Almost as soon as the news broke last week that the Museum of Modern Art planned to demolish the former American Folk Art Museum, a movement emerged to save it. Members of the design community—including the architects who designed the building—are registering their discontent with the decision. More than one petition is now circulating to rescue the Folk Art building as a result.
Architects Tod Williams, FAIA, and Billie Tsien, AIA, are not mounting a campaign on behalf of the Folk Art building, which was the first new museum building to open in New York in more than 30 years when it was completed in 2001. The architects instead posted a brief statement on the firm's website, noting their gratitude to Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) director Glenn Lowry for telling them personally that the museum would be demolishing their 12-year-old building. The statement otherwise makes plain the architects' displeasure with the MoMA decision.
"The Folk Art building stands as an example of a modest and purposefully conceived and crafted space for art and the public; a building type that is all too rare in a city often defined by bigness and impersonality," the statement reads. "We remain enormously proud of it, and are deeply saddened that a significant building that was a source of enjoyment and inspiration for so many will now be lost forever."
Preservation-minded fans of the building did not wait to take any cue from its designers as to how to respond. Two petitions on Change.org have garnered hundreds of signatures each (1,730 and 1,211, respectively, at press time). Protesters jumped on Twitter and Tumblr with a #FolkMoMA campaign to consider alternative designs to preserve and even expand the 40,000-square-foot building and its 40-foot-wide, bronzep-and-copper–plated façade. ARCHITECT editor-in-chief Ned Cramer wrote that the decision risks MoMA's "credibility as a champion of architecture."
For their part, the trustees at the American Folk Art Museum—the organization that sold the building to MoMA in 2011—hope to clarify one point of order about the controversy. "The building is not the Museum! The Museum is not the building!" reads a statement from trustees and staff at the museum.