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Alexandra Lange

Junior Critics


One of the pleasures of teaching is when your students actually surprise you. I assigned my current class of NYU undergraduates a review of the Museum of Arts & Design (not one of my favorites, tho Slash was great) and several managed to come up with bold new metaphors for the building in context. Their take on it was more interesting than that of most of the professional critics, largely because they were coming to it cold. No nostalgia for what it was, just a ground-up assessment of what it looks like now. The generation gap is working for them.

MAD as shipwreck:

When a building fails to perform is resembles a sunken ship. Both are empty shells waiting to be filled. At some of these hollow hulls, rusting away at the bottom of the ocean floor, colorful flashes of life can be found… Shipwrecks on land are similar. Unappealing and inefficient buildings offer a challenge, and an opportunity, to make something great from something bad.

MAD as possibility:

Its geometric forms evoke computer chip circuitry, making one thing that perhaps this is the funky headquarters of a software giant… Perhaps this decision will extend the lifespan of the building well beyond the existence of the Museum of Arts & Design. This is a quirky, contemporary building that could house almost anything, from retail shops, to a progressive school, to an independent movie theater.

MAD as anomaly:

The harsh reconciliation of grid to looping boulevard at 59th Street creates that funny little block upon which 2 Columbus Circle sits, and as far as I can see, we would be better off without. Don’t get me wrong, I like urban incongruities, but not so much that I am willing to ignore an urban failure. The island that is 2 Columbus Circle simply feels like an unintended leftover, the pesky remainder of a third grade long-division problem.



Posted in: Education , Museums, Theory + Criticism

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Alexandra Lange Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect’s Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.

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