Museum of Modern Art exterior

Midtown
New York City, NY

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

Despite a recent renovation of MoMA's interior spaces, the entrance and facade remain monotonous and impenetrable.

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Why It Doesn't Work

The recent renovation of MoMA's interior spaces, galleries and sculpture garden has been a triumph in terms of public space. That makes it all the more galling to see the entrance and facade remain so monotonous and impenetrable. The approach to the building feels more like the side of a junkyard or warehouse than a world-class cultural institution. At no point does the facade permit any transparency between the sidewalk and the interior. The entrance, meanwhile, has all the appeal of an open garage door. It evokes no sense of arrival, nor does it support any activity that could serve as a bridge between the Museum and the public realm.

William H. Whyte shrewdly captured the detrimental effects of blank walls when he wrote that they "proclaim the power of the institution, the inconsequence of the individual, whom they are clearly meant to put down, if not intimidate." MoMA surely does not want to project such an image. Its next renovation should focus squarely on how to create an exterior public space experience equal to its remarkable interior.

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