleaguered Folk Art Museum the slim building used to house moved to cheaper digs. The past weeks have seen multiple petitions, the launch of a Tumblr stocked with plans for preserving the Folk Art building, and an open protest letter signed by hotshot architects such as Richard Meier and Thomas Mayne.

The Times quotes a memo from MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry to staff, stating that Diller Scofidio & Renfro will take the "time and latitude" to come up with a range of options, and that the museum has "readily agreed" to consider those options.

Back in April, the Huffington Post spoke with Matthew Baird, who served as project architect on the Folk Art building. He told us the primary goal of petitioning was to persuade the museum to "further study the building's incorporation into the MoMA campus."

The new deal promises precisely that, but the further study may well end in the same outcome, according to an unnamed MoMA source who spoke to the Times. The source blamed the issue of uneven floors, which the MoMA has cited since the start (though critics are calling the real issue one of aesthetic inflexibility).

But, as Vulture's architecture critic Justin Davidson points out, the MoMA at least picked a design firm with a track record "of finding elegant ways to integrate idiosyncratic buildings into a larger campus without tearing them down." (See: DS+R's counterintuitive renovation of Lincoln Center.)

In the meantime, one of the two lead Folk Art building architects, Tod Williams, told the Wall Street Journal that the floors pose neither as sweeping or as insurmountable a problem as the MoMa is making out, while other architects are proposing offbeat hacks to circumnavigate the hurdle, from raising an internal glass wall to turn the smaller building into an exhibit all its own, to a series of linking ramps designed by the public.

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