The Building Framed as Beast: Jean Nouvel’s MoMA Monster


Have you seen the “Say No to the MoMA” ad? It makes Jean Nouvel’s proposed MoMA Tower look like a rabid King Kong, casting ominous shadows across midtown Manhattan. It also suggests that this building — unlike the scores of skyscrapers that have gone up over the past century — will block the entire skyline. It would be rather funny if the alarmist attitude wasn’t holding up progress on what is such a bold, exciting design.

Back in September, City Planning Commission chairwoman Amanda Burden chopped 200 feet off the 85-story tower, assuring it would not rival the Empire State Building in height, although not doing much to placate area residents. Earlier this week, Nouvel and developer Hines Interests went before City Council with a new design, hoping to overturn the decision, keep the project financially viable, and maintain the building’s architectural integrity. This version had fins.

The museum, which does not receive direct support from the city or the state, has a vested interest in this seeing this building go up so that they can get money from the air rights. If the new design is approved, it will take four years to complete the tower, although as Hines’ David Penick told Lee Rosenbaum that even if it got government approval, building would not start any time soon because of the economy.

Nouvel has said he is uncertain if he will stay on the project if the building is shortened to 1,050 feet.

So what happens now to the building that Nicolai Ouroussoff once said “promises to be the most exhilarating addition to the skyline in a generation,” and would give the MoMA an estimated 40,000 square feet of additional gallery space? It looks like we’ll just have to wait and see.