The Frick’s future

Proposed addition to Frick rises gently from center right of image. (NYT)

Proposed addition to Frick rises gently from center right of image. (NYT)

Plans emerged yesterday for an expansion of the Frick Collection. an addition reverent, it seems, in its devotion to the sensibility of the mansion built in 1913-14 for Henry Clay Frick by Carrere & Hastings, expanded by John Russell Pope in the 1930s, expanded again by John Barrington Bayley, and finally yet again by the firm doing the proposed six-story addition, Davis Brody Bond – the firm responsible for the new 9/11 museum.

Although it saddens me that the Bayley addition would be sacrificed – he was the great good friend of the late Henry Hope Reed, leader of today’s classical revival – this newly proposed addition seems to be about the best one could hope for. So far, though the devil is in the details, it seems downright lovely. It adds to the sense one gets – and I went for the first time last month – as one walks around its perimeter of a village of smaller buildings that have grown organically from the original.

One would surely like to see the existing delicate accretion of additions preserved, but an institution often needs to expand. I’ll leave to others whether that is so here, but the case made in Robin Pogrebin’s New York Times article seems powerful.

Already the usual suspects are pooh-poohing the proposal’s extraordinary sympathy – see “Beaux Arts Botox,” by Culturegrrl – so at odds with much recent practice. The modernist addition to the Morgan Library several years ago is an abomination, but the old library survives it better than, say, the Brooklyn Museum, the addition to which, as Steven Semes points out, looks as if an alien space ship had landed on its beautiful face – a bigger-than-life carbuncle that nowadays is the norm.

So if the addition here proposed emerges from the fusillade unscathed and is not watered down to suck up to the powers that be, or to save money, then it should provide a stellar example of what genuine architecture means by the word “addition.” Addition – to add on, to make better, quoth the dictionary. Sounds like a good idea.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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2 Responses to The Frick’s future

  1. Lew, you remind me of the proponents for the GTECH building who promised that its reflectivity would render it virtually invisible.

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  2. Lewis Dana says:

    The addition to the Morgan Library an abomination?
    What would you have liked them to do… build a duplicate mausoleum? The reason the original building “survives” the addition is because the in-fill structure is virtually invisible. For once a modernist architect chose not to trash up the joint with a “statement.” Piano added transparent rooms to the Morgan, so as a visitor goes in the new main entrance, he sees the old buildings glowing in their undeniable beauty. In fact, Piano reveals MORE of the old buildings than it was possible to see in the past. An abomination? A triumph!

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