the walls of MoMA

New York City boasts some of the greatest art galleries and museums in the world – playing host to works by the greats like Andy Warhol, Pollock, Van Gogh and Monet. And MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is our ultimate go-to when we need our cultural fix as it contains some of the most priceless pieces this world has ever known and the building itself is something so special and worth noting.
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When MoMA first opened in 1929, it was located in the Heckscher Building at 730 Fifth Avenue and only had 6 rooms for galleries and offices. In 1939, it moved to the townhouse at 11 West 53rd Street but it wasn’t until 1939 that the museum had it’s first permanent home when the International Style Building opened to the public. During the decades proceeding, surrounding buildings were acquired or donated and the museum’s land holding slowly expanded. They now had all the land, but too many individual buildings so the trustee’s decided to hold a competition to find the architect who would design the new Museum of Modern Art. The winner of that competition in 1997 was Japanese born Yoshio Taniguchi (in partnership with KPF). Demolition of existing buildings began in 2000 and the building you see today was completed in 2004 and coincided with the museum’s 75th anniversary.
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The new Museum of Modern Art is made up of four main buildings – The David and Peggy Rockefeller Building, The Lobby, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building and The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, and together they take up an astounding 630,000 square feet.
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Tangiguchi designed the complex and galleries specifically for the type and scale of work it would be showcasing which is illustrated by the range and size of the galleries, from the 110 foot high atrium to the smaller, more intimate rooms on the levels above. Natural light plays a major role throughout the entire space – flooding through the expansive glass wall; the skylights and the hidden panels of glass in smaller galleries create a sense of discovery. To say its feels spacious would be an understatement, especially when you’re used to the small spaces in Manhattan.
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MoMA was the first project for Tangiguchi outside of Japan, so it’s safe to assume his Japanese heritage and design experience was a large influence on the minimalist and modern approach, as was the streets of New York City itself – particularly in the Lobby that features an interior promenade. It’s a welcoming space that provides sprawling views into the garden and enormous atrium; giving you just a hint of the unparalleled art you’re about to experience.
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“The clean lines of the exterior facade incorporate and adapt to the original building designed by Goodwin and Stone in 1939, as well as Phillip Johnson’s design for the subsequent expansion and Sculpture Garden, and the residential tower designed by Cesar Pelli in 1984. The result is an architectural collage that is reflective of MoMA’s crucial role in the ongoing definition of modernism.” – KPF
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At the heart of all this remarkable architecture is the garden – it was part of the original 1953 design and the expanded version was reintroduced as a way of connecting all the separate pieces of the site. The elegant outdoor patio has world renowned sculptures scattered around the water feature and visitor seating area. It’s a calming escape from the chaotic city that surrounds it.
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If you’re traveling to New York or are lucky enough to be living there (like we were for the past few years), make sure MoMA is on your list. Even if modern art isn’t your passion, you’ll still experience something truly mind blowing and memorable just by observing the architecture.

*Images courtesy of KPF.

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