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Queens Museum Drops Moss

Three years after selecting Eric Owen Moss to renovate its historic Flushing Meadows-Corona Park building, The Queens Museum of Art is going back to the drawing board. The former New York pavilion in the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, the museum includes Robert Moses’ famous panorama-scale model of the city. Moss’s scheme, featuring a dramatic drape of his signature rippling glass over a new atrium and earthworks, was the December 2001 winner of the first national design competition held by the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC). Says Moss, “It was a classic case of new people coming in and wanting to own the project.”

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Current museum Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl and DDC Comissioner David J. Burney both arrived in 2002. Says Finkelpearl, “We liked the basic design idea, the open gesture,” but after several redesigns addressing issues of circulation, the location of services, the treatment of the Grand Central Parkway-facing rear façade, and a tightened $27 million budget, “it wasn’t gelling from a practical perspective.” Moss observes, “The kinds of questions they were asking suggested they were interested in doing something else.”

“I always felt an allegiance to the project, the [competition] jury, sustaining the process,” says Moss, ”They decided to turn their back on all that and go to a back room.”

The museum and the DDC will choose a new designer by March of this year from a shortlist of mostly local firms, (including Fox & Fowle, Polshek Partnership, Skidmore Owings & Merril, Arquitectonica, 1100 Architects, Gluckman Mayner, Amman & Whitney/Grimshaw Architects, and Rafael Viñoly), who have standing contracts with New York City under the DDC’s Design Excellence Program. “We’re not giving up on good design,” says Finkelpearl, “These are architects who have done business with the city and know how to do it.”

Thomas de Monchaux