March 16, 2005
Fans of Edward Durrell Stones famed
2 Columbus Circle building faced further setbacks this February.
The Appellate Division of New Yorks State Supreme court
on February 24 upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by
preservation groups in 2003 to prevent the transfer of the
city-owned structure to the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD).
The Museum plans a renovation by Portlands Allied Works
Architecture that would replace the existing white marble
façade with glass and terra-cotta tiles.
2 Columbus Circle was designed by Stone in 1959 as Huntington
Hartford's Gallery of Modern Art, intended as a counterpoint
to the nearby MoMA, which Stone had worked on some thirty
years earlier. It surprised traditional modernists with its
convex-curved, monumentally blank, 10-story façade
of white Vermont marble, which Allied Works' remodel would
demolish and replace with a rectilinear zig-zag pattern of
terra cotta tiles and ribbon windows.
Stone's signature arcade of "lollipop" Venetian
columns at the base of the building would be placed behind
glass as part of an expanded lobby, which would anchor a series
of small atriums keyed to the new ribbon windows, accomodating
vertical circulation and park views. A 159-seat basement auditorium
would be preserved.
Noting that the citys Landmarks Preservation Commission
did not hold public hearings as part of a required environmental
review, and asserting that the citys economic objectives
infected the landmark process, the suit challenged
the propertys planned sale to the New York City Economic
Development Corporation (EDC), which brokers such public property
deals. The MAD plans to begin demolition by the fall of 2005,
and to reopen in its new home in 2007. Laurie Beckelman, director
of MADs New Building Program, notes that the renovation
will, keep the same massing and curve on the original
building, but emphasizes that the museums primary
interest is, not the building but the site, adjacent
to a transit hub and midtown foot traffic.
On February 14 the New York State Supreme Court dismissed
a challenge by preservation group Landmarks West! to the Manhattan
Borough Boards August 24 approval of the EDC sale. The
suit asserted that the Board violated the citys Open
Meetings Law by not giving public notice of its meetings on
the subject. Landmarks West! Executive Director Kate Wood
expects appeals on both February rulings, saying, The
courts are giving the city too much leniency; theres
a pall over the public process.
Thomas de Monchaux