The American Folk Art Museum building and the Museum of Modern Art

An overview of The Architectural League's position on a controversial Museum of Modern Art expansion.

American Folk Art museum. Credit: Giles Ashford

In April 2013, the Museum of Modern Art announced plans to raze the American Folk Art Museum building, a twelve-year-old structure by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects that was purchased by MoMA in 2011, as part of an expansion of MoMA west from its current campus.

The decision generated an outpouring of reaction and protest from the public, including an open letter, copied below, from The Architectural League to MoMA. The League called for the Museum of Modern Art “to reconsider its decision to demolish the American Folk Art Museum” and to “provide more information about why it considers it necessary to tear down this significant work of contemporary architecture.” The League wrote that “[t]he public has a substantial and legitimate interest in this decision.”  On May 9, 2013, MoMA announced that it would reconsider its previous decision and that Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the firm selected to design the museum’s expansion, would evaluate the possibility of integrating the American Folk Art Museum building into its plans. On January 8, 2014, MoMA and Diller Scofidio + Renfro announced their plans for the expansion and renovation of the Museum of Modern Art campus, which again included the demolition of the American Folk Art Museum building.  The Architectural League issued a second statement on January 14, 2014, available below.

In partnership with the Municipal Art Society and the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, The Architectural League organized an event at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on January 28, 2014, which included an opportunity for MoMA and its architects to present its plans and reasoning to a large audience of League, MAS, and AIANY members and press.  The plan was then discussed by a panel of architects and critics that represented a spectrum of responses to the plan. Full documentation of the program is available below.

Published: May 15, 2013; updated January 14, 23, & February 3, 2014