Monday, November 8, 2004

2 Columbus Circle on Nation's Newsstand

Preservation Magazine Cover Story

Nation's Eye on 2 Columbus Circle...Still

For the cover story of its nationally circulated magazine, Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation* asked four experts to discuss the value of preserving Edward Durell Stone's original 1964 design for 2 Columbus Circle.

Not surprisingly, each offered a multitude of insights on why 2 Columbus Circle should--or should not--be saved, underscoring the woeful delinquency of New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission for not having a public hearing to air these issues.

Here's what the experts had to say (for the introductory text, go here):

Philip Lopate, essayist: "When 2 Columbus Circle first opened, it stood across from another, more imposing white element, the New York Coliseum....Now that the Coliseum has been torn down, replaced by the Time-Warner complex, a 21 st -century glass-tower extravaganza, the context has changed significantly. The little white gallery has lost its big white sibling and looks bereft next to all that jazzy, opportunistic glass."

Robert A.M. Stern, architect: "Some critics say that New York is short on world-class buildings by world-class architects. Well, here is one that is full of ideas about site, image, history, and the freedom that comes with modernity. Transforming the building into the new home of the Museum of Arts & Design need not be done at the expense of Stone's design. Can we not live in the present and work with the past?"

Theodore H.M. Prudon, architect: "Perception is as important as reality, and few buildings have suffered from a history of misunderstanding more than 2 Columbus Circle....Many organizations are working very hard not only to save the building but also to help change the perception that many modern or modernist buildings are not important enough to save."

Witold Rybczynski, architectural historian and critic: " would be such a shame if 2 Columbus Circle were given a terra-cotta wrapping, or any other up-to-date alteration. Stone's building, though not a masterpiece, is something equally valuable--a rarity, representing an unusual and interesting moment in the history of architecture. It would be sad to lose it."

And even sadder to lose it because the agency responsible for protecting New York's irreplaceable architecture decided not to listen.

*The National Trust for Historic Preservation placed 2 Columbus Circle on its 2004 list of America's "11 Most Endangered Historic Places"

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