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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Boxes of Bowery

posted by on January 2 at 14:47 PM

More than this?

The New Museum is located on the Bowery…
The building, a dramatic stack of six rectangular boxes, is clad in a seamless, anodized expanded aluminum mesh to emphasize the volumes of the boxes while dressing the whole of the building with a delicate, softly shimmering skin.
With windows just visible behind this porous scrim-like surface, the building appears as a single, coherent form that is nevertheless mutable, dynamic, and animated by the changing light of day.

How can we feel anything but happiness at the sight of such a work? It is a stack of happiness.

As for this:
-3.jpg A heap of rubbish.

RSS icon Comments


you CAN feel other emotions at the sight of this, or a lack of emotional response.

i am non-plussed.

maybe i'm just tired of museums.

Posted by max solomon | January 2, 2008 2:58 PM

This looks like Orwell's Ministry of Truth. The Memory Hole runs right down the middle. This thing is a stack of impersonality.

Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber | January 2, 2008 3:01 PM

it's not a bad looking building, but it is so painfully out of place it makes my head hurt just to look at it. i find myself trying to mentally remove it from its surroundings in order to make any sense of it.

B- for design, and F for location.

Posted by brandon | January 2, 2008 3:03 PM

Happy until religious freaks fly planes into it....

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | January 2, 2008 3:05 PM

Speaking of, Koolhaas's leaning towers for CCTV finally joined up last week. I cried.

Posted by Nick | January 2, 2008 3:09 PM

Do you use 'we' because you're really only talking to yourself?

Posted by Justin | January 2, 2008 3:15 PM

#5 - whoa, kinda cool, but I can't help but think it's design delivers a not-too-subtle message of "we at the top, we will crush you beneath us." For a news Chinese "news" station, all the more disturbing.

The finished Seattle City Hall looks nothing like the models I saw from 4 years ago. Could be worse (at motto which is really no way to look at life), but it's also unfair to compare a museum and a city hall.

I do like this building shown in Charles post. It totally makes me happy, especially the rainbow that, from the right angle, makes the whole building appear comically sad to be wedged in there.

Posted by Dougsf | January 2, 2008 3:32 PM

The Bowery building is ugly crap.

The Seattle City Hall is slightly less ugly and crappy.

The bottom floor is a vast expanse of unused space wastes money. The red walls do nothing. The fake stream to show our environmental values is a joke. The main lobby with soaring atrium is a palace. But mostly wasted space.

The splashing water drives people away from the outside portion of the stream; you never see people hanging out there.

"Hey we invented the box" + "let's make it steel and glass" + "let's celebrate the intimidating cold rectangular form" = modern architecture.

No one is going to be looking at these buildings (or images of them) 100 or 1000 years from now.

Posted by unPC | January 2, 2008 3:51 PM

Barely visible in the drawing posted on the Slog is that there's a tick-tacky rainbow arc inexplicably mounted on the building's front facade (you can follow Mudede's link to see it more clearly). Is the rainbow part of the SANAA's logo, or will they be sharing their space with The Museum of My Little Pony?

Posted by drewvsea | January 2, 2008 3:58 PM

The rainbow looks like a brightly-colored unhappy face.

As in unhappy to be here, in the frickin' Bowery.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 2, 2008 4:33 PM

That bowery museum looks very much like a rip of our library. And if you are curious, it wasn't the same architects who designed it, I just checked.

I don't think it is fair to compare a museum to a city hall. Both serve different purposes and their architecture should reflect that difference. Whatever the case is, the building should fit into it's surroundings. That museum stands out like a sore thumb even though its lines match the floor heights of its nearest neighbor. It would be better if it shared some of the same materials and didn't look like a box of cheaply wrapped presents.

I will say that ours fits us far more than the one before and perhaps even old ones.


PS: That 2 url filter sucks. Akismet is way better than trying to roll your own spam filter.

Posted by crk on bellevue ave | January 2, 2008 5:04 PM

The Bowery building was designed by SANAA, which currently has a collection of models (including the Bowery building) on display at the Henry Art Gallery.

The reasoning behind the building is surprisingly simple. Stay within zoning regulations while maximizing the feeling of space and increasing the amount of natural light. I think they did quite well.

Posted by on boylston | January 2, 2008 5:16 PM

The New Museum building looks like someone slipped Hugh Ferriss some crack and told him to get drawing.

That's not to say I don't like it.

Our City Hall is Low Rotterdam civic shite. Thoroughly pedestrian, devoid of anything but the most hamhanded symbolism and even less-accomplished execution of same. Blech.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 2, 2008 5:57 PM

Our city hall looks like a new REI.

For about two years, I waited for them to install racks of Goretex jackets and a climbing wall.

Then I gave up.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 2, 2008 6:11 PM

I liked the old city hall. The rooftop patio was a great place to take your lunch on a sunny day. Plus, it suited Seattle - at least before we started getting all insecure and world-classy.

I also loved the old Central Library, and the old City Light building, with its great mosaic out front. But I've bored you about that already.

As for the new building Charles is gassing on about, it's just slightly uglier than the Seattle Municipal Tower.

And that's pretty ugly.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 2, 2008 6:19 PM

We all hate it. We think it sucks! We like other buildings better.
There did I use "we" enough to describe what I like. Just talk like Yoda when using the word we.
The building does nothing for the area "I" think it is just a product of architects thinking about shapes and forms instead of the impact it has on the surrounding area.
Sometimes you just have to say no a series of boxes piled upon each other with a rainbow on the front. It looks like a kids fort built of discarded refrigerator carboard boxes. It is not a stretch of the imagination it is just a bland expression of shapes and ideas based upon trying to be conceptual. Too conceptual for its own good.
Just because you can build something like this does not mean you should. Buildings should express life not death.
We think it is just a prison for objects.

Posted by -B- | January 2, 2008 9:19 PM

@16 --

What building is not "conceptual," even if the concept is crap? Or dead? Or derivative? Or boring? Not trying to be a prick here -- truly wondering.

And I am thankful for your description of the New Museum as a kids' fort/stack of boxes. What a wonderful image, and how correct for a museum of art.

Instead of a McKim, Mead & White marmoreal culture fortress, here's a reminder, instead, of the insousiance of youth -- which is also, one hopes, the same irreverence for rote tradition possessed by a break-through artistic talent.

And the box image carries further relevance, hinting back to the stacks of Brillo boxes Warhol arrayed around New York's Stable Gallery in 1964 (and hey, I was only a year old then, but I seen da pik-shuhs!).

So for just the reasons you hate it, I think I love it even more. And that rainbow is fawking hi-LAR-ious! I don't mean to go Auntie Mame on you (or anyone, really...), but LIVE A LITTLE -B-!

Nonetheless, I appreciate the thought you devoted to the critique.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 2, 2008 9:57 PM

got it-
made in new york = good
made in seattle = bad



Posted by Cale | January 2, 2008 11:56 PM

it's gotta be fake that mudede is so black or white on matters of style

all that hyperbole is either baiting, or he's the most pompous guy ever

money's on baiting

OMG did i just fall for it

Posted by ndrwmtsn | January 3, 2008 12:27 AM

I fell for it, if it was a fake. But in my defense, I was mostly just looking for a reason to mention the old City Light Building's mosaic.

There. I did it again.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 3, 2008 6:37 AM

Jubilation T. Cornball: I've been reading lots of criticism of the New Museum (I'm another damn architect) and your critique in response to #16 is one of the best I've read. Nice job.

Also, I think - but I may be wrong - that the rainbow is only signage for the current exhibit, and will not be permanent on the building.

Posted by Donna | January 3, 2008 7:04 AM

I'm not sure I understand the comparison. Our humble city hall (irrespective of design) to a museum (of which architecture is a main component)? What exactly are you comparing? I would be curious to hear an elaboration.

Having said that, I'm horrified at the amount of florescent lighting in the New Museum. I'll have to see it for myself next time I'm there, but it looks terrible in the photos. The overall architecture doesn't bother me the least; I think it's awesome.

Posted by sharon | January 3, 2008 10:46 AM

It was a departure for me to not like a building like this. I wish it was more like a kids fort made of stacked cardboard boxes, with a slightly more human playful feel to it while still retaining the function of what is is designed for. I would then think it is brilliant. But I went with my gut feeling. I just feel the building is statement in a separation from enjoyment. It has a military feel. Something is missing for me, something inviting. I just hope that inviting feeling will work on a street level. If this building had taken the rest of the block on the left of its entrance then I think it would be working better for me but then tat would probably take many spaces where artists work in the area. It would not need to be vertical it could have been more of a "Habitat" like structure.
It is not that I hate the building I just do not feel anything from it. As far as being conceptual yes everything is concept and goes through a concept stage but I think most people understand when an artist is being conceptual or maybe too conceptual or there would not be a terms such as "conceptual Art" or "photo conceptualism." These terms describe forms of art and any art form can fail because of it's being too to detached from a connection to some human experience.
In the case of this building I feel it is visually detached and cold. I am sure it will function well but to me it fails to be an appealing structure; it could be but just isn't.

Some people hate this building but I find it to be more appealing if we are talking about boxes

Posted by -B- | January 3, 2008 11:05 AM

@23 -- Hey, I hear ya...and I could be talking out my keester, anyway, since I have not actually seen the building with my own eyes and experienced its street relationship, sky relationship and, of course, the art vs. building battle.

Thanks for the links -- that Canadian building looks like Ettore Sottsass didn't put away his toys. :-)

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 3, 2008 11:18 AM

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