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Nouvel on the Redesigned MoMA/Hines Tower: “More Like a Skyscraper”

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Architect Jean Nouvel at press lunch for planned National Museum of Qatar, held yesterday at Museum of Modern Art

Although I was preempted by the NY Time‘s Nicolai Ouroussoff from reporting on the plans for the National Museum of Qatar, I did elicit some new information from the architect, Jean Nouvel, about his project just next door to the Museum of Modern Art, where the Qatar press lunch was held.

Nouvel told me that he’s still working on his redesign of the MoMA/Hines tower, necessitated by the city’s requirement that he lop off 200 feet (making it, at 1,050 feet, Chrysler Building-height, down from the Empire State Building height of the original design). He reconfirmed what I’ve previously reported—that only the height will shrink, not the square footage:

We have to stay with the same volume. But the proportions will not be the same. It will be shorter. It will not be like a spire. It will be more like a skyscraper.

In other words, the City Council’s action did nothing to ramp down the building’s excessive density in this midblock, partly residential location. It only reined in the excessive height and (along with it) the architectural interest.

At the City Planning Commission’s hearings on the project, the architect had proudly described the tapering at the top of the tower in his original design and stated that “it’s very important to have this needle at the end and this immateriality at the end.” At one point, Nouvel had even suggested to me that he might drop out of the project if the city insisted on the 200-foot height reduction.

Yesterday he told me that he didn’t know how long his redesign would take, nor when the tower’s construction would begin. He noted that the latter would depend, in part, upon financial conditions (also, presumably, upon resolving the new court challenge by neighborhood residents). When I asked if it would be months or years before groundbreaking took place, he replied, “Not months.”

Seeing him seated with Nouvel at yesterday’s lunch, I also asked David Penick, the managing partner of this project for the developer, Hines, about the current status of the 53rd Street glass-and-steel, mixed-use tower (which would contain space for MoMA’s next expansion). Penick declined to comment.

And in other Nouvel news, Business Intelligence Middle East yesterday reported:

Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) said on Tuesday it has launched the main tender competition [a request for contractors’ bids, I presume] for building a branch of the Louvre museum on its flagship development Saadiyat Island.

“The main contract works, the dome, mechanical, electrical, is tendered today,” Felix Reinberg, director of projects delivery at TDIC’s museum division, told reporters on the sidelines of a tour of the island.

Reinberg said the tendering process would close in June.

Nouvel is the architect for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which, he said, is now under construction. It is scheduled to open in September 2013.

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