The resurfaced 2 Columbus Circle reopens tomorrow as the expanded Museum of Art & Design, and because of the nasty preservation battle that failed to save Edward Durrell Stone's original Lollipop Building, some of the reaction to architect Brad Cloepfil's new Hi Building has been rather heated. But few possess the grand soapbox wielded by New York Times archicritic Nicolai Ouroussoff, so we have been waiting with anticipation his review of the new 2 Columbo. It's here, and woo boy, it's ugly. We haven't seen an Ouroussoff slam like this since Hudson Yards. He tries to say something nice at first ("the renovation remedies the annoying functional defects that had plagued the building for decades"), but then out comes the knife. The autopsy report:
1) "This is not the bold architectural statement that might have justified the destruction of an important piece of New York history."
2) "Poorly detailed and lacking in confidence, the project is a victory only for people who favor the safe and inoffensive and have always been squeamish about the frictions that give this city its vitality."
3) "Sadly, the Museum of Arts and Design will only reinforce the suspicion that city officials are more intent on sanitizing the city for jittery tourists and business interests than safeguarding the public realm."
4) "But seen from across Columbus Circle by daylight, the new exterior looks sterile. The scale and site of the building, a modest structure on a tiny piece of land surrounded by gargantuan towers, demanded something bold; Mr. Cloepfil’s tendency is toward the precious."
5) "At ground level, for example, he decided to keep all of Stone’s original so-called lollipop columns except one and wrapped the entire base in glass. As a result, the columns look meek and lifeless, as if they had been embalmed."
6) "The disappointments continue inside, where Mr. Cloepfil demonstrates his practical skills, but none of the virtuosity — a feel for materials and structure, for the play of light across surfaces — that can elevate a design from mundane concerns into the lofty realm of art."
7) "Mr. Cloepfil undermines this gesture through the carelessness of his detailing."
And on and on, until Ouroussoff deals the final death blow: "We’re left with an image of a New York that has been scrubbed of any real meaning." Nicolai Ouroussoff, you just earned yourself a Christmas card from Tom Wolfe.
· New Face, Renewed Mission [NYT]
· 2 Columbus Circle coverage [Curbed]
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