Null and Trapezoid

Marcel Breuer’s museum on Madison opened our eyes to the sublime. Let’s not look away now.

On or about 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, 2024, New York City suffered its greatest loss of civic architecture since that Monday of October 28, 1963, when the wrecking ball first landed on old Penn Station. Or at least since Tuesday, April 15, 2014, when the Museum of Modern Art enshrouded the white bronze walls of what had briefly and unintentionally been the jewel of its design collection: the former Folk Art Museum, the masterpiece by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien that had opened so very recently and so very bravely on December 12, 2001 (so very soon after the September when those other great buildings downtown, and much else, were destroyed).

Penn Station and the Folk Art Museum have at least been attended to by history: That winsome old depot is forever enlisted in a self-satisfied but not wholly inaccurate narrative of the origins of the global historic preservation movement in midcentury New York City; that folk-art-versus-modern-art farrago enduringly shapes the reputations of all the architects involved. The problem with the loss of March 3, 2024, is that no…

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