an abomination of an alteration

The City has given outright to the American Craft Museum the distinctive 1964 building, 2 Columbus Circle, now vacant, which was originally designed for Huntington Hartford's Gallery of Modern Art (his private collection of modern, non-abstact art--a fascinating story in itself). The Museum now intends to alter it beyond recognition.

Incredibly, the structure is not protected as a landmark, in spite of its wonderful historical significance, geometric purity, its landmark presence and its striking aesthetic. What are they thinking? A letter to the NYTimes attempts to shame our cultural guardians for their cultural neglect.

In "Craft Project at Columbus Circle" (news article, July 12), Holly Hotchner, the director of the American Craft Museum, makes the comment that the interior walnut paneling of 2 Columbus Circle might be retained, since it is "a museum about materials," while stating that the iconic Vermont marble facade will have to go. Is this a judgment about the quality of marble versus wood as a material, or merely a dodge to gloss over a contemplated faddish mutilation of one of New York's most recognized buildings?

Edward Durell Stone's Gallery of Modern Art is a touchstone of Modern architecture, an important example of the path not taken [my italics]. The building is an idiosyncratic exploration of architectural materials, shapes and forms. If that is not an example of craft worthy of being preserved, then what is?

Actually, the path seems eventually to have been taken after all. I think we call it "Postmodernism," and near the end of a long and fascinating career Stone might have gotten there first, almost like Columbus.


Well, I shudder at what the short listed Zaha Hadid, theory architect, might have planned for the

trendy reworking of 2 Columbus Circle.

It is a highly restrictive site which

requires an especially toughtful and

perhaps restrained approach.

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Published on July 20, 2002 12:56 PM.

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