MoMA to replace folk art museum with DS+R expansion MoMA to replace folk art museum with DS+R expansion
jan 10, 2014

MoMA to replace folk art museum with DS+R expansion

MoMA to replace folk art museum with DS+R expansion
image © 2014 diller scofidio + renfro
all images courtesy of MoMA




it has been announced that the museum of modern art (MoMA) has approved plans by the renowned interdisciplinary studio diller scofidio + renfro (DS+R) to expand and reorganize the current new york site. the design involves reconceiving the presentation of the gallery’s extensive collection, while simultaneously placing a stronger emphasis on the institution’s public spaces, offering better access throughout. the development means that after a six month long analysis, tod williams and billie tsien‘s american folk art museum will be razed in order to make way for the new structure.



view of the sculpture garden entrance on 54th Street
image © 2014 diller scofidio + renfro




only inaugurated in 2001, the folk art museum remains much-loved building within the city. in order to alleviate the 32 million USD debt, borrowed to complete the project, the plot was sold to MoMA in 2009, with the museum’s collection relocating to lincoln square. since then, the building’s future has remained in doubt, but the announcement seemingly spells the end for the structure.


in a statement issued via their website, tod williams and billie tsien expressed their sadness and concern:


‘we have learned of MoMA’s final decision to raze the former american folk art museum building and replace it with a new structure. this action represents a missed opportunity to find new life and purpose for a building that is so meaningful to so many. the folk art museum was designed to respond to the fabric of the neighborhood and create a building that felt both appropriate and yet also extraordinary. demolishing the human-scaled, uniquely crafted building is a loss to the city of new york in terms of respecting the size, diversity and texture of buildings in a midtown neighborhood that is at risk of becoming increasingly homogenized.


this is a building that we and others teach from and about. it has served as an invaluable learning recourse for students, colleagues and scholars, and a source of inspiration for many more. it has a powerful architectural legacy. the inability to experience the building firsthand and to appreciate its meaning from an historical perspective will be profoundly felt. we and our studio are very touched by the many expressions of concern that have been shared with us by members of the public, as well as our colleagues, and we are grateful for their support. as architects, we must be optimists. so we look to the future and we move on.’



view of the lobby, looking west
image © 2014 diller scofidio + renfro




DS+R’s new plan joins the current building to two additional sites, expanding the structure across three floors of a residential tower at 53 west 53rd street, and the site of the former american folk art museum at 45 west 53rd street. the scheme reorganizes MoMA’s ground floor, including the sculpture garden and a new glass-walled gallery, presenting the transparent façade to the passing street. this foyer area is envisaged as an inviting entrance which forms a continuous part of the city, and ensuring that the museum is more directly woven into the fabric of midtown manhattan. importantly, MoMA will increase public access to the abby aldrich rockefeller sculpture garden later this year.



axonometric plan indicating the new layout
image © 2014 diller scofidio + renfro




providing 30% more floor space, 40,000 square feet of new galleries allow the museum to offer a cohesive and integrated display of its works from many different disciplines: photography, architecture, design, film, media, prints, drawings, performance, painting, and sculpture. imagined as a place for both contemplation and conversation, the new MoMA will offer a more open, accessible and engaging venue catering to a wide and diverse range of audiences.


construction is scheduled to begin on-site in the summer of 2014.

  • Another impersonal faceless structure which stops human beings experiencing a heartfelt connection to human kind and our wonderful history of creating. I used to Look forward to visiting the Museum of folk Art every time I visited N.Y. and told friends how wonderful it was. This is really sad,. The collection felt like it belonged in the previous building and it worked well in that neighborhood in terms of design. My initial response is that it will be just another collection of artifacts floating around in space in a glass shell with no real connection to where it was created or who was involved in that process.

    Georgina says:
  • The New York Times reported that the new floor plan will add about 55,000 square feet of gallery space, which is an increase of 44 percent, not 30 percent. Many already find MoMA too large and corporate-feeling after its last expansion for an intimate experience of art. By looks of these mammoth new galleries, including one two stories in height, MoMA is headed even more decisively toward mass entertainment and “cultural programming” (whatever that means).

    As for the Williams Tsien folk art building, it was a lost cause from the beginning. Beautiful as it was outside and in, it looked ridiculously small in that neighborhood of massive office buildings. It suited 55th or 56th Street much better. Moreover, it simply failed as a magnet for visitors — a major reason for the institution’s bankruptcy and the building’s sale to MoMA.

    Mort d'Urban says:

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