As previously noted I’m in New York right now. I love the buildings here – not comprehensively but actually even the ones I don’t like set up interesting contrasts to the ones I do. And although in civic architecture my tastes lean to the neo classical, I can appreciate newer work. For example, I really did enjoy the MOMA building for itself as much as its art. I strolled through the galleries looking at art on the walls but in the circulation spaces I looked at the building itself. And it happened that as I was leaning on a rail people watching for a moment I realized that the view in front of me was strikingly similar to a photo I’d taken earlier in the day at the main branch of the New York Public Library.
On the surface, no two spaces could be more unlike each other. However the bones are remarkably similar. Each of these shots shows a main hall at the piano nobile level reached by ascending a grand stair (out of view in both). Each space is largely open and has numerous small reveals into other more private areas of the building. For each shot I am standing off to the side and watching the action below from behind a barrier. The proportions are slightly different (the MOMA space is much taller than it is wide, the reverse of the library hall) but the dimensions are similar.
I also enjoyed the more direct contrasts afforded by the carefully crafted views of the surrounding city that were created through well placed windows. In a sense this turns the city itself into a permanent exhibit of the museum, offering angles and perspectives not available from street level. I’m not sure if I should credit the original architects, Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone, or the extensive renovation completed in 2004 under Yoshio Taniguchi, for this splendor but I certainly appreciated it. There were a number of moments which stopped me in my tracks to observe the city outside (often causing unintentional traffic jams in the process).
All in all, I liked the MOMA far more than I had anticipated (being more of a Metropolitan Museum of Art type girl under normal circumstances).