Museum of Arts & Design

Added by John Fried, last update: August 31, 2012, 2:26 pm

Museum of Arts & Design
2 Columbus Circle
New York, NY
United States
40° 46' 10.3008" N, 73° 59' 5.3232" W
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Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Education (EDC)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

Commission Brief: Huntington Hartford, the A&P heir, commissioned Edward Durell Stone & Associates as architects.

Design Brief: Stone planned a ten-story marble showcase for the visual arts. The façade was to be made of soft white or off-white marble to match the Coliseum, which was diagonally west across Columbus Circle. The building was to be supported on a Venetian-style arcade, later dubbed “lollipop columns.” The building was to have cutout porthole shapes in the façade to give museum patrons a view of Central Park. According to Stone, the building would have ample fenestration in its marble sides, so that vistas of Columbus Circle and Central Park could refresh the gallery visitor. Stone's renderings showed the building festooned with long, hanging vines or plants and surrounded by thick trees. None of those additions were in the final plan. The building would rise 150 feet with no setbacks. It would be the first vertical-type building to be used as an art museum. The building would have a system of descending galleries, which would be similar to Frank Lloyd Wright's plan for the Guggenheim Museum, then under construction.

Dates: Commission / Completion:1958 / 1964
Architectural and other Designer(s): Edward Durell Stone & Associates. Stone's first major work, designed in the starkly functional International style in collaboration with Philip L. Goodwin, was the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City (1937–39). Stone, whose style became more ornate and embellished in the 1950s, won renown for his design of the American Embassy at New Delhi (1958). In that building he introduced traditional Muslim motifs, including lace grille patterns. Stone subsequently applied grillwork to many of his buildings, including the U.S. Pavilion for the Brussels World's Fair (1958) and the Gallery of Modern Art (1964). Among his later works are the Amarillo Fine Arts Museum (1969), the University of Alabama Law School (1970), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. (1971), and the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, Carmel, California. Landscape/Garden Designer: None. Lighting Designer: Abe Feder Structural Engineer: Severud-Elstad-Krueger Associates Mechanical Engineer: Peter Bruder Building Contractor: William L. Crow
Others associated with Building/Site: In 1969, Hartford gave the building to Fairleigh Dickinson University (“FDU”), which operated it until 1975 as the New York Cultural Center. The Center had a short, brilliant life under the directorship of Donald Karshan, and then Mario Amaya. The Center mounted 150 different shows, attracting large crowds, but it also ran up big, unrecoverable costs, which caused the Center to close in 1975 and be put up for sale. A year later, Gulf & Western Industries, Inc., with its headquarters across Columbus Circle, bought the building as a gift to the City of New York, intending that it be a visitors center and headquarters for the Cultural Affairs Department. In 1981, the City Gallery, in its new home in the building, presented its first exhibit. In 2000, the City of New York put the building up for sale. In 2002, the City announced its intention to sell the building to the American Craft Museum, now at 40 West 53rd Street. The price eventually would be $17,050,000. The American Craft Museum plans to spend at least $30 million to renovate the building as its new home, to be called the Museum of Arts and Design. Galleries will be used again for art, the underground auditorium for performances and the penthouse restaurant for dining. Thereafter, leading preservation organizations, including the Municipal Art Society, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Historic Districts Council and Landmark West, tried to get the Landmarks Preservation Commission (“LPC”) to hold a hearing for the purpose of designating the building as a protected landmark. These organizations called in supporters, among them the architect and historian Robert A. M. Stern, the Dean of Yale’s Architectural School, who called the building ''arresting and delightful'' and added that ''although it may seem out of fashion, that does not mean that it is trivial.'' The LPC declined to hold such a hearing. In 2003, Portland-based architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture was hired by the Museum of Arts and Design to revamp the nine-story building. His $30-million design removes virtually all of Stone's distinctive features, the white marble cladding, the corner porthole windows, the decorative arcade at street level and the upper loggia, and it sheaths the building in white, mesh-like terra-cotta panels and various types of glass. The new glass exterior will be covered with scrim-like, "woven" white terra-cotta panels that appear solid but allow light to pass through; thin vertical slices will give the building a sense of translucency. Glass columns, in which works will be displayed, will run through the 10-story building; in several places, the columns will abut the building's exterior, making the objects appear to be part of the façade. Though the model of the new design reads as a blank white monolith, narrow slit-like windows will open the walls up to views of Central Park and the surrounding neighborhood. Later in 2003, DOCOMOMO/New York Tri-State joined other New York civic groups, the National Trust, architectural historian Barry Bergdoll, author Tom Wolfe, Robert A.M. Stern, and others to support the effort of the Preservation League of New York State to obtain landmark status for the building. These groups objected to the museum's plan to remove Stone’s modernist facade. Hicks Stone, an architect in New York and one of Edward Durell Stone's sons, said that, although his father was never part of the preservation establishment, ''he would have been very grateful for the renewed interest in architectural history.'' In contrast with his father, he said, he is not keen on historic styles. “I love modern work,'' he said. ''I prefer looking forward to looking back.'' In 2004, a state supreme court judge dismissed a challenge by three preservation groups that hoped to block the sale of the vacant city-owned building to the American Craft Museum. The court decided that city and state agencies had not exceeded their power when they decided that the 40-year-old building was ''not worthy of preservation in its present form.'' A state appellate court affirmed that decision in 2005.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): According to Mr. Cloepfil, the biggest difference between the old and the new building will be the light. Rooms that were once dim and subdivided will now be wide open and full of sun. Slices into the once-opaque facade will open views of Central Park to the north and the Hudson River to the west. Otherwise, the exterior will be left largely intact, except for the cuts and a new cladding in iridescent white terra cotta that will be installed. All but one of the street-level lollipop shapes columns will survive, in part because they are part of the structural supports for the building. The lollipops, however, will now be behind glass, since the lobby will extend toward the sidewalk. The building's signature portholes will be eliminated, along with Stone's Venetian-style loggia. The new building’s interior will feature reconfigured galleries, a restored auditorium, and hands-on educational spaces accessed by a new stair and elevator core. New public amenities at the ground floor orient visitors and embrace the surrounding streetscape. From the outside, a custom skin of glazed terra cotta unifies the four facades while bringing new light and energy to the building interior.
Current Use: Houses the Museum of Arts & Design.
Current Condition: The exterior and interior of the building have received substantial alterations. Condition of current structure is good.
General Description:

At the ground floor of the building were short, stubby support columns, each with a circular capital. These columns formed an arcade at the base of the building. The front-facing curved façade of the building, a Venetian-inspired vertical palazzo, was perforated with porthole-like openings at the corners, base and crown. The top two floors, where the restaurant was located behind a loggia, opened to a view of Central Park. Ada Louise Huxtable of the New York Times likened the overall effect to a “die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops,” Olga Gueft of Interiors said that the building's “red-granite-trimmed, green-marble-lined colonnades, these rows of portholes like borders of eyelet hand-embroidered on a marble christening robe are too winsome for heavyweight criticism.” The stair gallery inside the building wrapped around a core. Filtered natural light was introduced through the perforations at the corners, which opened small glimpses of Central Park without distracting the viewer from the art. The lobby floor was paved in terrazzo, into which were set the discs that had been cut out of the marble when the exterior arches were formed. The interior walls of the museum were paneled with walnut and other hardwoods. The floors were thickly carpeted or elaborately finished in parquet de Versailles and marble. A pipe organ was included in one of the double-height galleries. Though Hartford's collection did not include any paintings by Gauguin, the ninth-floor Polynesian restaurant, the Gauguin Room, included a tapestry based on one of the French master's paintings.

Construction Period:

The building would be constructed of reinforced concrete over which would be a skin of white Vermont marble, veined with gold and gray. In an apparent change of the original design to have ample windows in the marble façade of the building, during construction the windows were reduced to a minimum, limited to the periphery of the façade, and placed behind decorative pierced marble, similar to the concrete grill work that Stone used for the American Embassy in New Delhi, India. According to Ada Louise Huxtable, art and architecture critic of the New York Times, "[t]he arcades and framing filigree that are Edward's Stone's increasingly insistent trademark will make his Gallery of Modern Art an effective architectural billboard before the visitor enters."

Original Physical Context:

Columbus Circle is a small, trapezoidal lot on the south side of Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York City, USA. The seven-story Pabst Grand Circle Hotel, designed by William H. Cauvet, stood at this address from 1874 until it was demolished in 1960.

Technical Evaluation:

At the confluence of Broadway and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, on the southern circumference of Columbus Circle, and directly across 59th Street from Central Park, Stone’s building was a unique example of post-World War II modern architecture, and it was a foil to the recently constructed immense glass façade of the new Time Warner building, on the west circumference of Columbus Circle. The location of the building at this important traffic hub required that its front-facing façade be curved to match Columbus Circle. The lollipop columns of this Venetian-inspired building, which were placed close to the curved curb line of the street, gave the impression that gondolas, instead of cars, should drift past them. The motif of the circular “lollipops” was carried up the sides on the building as small port hole type windows, which admitted some light into the building, but were not large enough to permit the vistas of Central Part to distract museum-goers from the art inside. Although architects and architectural historians were sharply divided as to whether the building merited landmark status, which eventually was denied, the marble-faced building was unique in its design and, with its alteration, is not likely to be used as an inspiration for future structures.


Huntington Hartford conceived of the Gallery of Modern Art as a museum for contemporary art that would reject exhibitions of modern abstract act, which was then being embraced by the Museum of Modern Art (“MoMA”). To help achieve that plan, Hartford selected Edward Durell Stone as the architect for the project. Ironically, in 1939, Stone, along with Phillip Goodwin, had been the architects of the MoMA building on 53rd Street. At its location at Columbus Circle, the museum would be the most accessible in Manhattan by subway and bus.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Stone’s plan for the Gallery of Modern Art called for a 10-story, high-rise museum, as opposed to the more traditional horizontal museums, like MoMA. The marble façade of the building was intended to give the building a monumental appearance, with traditional Venetian motifs and modern columns with circular capitals. Stone sought to design a permanent building, as opposed to a mannered piece of architecture, that would stand for generations to come.

The initial reception for the building was favorable. According to the New York Times art and architecture critic, in 1964, Columbus Circle was a sordid and dismembered open space. Ms. Huxtable characterized the new building for the museum as resembling a “dye-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops. It begs for a canal or garden setting, rather than the dusty disorder of a New York traffic circle. Its effect, which now borders on poetic grotesquerie, will be vastly improved if the architect’s sympathetic design of the circle is carried out by the city.” Over time, however, the building was abandoned, first by Hartford and then by Fairleigh Dickinson University. Although the City of New York later acquired the building as the headquarters for its Cultural Affairs Department, even the City abandoned the building, such that, in 2002, David W. Dunlap of the New York Times characterized the building “as an abandoned work of romantic modernism that has irritated and amused New Yorkers for 30 years." In 2004, the same Ms. Huxtable who, in 1964 for the New York Times, had praised the building, albeit faintly, now criticized preservationists’ efforts to landmark what she called “this derelict little building.” Now writing for The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Huxtable wrote, “I have been watching, with wonder and disbelief, the beatification of 2 Columbus Circle, ne the Huntington Hartford Museum, a k a the lollipop building (so-named, for better or worse, by me). This small oddity of dubious architectural distinction, designed by Edward Durell Stone, has been elevated to masterpiece status and cosmic significance by a campaign to save its marginally important, mildly eccentric, and badly deteriorated façade—a campaign that has escalated into a win-at-any-cost-and-by-any-means vendetta in the name of ‘preservation.’” The façade of the building, now condemned by the wrecking ball, will probably have no appreciable impact on the work of other architects. The building did not contribute to establish any new architectural principles.

General Assessment:
The Gallery of Modern Art, when conceived by Huntington Hartford and designed by Edward Durell Stone in the late 1950s, was unique as an art museum due to its vertical design. As of 1958, for the gallery interior, Stone was exploring a scheme for having stairways along the walls of the building, leading to a descending system of galleries. This system would enable visitors to take an elevator to the top of the building and then descend several feet by stairway onto a landing gallery. After viewing that gallery, the visitor would take another stairway to the gallery below and so on. This scheme for the display of art in the building was similar to what Frank Lloyd Wright had designed for The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Text references:

Allied Works Architecture web site, http.//

“Architect Picked for Art Museum.” 1958. New York Times, May 18, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Automated City Register Information System ("ACRIS"), N.Y.C. Department of Finance,

Barron, James, (NYT), Compiled by Anthony Ramirez. 2004. Metro Briefing New York: Manhattan: Sale Of 2 Columbus Circle Advances. New York Times, April 16, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Cash, Stephanie 2003. “Facelift for Two Columbus Circle.” Art in America, June 1, (accessed February 9, 2008).
Cash, Stephanie 2005. “Two Columbus Circle Battle Continues.” Art in America, November 1, 39. (accessed February 9, 2008).

“Columbus Circle Plan OK.” 2005. Art in America, April 1, 45,47. (accessed February 9, 2008).

DOCOMONO US Newsletter, Winter 2003, page 6.

Dunlap, David W. 2002. “2 Columbus Circle Will Be a Museum Again.” New York Times, June 21, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Dunlap, David W. 2005. “Museum Wins a Court Battle On Columbus Circle Renovation.” New York Times, February 25, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Dunlap, David W. "A Museum Clad in Billboards? The Critics Are Not Pleased." New York Times, April 8, 2006, Late Edition (East Coast), (accessed February 9, 2008).

Dunlap, David W. 2006. “Big 'Da Vinci Code' Billboard Removed at Columbus Circle.” New York Times, April 15, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Gleuck, Grace 1981. “Art: Working Process at Columbus Circle.” New York Times, April 17, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Horsley, Carter B. "Plots & Plans: The Unofficial Landmark Rape of 2 Columbus Circle,"

Huxtable, Ada Louise 1960. “What Should a Museum Be?” New York Times, May 8, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Huxtable, Ada Louise 1963. “Architecture Stumbles On.” New York Times, April 14, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

In the Matter of Landmark West! v. Burden, 3 Misc3d 1102(A), 787 N.Y.S.2d 678, 2004 WL 913217 *9 (Sup. Ct., New York Co. April 15, 2004).

In re Landmark West! v. Burden, 15 A.D.3d 308, 790 N.Y.S.2d 107 (1st Dep't 2005).

Kimmelman, Michael 1997. “An Old Dream For the Arts, A New Chance For the City.” New York Times, February 15, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Knox, Sanks 1956. “Art Museum at Columbus Circle Planned by Huntington Hartford.” New York Times, June 11, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Knox, Sanks 1959. “Hartford Tells of New Museum.” New York Times, June 14, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Knox, Sanks 1962. “Art Museum Makes Slow Progress.” New York Times, January 31, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

New York Architectural Images – Midtown Website, 2 Columbus Circle,

Pogrebin, Robin 2007. “Renovation Slowly Adds Some Light To Lollipops.” New York Times, June 5, Late Edition (East Coast). (accessed February 9, 2008).

Recorder/Date: John Fried, March 6, 2008
Additional Images
Museum of Arts & Design
P.O. Box 230977
New York, NY 10023
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