Here is another edition of Timesman Michael Kimmelman’s virtual tours through Manhattan’s neighborhoods accompanied by celebrity architects, in this case Midtown’s Carnegie Hall area with Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, who once lived in a Carnegie Hall studio (they are, I think, married). While their architecture is as deplorable as that of the rest of their tribe, I have a soft spot for them because their rusty hulk, the American Folk Art Museum (embedded in a facade of the Museum of Modern Art) was demolished to make way for an equally unpleasant addition to MoMA. You’d think they certainly now join the rest of us in feeling the brutality of modern architecture, right? Well, probably not, but we can hope.
I featured one of critic Kimmelman’s strolls in an earlier post, “Along NYC’s Museum Mile,” last April, with Zack DeZon along as photographer, and here he is again. DeZon’s photos reveal the embellishments of some of the older buildings on the itinerary. His shot of Manhattan’s new skyline, embellished – le mot injuste – by new stick skyscrapers puts the lie to Kimmelman’s nutty description of the sticks as “turning the storied cliff-face of high-rises lining Central Park South into the equivalent of chess pawns to their queens, kings and bishops along 57th and 58th Streets.” Quite the reverse, actually.
Among the remarks of Tod Williams: “Architects today have so many consultants, we are so risk-averse, but we still make mistakes.” That must be the understatement of the week. He adds: “It’s just that now we can blame somebody else.” (Anyone except themselves.)
Some of Williams’ and Tsien’s recollections of living in Carnegie Hall are worth reading. Most of their chatter with Kimmelman about architecture and the development of Midtown? Well, maybe not so much.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Whatever their fondness for it, neither Tsien nor Williams nor most of their ilk even get Carnegie Hall or why it is superior to what they design. Malpractice, malpractice, malpractice!
Here, with the exception of his shot of the skyline noted above, are some of DeZon’s shots of the loveliest sights from Kimmelman’s virtual tour: