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Slaying the MoMA Monster: Russell to the Rescue

Before Jean Nouvel’s Fab comes Kieran Timberlake Architects’ Prefab (above)
I took a lot of flak from skyscraper lovers over this post about the MoMA Monster—the 75-story stalagmite to be deposited by Jean Nouvel in the now vacant lot next to Mega-MoMA. Nicolai Ouroussoff of the NY Times can’t say enough good things about it. I’m a native New Yorker: I too love skyscrapers. But this is the wrong structure in the wrong place.
One online discussion board, to which I will not link, lit up with attacks on my taste, my intelligence and even (can you believe?) my beauty, because I dared to criticize Nouvel’s creation. One of the more printable comments: “Its hard to believe these people can see sometimes. Oh my god a skyscraper in New York! Where do these people think they live?”
Now, along comes James Russell, Bloomberg‘s estimable architecture critic, to take some of the heat off me.
Yesterday, Russell wrote:
Architect Jean Nouvel has designed an implausibly thin obelisk that would rise in crooked facets almost as high as the Empire State Building.
Thank New York zoning laws for this chic behemoth, which could cast some of Midtown’s most prized and densely built blocks into darkness. Someday such abuse may become illegal….It’s meant to rise to more than twice the height of nearby Museum Tower, which MoMA built in the 1980s, and will define a whole new scale in the neighborhood….Its 1,200-foot (365-meter) height would cast MoMA’s sculpture garden into almost perpetual shadow.

I don’t know about you, James, but I prefer the temporary use to which MoMA plans to put this space: As part of its upcoming exhibition, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling, July 20-Oct. 20, the museum has selected five architects or firms to create full-scale, prefabricated houses for the lot that may eventually support, among other things, a “seven-star hotel.” (Is that a three-star hotel plus a four-star hotel?)
The prefab design designees are: Kieran Timberlake Architects (Philadelphia), Lawrence Sass (Cambridge), Jeremy Edmiston and Douglas Gauthier (New York), Oskar Leo Kaufmann and Albert Rüf of Oskar Leo Kaufmann Architects (Dornbirn, Austria) and Richard Horden (London and Munich).
This show even comes with its own blog. According to the press release:
An exhibition Web site launching in mid-March will include weekly diary postings from each of the five architects and from the curators of the exhibition, recording the process of fabricating, delivering, and assembling the houses leading up to the July 20 opening. The site will underline the importance of prefabrication as a matter of process and product.
THAT’S what I call creative land use!

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