The Museum of Modern Art unveiled on Wednesday a sweeping redesign of its Midtown building, featuring a retractable glass wall, new gallery space and the opening of its entire first floor, including the beloved sculpture garden, free to the public.
It is unclear whether this grand, ambitious plan will be enough to quell protests over a long-contemplated and controversial part of the museum’s overhaul: the razing of its next-door neighbor on West 53rd Street, the noteworthy, if idiosyncratic, former home of the American Folk Art Museum.
MoMA announced in April that it planned to demolish the folk museum, despite the building’s well-regarded designers and its striking bronze facade. After protests from architects, urban planners and preservationists, MoMA officials said they would review that decision.
Far left, the former home of the American Folk Art Museum. Its neighbor, the Museum of Modern Art, in other photographs above, has sought to raze the folk art museum in an expansion.Critic’s Notebook: Defending a Scrap of Soul Against MoMAMAY 12, 2013
MoMA expects to have the building demolished by the end of this year.12-Year-Old Building at MoMA Is DoomedAPRIL 10, 2013
But museum officials said on Wednesday that keeping the folk museum, built in 2001 and bought by MoMA in 2011, was simply impossible, and they focused on the benefits of the new
A rendering depicts the view of the new complex from 53rd Street. Diller Scofidio + Renfro
“It’s a very nice gesture of a kind of new ethos: To make publicly accessible, unticketed space that is attractive and has cultural programming,” Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA’s director, said.
The architects of the folk museum, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, protested the most recent decision in a statement.
“This action represents a missed opportunity to find new life and purpose for a building that is meaningful to so many,” the architects said. “The inability to experience the building firsthand and to appreciate its meaning from an historical perspective will be profoundly felt.”
MoMA plans to start construction this spring or summer and to finish the project in 2018 or 2019. Despite the plan’s broad scope, the museum said it could not yet provide a budget, making the viability of the redesign hard to measure.