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Outtakes from Yesterday’s Whitney Hearing—Part I

As I wrote in the Wall Street Journal, when I covered city approval hearings for the Museum of Modern Art’s expansion project: “It is impossible to put a spade in the ground here without hitting bedrock resistance from neighbors and various advisory groups seeking to influence those who must approve the project.”
So it was yesterday at the Board of Standards and Appeals’ hearing on the Whitney Museum’s proposed Renzo Piano-designed expansion. Here are some outtakes from the outraged:

Nowhere in this city has an institution put up an equivalent of an 18-story, metal-clad, almost windowless structure with a 32-foot-high permanent crane [an art hoist] in a residential landmarked area.—Coalition of Concerned Whitney Neighbors, which submitted “over 4,000 signatures opposing this oversized extension.”
A 37-foot-high “piazza”…equals the height of the first two floors of the [Whitney’s exisiting] Breuer building—the entrance floor and the gallery floor above it. If the “piazza’s” height were halved, turning it into a normal museum entrance hall, and the windowless areas above were located underground, it might be possible to reduce the height of the addition to that of the historic brownstones.—Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side.
Our primary concern is the combination of the height and bulkiness of the proposed tower. Where the Breuer building is currently at a respectful scale, this new enlargement doubles that height in a very bulky fashion. I do not doubt that the architect is world famous, but no pedigree or awards can disguise what it is—a tall, lifeless rectangle protruding into the skyline,…[which] will be a significant eyesore for residents of the Carlyle.—Hotel Carlyle Owners Corporation.

For its part, the Whitney submitted letters of support from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Hamilton Smith, who was Marcel Breuer‘s associate architect on the 1966 Whitney building.
Smith’s comments to come.

an ArtsJournal blog