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Visit New Renzo Piano Whitney Museum

Modern Gallery in Manhattan, NYC – article by Joel Solkoff, PA, USA

Jun 21, 2015

Visit The New Renzo Piano Whitney Museum Building

Article by Joel Solkoff, PA, USA

Joel’s Column Vol. III, Number 3

Visit The New Renzo Piano Whitney Museum terrace
Photograph by Joann Dornich published exclusively for e-architect. The photograph shows the view from the Whitney’s eighth floor. The eighth floor is where visitors begin to see the new Whitney. What they see is dramatic. A photograph on the other side of the patio will show you The Statute of Liberty. There is no time to view the beauty of New York harbor. Only time to take a photograph and move on.

Visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney
Shoving aside the swarms of tourists making the new Renzo Piano Whitney Museum of American Art nearly invisible, your columnist took this photographic detail shooting upward from the first floor. From the first floor, one goes to Piano’s iconic vision that the Eighth Floor is the recommended way to start a visit. Huge freight-like elevators work overtime shuttling visitors with tickets up to eighth, back down to one, up to eight….There are so many tourists there is a real danger the Whitney’s popularity may destroy the environment Piano created.

Do not visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney Museum of American Art In New York City: Swarms of tourists are destroying the integrity of the architecture.

Can success destroy Renzo Piano’s architectural masterpiece after the Whitney became crawling with tourists? Renzo Piano was hired to create the Whitney while working on his first New York City commission The Morgan Museum and Library on Madison Avenue and 36th Street.

Visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney
Published by permission Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph by Ed Lederman

When the telephone call from the Director of the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art came, Renzo Piano was at the bottom of the excavation ditch after the hard Manhattan schist had been excavated. The caller wanted to know whether Piano could come by for coffee. “That’s when I knew he was lying. He did not just want to buy me coffee.”

Visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney
This is the site of the Morgan Museum and Library where Renzo Piano stood below answering the phone call from the Director of the Whitney. Photograph courtesy of Sciame Construction.

Instead of coffee, to Piano’s surprise the Whitney Director assembled with the Whitney Board and formally awarded Piano the contract for the new Meatpacking District Whitney. This was a plumb contract. Piano compares himself as a boy playing contentedly with sand on the beach. When Piano undertakes a project he puts himself whole heartedly in it, the way a boy focuses on what amuses him most.

The best primer on the making of Piano’s Whitney is the interview Piano gave to U.S. public television’s Charlie Rose. Here is a link to that interview.
Awarding Piano the project came after the Whitney conducted a lengthy search process. Twelve architects were invited to make an initial presentation. Each architect was asked which museum the architect admired most in the world. The answer 12 times out of 12: a museum designed by Renzo Piano.

The Piano museums most frequently mentioned were:
• The Beyler in Switzerland.

Visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney
Photo courtesy of the The Beyeler Foundation or Fondation Beyeler with its museum in Riehen, near Basel, Switzerland

  • The Menil in Houston Texas

Visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney
Photograph courtesy Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The Menil Collection Museum, Houston, Texas, 1987. Photograph by Paul Hester

  • The Pompidou Center in Paris

Visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney
Photograph courtesy Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Centre Pampidou, Paris, Fance, 1977. Photograph by Gianni Berengo Gardin

How Piano was hired to design the Whitney

Adam Weinberg, currently Whitney Director, was part of the selection process. He described the search committee’s view: “Wait a minute. We have 12 architects here who love Renzo Piano. Why don’t we get Renzo Piano?”

During the search process, Piano was asked to compete which he refused to do. “At my age, you don’t want to fall in love with a project and it goes somewhere else.”

Visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney
Photograph by Joel Solkoff

My personal experience with the new Piano Whitney took place on June 12th. Less than a week ago, I went to the Whitney by bus Downtown on Eight Avenue. Hardly an advertisement for the gentrification of New York. Hell’s Kitchen Modern.

Visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney
Photograph by Joel Solkoff

When I arrived at 14th Street, I scooted over the Hill and expected to see something dramatic. Clouds at least. A grand vision of a glorious Meatpacking District. Only to discover Meatpacking District gentrification has not taken over entirely. Not yet! Scooting to the Whitney right up to the door there was dirt and signs of decay.

Visit the New Renzo Piano Whitney
Google Maps screen shot courtesy Kathy Forer showing the new Piano Whitney in relation to the Statue of Liberty

I very much admire Renzo’s accomplishment at the Whitney. I understand his grand design. But the design is being destroyed by swarms of tourists. I could not see the flagship America is Hard to See exhibit because there are tourists between the art and me.
(Note: This is the first of four columns focusing primarily on Renzo Piano’s design of Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. This may appear to readers a digression from the central mission of this column; namely, to focus on the problems of the elderly and disabled especially as these problems present themselves to architects.)


This column copyright © 2015 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Visit The New Renzo Piano Whitney Museum information / images from Joel Solkoff, PA, USA

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