View Poll Results: Should 2 Columbus Circle be preserved?

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    10 58.82%
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Thread: 2 Columbus Circle Redesign - Orginal: Edward Durell Stone - Redesign: Brad Cloepfil

  1. #1

    Default 2 Columbus Circle Redesign - Orginal: Edward Durell Stone - Redesign: Brad Cloepfil

    April 1, 2003

    A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    By DAVID W. DUNLAP


    Two Columbus Circle as it is.


    Two Columbus Circle as it might be.

    Evoking both loom and kiln, the Museum of Arts and Design plans to reclad 2 Columbus Circle an abandoned work of romantic modernism that has irritated and amused New Yorkers for 39 years in a scrim of bright terra cotta.

    The plan will almost surely set off a contentious public review. Admirers of the original filigreed design by Edward Durell Stone may make one last effort to save the facade, even though the designation committee of the Landmarks Preservation Commission has already declined to nominate the structure.

    Under the redesign, daylight would for the first time fill the inside of what is now a nearly windowless building. Slits and openings between the four-inch terra-cotta panels would give museumgoers views of Central Park and allow pedestrians to glimpse the galleries through a diaphanous veil. Vertical glass channels, filled with artwork, would penetrate the 10-story structure.

    The redesign, by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, was presented yesterday to the City Planning Commission, whose approval is required for the sale of 2 Columbus Circle, a city-owned building. The museum, formerly the American Craft Museum, would move there in 2006 from 40 West 53rd Street.

    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday that Mr. Cloepfil had "come up with a brilliant design that will bring this iconic building back to life and integrate it into the urban fabric of the neighborhood while preserving its unique personality."

    Unlike preservation battles in which venerable landmarks are defended from replacement by mediocrities, this debate will concern functional improvements to a structure about which even admirers confess ambivalence, reaching for words like zany, whimsical, kitschy, kooky and quirky to describe it.

    "The way this building will be successful is as a new work of architecture," said Laurie Beckelman, a former chairwoman of the landmarks commission who directs the building program for the museum.

    Holly Hotchner, the museum director, said the choice of a facade made of clay, fired into a warp-and-weft pattern in terra cotta, "speaks to who we are" an institution concerned with material and craft.

    A spectral memory of Stone's building, though not its specific imagery of circles and arches, will be embodied in the redesign. "At one level," Mr. Cloepfil said, "we are trying to maintain its monumentality, but at the same time make it a more ephemeral body, so it begins to merge with Columbus Circle."

    Though the size and shape of 2 Columbus Circle would not change most notably the concave north wall, which follows the circle's arc it would lose its filigreelike portholes, sidewalk arcade lined in lollipop-shaped columns, two-story upper loggia and white marble cladding, which is in such a sorry state of repair that a protective sidewalk bridge has had to be erected.

    Behind the terra-cotta panels would be glass-enclosed openings of varied dimensions, some as high as 70 feet. Holes would be opened through the floors to create uninterrupted interior glass columns, three or four feet square, that would be filled with artworks.

    In another gesture to unify the building vertically, a processional staircase would be built on the Broadway side of the building, linking the six public floors.

    Stone's unusual interior design, in which galleries are stepped around the elevator core at half-story intervals, would be eliminated. Each of the 3,650-square-foot floors would then be on a single level. Above the galleries would be classrooms, studios, offices and a restaurant.

    The 155-seat Mark Goodson Theater in the basement would be left largely intact.

    Two Columbus Circle opened in 1964 as the Gallery of Modern Art. It was built by Huntington Hartford, heir to the A.&P. supermarket fortune, to house his own collection and serve as a bulwark in his passionate fight against abstract art.

    "It will last for generations to come," Stone predicted when he unveiled his design. As it happened, the gallery lasted five years.

    Fairleigh Dickinson University took over in 1969 and ran the building until 1975 as the New York Cultural Center, where art exhibitions were held. The city then used it as a visitors center and headquarters for the Cultural Affairs Department. The agency moved out in 1998; the space has since been vacant.

    Last year the building was awarded to the museum by the city Economic Development Corporation. The museum estimates that it will cost $50 million to acquire the property and renovate the building. Though Ms. Hotchner would not break down the costs, she said the city would allow the museum to defer much of the acquisition payment until 2008 and thereafter.

    The preservation fight would probably be led by the Landmark West group on the West Side. "While we look forward to the building's reuse, we believe it is incumbent on the city to exercise caution and treat Stone's design with the respect it deserves," the group said last week.

    Landmark West and the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects sponsored a panel discussion in February on the building.

    "This is almost like an architectural folly," said Thomas Mellins, an architectural historian who moderated the panel. "Do we need quirky folly to have the overall texture be rich and vital in the city? Or can we live without it?"

    Folly or not, Theodore H. M. Prudon, president of the Docomomo U.S. preservation group, said it was a "very significant building by a very significant architect."

    Billie Tsien, who designed the new American Folk Art Museum at 45 West 53rd Street with Tod Williams, allowed that 2 Columbus Circle had "good bones" but said it was a "very, very problematic building to be a gallery space."

    She praised the choice of Mr. Cloepfil to redesign the building, though she had yet to see his proposal. "It's very hard for me to sort of prejudge something that I don't know and say that this building must remain as it is," Ms. Tsien said. "Because if it remains as it is, it's a dead building."


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    Let's see.....


    ...[/b]

    I think its better...

  3. #3

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    I agree with the fact that there is room in the city for some "quirky" buildings, but in the end it has to be a building that is useable. *If no one inhabits it, it must be changed.

  4. #4
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    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    I just don't like a building w/o windows - odd, not "livable."

    The new version is clean, more modern, and will complement AOL quite nicely.

  5. #5

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    I can't gather much from the rendering. *

    I think I will miss the building; Though definitely not a successful design, it's the eppitome of the values of 1960's American modernism for me --trying to add a touch of class and gravitas (and getting the opposite result) by incorporating monumentality, fine materials (the marble is beauitiful, and I understand the interior had beauiful wood panneling), and historicism (Are we ever going to see again an attempt a proto-Venetian modernism?). *I wasn't alive then, but it makes me think of American embassies, Lincoln Center (which is in danger of being "updated" too), The World's Fair, JFK, the Cold War, the Space Race, The Jet Set, etc.

    I wish they could just pack it up and move it to Flushing Meadows. *It would be perfect opposite the Unisphere. *Who's with me?

  6. #6

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    it's a remarkable building (love the marble facade) and it should not be touched,

    make it "usable" on the inside, otherwise leave it as it is

  7. #7

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    Quote: from dbhstockton on 11:15 am on April 1, 2003
    I can't gather much from the rendering. *

    I think I will miss the building; Though definitely not a successful design, it's the eppitome of the values of 1960's American modernism for me --trying to add a touch of class and gravitas (and getting the opposite result) by incorporating monumentality, fine materials (the marble is beauitiful, and I understand the interior had beauiful wood panneling), and historicism (Are we ever going to see again an attempt a proto-Venetian modernism?). *I wasn't alive then, but it makes me think of American embassies, Lincoln Center (which is in danger of being "updated" too), The World's Fair, JFK, the Cold War, the Space Race, The Jet Set, etc.

    I wish they could just pack it up and move it to Flushing Meadows. *It would be perfect opposite the Unisphere. *Who's with me?
    I am.

    1964 World's Fair RCA pavilion

  8. #8

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    I must admit, I too will miss it. The 60's had a huge influence in this area, this is by far not the worst of it. Preserve this, not to forget the era in architecture, its value isnt timeless but classic of that time.

    (Edited by Stern at 2:58 pm on April 1, 2003)

  9. #9

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    Zippy, that pavillion looks like the bastard son of FL wright's Guggenheim and a vintage roadside motel, complete with the marquis advertising "color tv." *Perfect.

  10. #10
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    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    Stone was drummed out of the Internationalist ranks for daring to design this building. *The city had been planning to demolish it to build a plaza or small park (which is very redundant considering that it's right next to both the Circle and Central Park). *Stone later built the General Motors Building in 1968, with Emery Roth as the associate architects.

    In my opinion, 2 Columbus Circle marks a milestone in architecture; it was essentially the first instance of deviation from the Internationalist mantra in a major building. *However, IMHO it's not very contextual with the Circle's redevelopment. *I'm not certain as to what should be done with this building; I could certainly go either way.

  11. #11
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    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    I'm on board with those who wish they could move this building to Retro World and fill it with girls wearing Jackie Kennedy clothes. I'd hate to see it gone forever, even if what will replace it looks better. Then again, I don't think strongly enough about its preservation to actively protest it. The face of New York is constantly changing.

  12. #12

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    What bothers me the most is that a pre-modernist building of comparable importance would have probably received landmark status. Preservationists tend to have an anti-modernist bias (and save insignificant architecture because some historic figure happened to live in it for a period of time). I think it would be preferable to either restore it or build an entirely new building, but the decision may be influenced by financial constraints.

    The redesign's openness to the street might contribute to the urban theatre but I find the rendering unappealing.
    Last edited by Kris; August 30th, 2005 at 09:03 AM.

  13. #13

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    The problem with the old building is that it seems so confining because it has so few windows.

  14. #14

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    It was a gallery; windows would have caused problems for displaying the art. *It had the distinctive "loggia" on top for those who wished to enjoy the views of the park. *I like the blank expanse of fine masonry. *Architects in the 60's did not have the modern-day "horror vacuii" that afflicts NY today (I'm sorry if you have to look that up). *

  15. #15

    Default A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity

    The building is alright, I would say keep it if it was in a different location. It just doesn't look good where it is, it's location is too prominent.

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