Museum Reviews by Nathale Nicoletti, NAD Summer 2018 Intern

Museum of Arts and Design – New York, NY  – Edward Durell 1964 /Brad Cloepfil (Allied Works Architecture) 2008

The first design of this building was made by Edward Durell Stone in 1964. The building had a closed façade made of concrete, using ornaments made by marble panels where they were perforated all over the edges of the structure, making more than a thousand little circular windows.

The only visible aperture was on the last two floors, where it was a restaurant and a lounge. It had huge arcs, which were made for better lighting and to have a view of Central Park.

Hartford, the owner of the building, had the intention to establish a Gallery of Modern Art with his own personal collection from the 19th and 20th centuries. Hartford was against modernist ideals. Stone disliked the glass and metal buildings that were prevailing.  Both valued democratic values.

The art exhibitions were situated where there were no windows or aperture. The reason was for better maintenance and views of the exhibitions, creating spaces that looked like an upscale residence. In the lobby were set the famous “lollipops” columns in a Venetian Gothic style with Swedish red rose granite ovals.

After five years, the building was sold. In 2005 they started reconstructing, and the architect that carried out this project was National Academician Brad Cloepfil from Allied Works Architecture firm. Cloepfil gave the building a new identity. He preserved Stone’s structure and from the inside one can still see the “lollipops” columns.

The new design is made from fritted glass and glazed terra-cotta tile. The terra-cotta is finished with a light iridescent glaze, which changes tones of color depending on the hour of the day or the perspective one looks from. There are series of lines of glass made by transparent and fritted glass that are around 80cm wide, which allow filtering light into the gallery.  This now allows for views of the city, which was not possible with the past design.

The façade has a geometric pattern, making it different from the buildings around it. The new design has a lighter look. One can understand from the outside how every floor works, where the restaurant, the art studios, and the galleries are.

It is very transparent ­-- inside the galleries the lines of glass that are on the outside continue on the inside, cutting the floors. This allows one to follow the exhibitions in the right direction, having a sense of space. Therefore, the visitor is able to see the exhibits clearly.

The second from the last floor is the restaurant, where there is a big glass window, with a panorama view of the park and sunlight, also for the art studios. The ground floor where the “lollipops” are is entirely made of glass, which invites people to come to the museum – this floor talks with its surroundings.

The MET Breuer, New York, NY - Marcel Breuer

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was a sculptor and art collector. She created the Whitney Studio Club, now home to the MET Breuer (formerly The Whitney Museum of American Art).

The Architect for this project was Marcel Breuer. He studied at Bauhaus. Breuer is famous for his international/universal style. Bauhaus was a school, from 1919 to 1933, that brought all the subjects of the arts together, such as music, crafts, and fine arts. Bauhaus is considered a style of the modern era.

Breuer was ahead of his time, he was innovative and a futurist. We can see that in his famous Wassily Chair, that even in the contemporary era still looks futurist.

The exterior walls are made of granite, which transmit a heavy look. The building looks as if there is no sunlight, transmitting a feeling of closure, even though one can see the upside-down windows, with their pushy and gauche format with ascending edges.

There are two small windows on each floor. On the third floor, the window is a bigger size that completes the front façade, almost looking like a cyclops’s eye, with a big view of the city.

The design of the building brings to mind the format of an upside-down staircase and ziggurat pyramid. Each floor is a different size but has the same form -- the first floor is smaller than the second, the same also for the second to the third.

The brutalist design is inspiring in its grandiosity, with a strong and innovative look. In the past when people had a more somber and brutal feeling, it was less acceptable because of its distinctly modern style.

Inside the building all these feelings change. The galleries have open spaces with concrete grid ceilings. All the ornaments that it did not have on the exterior it has on the interior -- the dimmed lights, the textures of the walls and the exhibition space itself. The windows become a part of the exhibition, with the view acting as if it were itself a painting.

The New Museum | John Akomfrah – Signs of empire

Usually, I am not the type of person who likes to stay and watch the films in exhibitions. But this one is impossible to not make you want to watch.

When you come to the second floor of the New Museum, you enter in a medium-sized square-shaped room. The room is completely dark, and the walls are even painted black. I felt afraid to walk in there, but that made me even more curious to know what was happening in that room.

You can see a huge screen showing pictures and some quotes. The background song is almost hypnotic, drawing you to stay and watch. This first room focuses on a historical context, from the persistent legacy of colonialism and historical memory.

The quotes are ironic, contradicting with the pictures. Some of the quotes were, “The fields of investment,” “Figuration Nation,” “Histories of Exclusion,” along with many others.

Akomfrah shows the power of the colonizers over the native people and how they were affected -- the competition over who has more power and land, not caring about the people who actually lived in that place, who were used as slaves and products.

The centerpiece of this exhibition is in the second room, containing a three-screen video of Vertigo Sea (2015).

There are videos of nature and how we are treating it, by destroying and contaminating our house (world). It has the same logic, one of the screens shows our reality, another one how we are treating the world/sea/people and another one how beautiful it could be if we do not damage it.

Nature will charge for all the damage we are causing, just wanting the power and the wealth. He shows more of the sea -- everything started at the water, sharks are all older than the trees. By affecting our ecosystem, especially the seas, we are destroying ourselves.

Such an irony -- showing the beauty of nature and what we do to it.

There is some strong content when he shows videos of people hunting whales, and then killing them; testing nuclear bombs in the sea, something that we should not even have; using our natural resources for a bad purpose.

And that all started with the colonialism -power over power- who is the best one, for us everything is a competition.

The New Museum: New York, NY – SANAA (National Academicians)

The Museum’s name embodies its pioneering spirit, focusing on emerging artists and contemporary art.

The neighborhood where the museum is located (the Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side) has the typical squared block buildings. The design of the building reflects on that, taking those block forms and making it contemporary, using glass and steel.

Stacking seven boxes vertically around its central core with varying proportions brings a new design that is similar but also different from its surroundings. By shifting the boxes, they avoided using the maximum square footage that is permitted, creating a dynamic form between the volumes. It seems the buildings in their surroundings are one on top of each other.

The project has a skeletal structure, like in Mies van der Rohe projects. Less is more. The building has its simplicity, clearness and transparent architecture style, distinguishing the opaque building in its surroundings.

The texture of the body is delicate and soft, made of aluminum. It brings to mind fish scales, giving movement to the design and its transparency.

With its column-free design, the building has a large open-plan space that allows for natural light and high ceilings. By concentrating on the function of the building instead of the form, they were able to make the form as the function.

The building consists of galleries, offices, event spaces, a café, a theater, an education center, and two mechanical floors.

Visitors are drawn into the museum, with a glass wall entrance that enables one to see the inside of the lobby, implying transparency. The street’s concrete floor continues on the inside, connecting the street life and museum.

The visitor can choose the way they want to see the galleries by using the stairs or the elevator. The third floor is accessed by two different exquisite thin stairways that are just 90cm wide.  In one of them, there is a single-pane window that brings in natural light.

The structural columns are visible on the less public floors. On the seventh floor, there is a multipurpose room, with glass for almost all of the walls, where one is able to access an outdoor terrace that has different panorama views of Manhattan.