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MoMA Selects Diller Scofidio + Renfro for Expansion, Former Folk Art Building Could Be Saved

By Architectural Record Staff
May 9, 2013

The Museum of Modern Art in New York announced today that it has commissioned Diller Scofidio + Renfro to plan an expasion into the former site of the American Folk Art Museum. Last month, MoMA stated its intention to raze the Folk Art Museum building, an acclaimed design by Tod Williams Billie Tsien that was completed in 2001. The announcement leaves the fate of the building in question, but opens the possibility that it could be spared.

Folk Art
Photo © Michael Moran
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In today’s statement, MoMA director Glenn D. Lowery, said: “Beginning this month, Diller Scofidio + Renfro will work with us to design a plan that will integrate the Museum’s current building with the property of the former American Folk Art Museum and the residential tower being developed by Hines. The principals of Diller Scofidio + Renfro have asked that they be given the time and latitude to carefully consider the entirety of the site, including the former American Folk Art Museum building, in devising an architectural solution to the inherent challenges of the project. We readily agreed to consider a range of options, and look forward to seeing their results.”

In a statement of its own, Diller Scofidio + Renfro said: “This is a complex project that also involves issues of urban interface, concerns that are central to our studio. We have asked MoMA, and they have agreed, to allow us the time and flexibility to explore a full range of programmatic, spatial, and urban options. These possibilities include, but are not limited to, integrating the former American Folk Art Museum building, designed by our friends and admired colleagues, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.”

A spokesperson at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects told Architectural Record: “We [Tod Williams and Billie Tsien] have known Liz Diller and Ricardo Scofidio as friends and colleagues for many years. We have great respect for the work of their firm and have every expectation that they will address MoMA's expansion project in a thoughtful way. While we have no role in this, we are open to sharing our knowledge. We hope that MoMA's choice of Diller Scofidio + Renfro will open up the opportunity for a fresh look at the possibilities of the former American Folk Art Museum building as it relates to MoMA's campus.”

Since MoMA’s announcement that it would demolish the Folk Art building, thousands of people have signed two online petitions to save it, editorials have come out against the plan (including one on this site), and promienent architects—from Annabelle Selldorf to Steven Holl—have signed an open letter from New York's Architectural League calling on the museum to spare Tod Williams Billie Tsien's design.

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