[UPDATES] Protest planned as controversy erupts over AT&T Building – The Architect's Newspaper

Saudi Arabian funding group Olayan America announced plans yesterday to renovate and overhaul the bottom of Philip Johnson’s iconic AT&T Building (now 550 Madison Avenue). The response to Snøhetta’s design proposal was instantly blended, with many within the architectural neighborhood deriding the brand new design as anti-contextual and ham-handed.

The AT&T’s monumental Stony Creek granite archway is constructed from the identical stone as Grand Central Terminal, the unique Penn Station, and the bottom of the Statue of Liberty. This sort of stone facade is just not frequent in New York Metropolis at the moment, and critics are asking questions on whether or not town wants one other glass facade. “AT&T is likely to be the final nice stone constructing. Midtown doesn’t want any extra glass,” mentioned filmmaker Nathan Eddy, who's at present making a movie about Johnson and is organizing a protest for Friday afternoon exterior of the constructing.

Beneath are a few of the responses to the controversy from the architectural neighborhood each in New York and across the globe. Be at liberty to ship yours to us at data@archpaper.com and we are going to publish the very best:

“Louis Kahn famously described the Seagram Building as “a wonderful woman in hidden corsets,” referring to the truth that Mies’s elegant facade masked the entire tower’s structural bracing. I considered that after I noticed Snohetta’s plan for 550 Madison Avenue, the previous AT&T Building, which requires a lot of the decrease part of the unique granite facade to be stripped off, revealing by no means-seen cross-bracing behind it. The drawback is that I’m undecided Philip Johnson’s woman needed her corsets revealed any greater than Mies’s did. In reality, most likely much less so, since Miesian modernism made some gestures, nevertheless disingenuous, towards structural honesty; Johnsonian postmodernism was all in regards to the facade. Strip away the granite and you've got fairly actually uncovered what the structure was designed to hide.

Additionally, all that tumbler on the backside with Johnson’s authentic granite above makes the constructing look prime-heavy; visually, stone doesn’t wish to be supported by glass. These facade missteps are too unhealthy, as a result of there's a lot about this proposed renovation to love. I feel what Snohetta has proposed for the general public area within the again is a big enchancment over the banal area that exists there now, and demolishing the so-known as annex construction is all to the great. Fixing up the clunky storefronts on Madison is worthy, too. A specific amount of change is totally crucial if this constructing, which was designed forty years in the past for an imperial company to occupy as a single tenant, is to work for a number of tenants within the twenty-first century. However I’m not satisfied that change has to return within the type of such drastic alteration to probably the most recognizable skyscraper facades of our time.”

—Paul Goldberger, structure critic and Joseph City Professor of Design on the New Faculty

“That is weird. It's questionable whether or not Johnson’s authentic base must be altered in any respect. Its fortress-like high quality is a part of the structure of, whether or not you just like the constructing or not, an vital postmodernist constructing which in its personal time was controversial. However this can be a bit neither-nor. It's each too respectful and disrespectful on the similar time. In the event you’re going to alter the bottom right into a glass field, do it with the suitable ‘fuck you’ brutality. Don’t go away in an apologetic hint of the arch and half of the heavy masonry. Totally different scale altogether however just a few years in the past the previous Abbey Nationwide HQ in Baker Road, London was renovated and for some time, it regarded like this (see beneath.)”

—Sean Griffiths, artist and co-founding father of FAT, London

The former Abbey Nationwide HQ in Baker Road beneath renovation. (Sean Griffiths)

The AT&T skyscraper, Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s succès de scandale of 1978, has the uncommon distinction of regularly including new chapters to its notoriety, even whereas its banal architectural design continues to age poorly.   Not solely did the unique design, with its one-liner quotes from architectural historical past, contain eradicating a serious piece of civic artwork from the unique ATT constructing, but it surely was granted further sq. footage in trade for public area alongside the Madison Avenue sidewalk and behind.  This was a promise that was as good as individuals’s brief consideration spans, and as sincere as the pretend masonry joints that dimension the hung masonry facade.   In 2002 these sidewalk niches – by no means very profitable within the first place – disappeared.  As reminiscences of authorized agreements light, when the constructing was turned over to SONY, the electronics firm proceeded to fill within the “public area” with outlets for his or her merchandise.  As one company claiming historic permanence gave technique to one other regularly buying and selling dishonestly within the identify of the general public good, the constructing has gained a loyal following desirous to protect its classic submit-trendy design.   Now a venture is into account that guarantees to return a few of the stolen public area – in trade for? – to make use of as a part of a conversion to new makes use of designed by Snøhetta…  it's actually price contemplating how life might be returned to the west facet of Madison Avenue regularly within the shadow of this Chippendale highboy of false guarantees.”

—Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Artwork Historical past, Columbia College

“Prefer it or not, Johnson’s Chippendale constructing is a landmark, metaphorically if not but formally. It signified postmodernism’s entry into the company design mainstream, which has performed the most important function in shaping the American metropolis of the final 50 years, as properly as the tip of cap-M Modernism’s hegemonic,  international, submit-struggle choke maintain largely unchallenged up till then. Simply as many Bostonians united by a sustained loathing of Kallman McKinnell & Knowles brutalist Metropolis Corridor nonetheless advocate fervently for its designated safety, so ought to New York’s  professionals and policymakers respect this historic measure of design’s evolving continuum. There’s room to improve and alter it as the facet facade elevations intimate, however demolishing the grand Palladian entry to get replaced by a glass curtain wall (nevertheless state-of-the-artwork it might be) completely wipes out the narrative architectural  ‘signal’ that lies on the core of postmodernist intent.”

—Paul Gunther, govt director, Gracie Mansion Conservancy, New York

“It doesn’t matter if at this specific second in time this constructing, and its creator, are out of trend. It's a vastly vital constructing, most likely one of many two most vital designs by one of many 20th Century’s most advanced and constantly related and lively architectural figures. The present proposal willfully and unnecessarily undermines, or relatively systematically destroys, each single one of many constructing’s architectural qualities as skilled from the road and its floor stage public areas. The extremity of the proposal’s grotesque annihilation of something that was distinctive about Johnson’s design, and any semblance of creative coherence, could be comical if it wasn’t so vulgar and aggressive. That is bully structure, an act of disproportionate aggression to an vital determine in historical past. Its Trump-period structure, and should be stopped.”

—Adam Nathaniel Furman, architect and creator of Revisiting Postmodernism, London

“Whereas Snøhetta’s redesign of 550 Madison Avenue—or AT&T Building, as it can at all times be recognized—actually does enlarge the general public area and open it above floor as soon as to the road, visually, however the brand new extra clear facade doesn't relate to the tower above in any respect as properly as the extra stable brick authentic base did. And it obscures (or dematerializes) the enduring tall arched entranceway that complemented the memorable, if not at all times adored, ‘Chippendale’ prime. Like the brand new identify, 550 Madison, the brand new facade is just not distinctive or memorable. It’s lacy-ness doesn't appear to assist the tall tower above it as properly as the unique extra solidly brick one, which its arched arcade did. And the brand new public areas on higher tales are merely not as inviting as the forms of public areas had been that had been constructed on the time of the tower, such as Edward Larrabee Barnes’ IBM Building down the road at Madison between 56th and 57th Streets. There, bamboo-crammed public areas with straightforward to entry seating, open to the road on a cantilevered nook, inviting passersby to return in and keep for awhile. In addition they move into to the Trump Tower atrium, offering entry to Fifth Avenue, and to the 550 Madison tower on the south. Actually ‘public’ public area works greatest at road stage.”

—Jayne Merkel, artwork historian and critic, New York

Protest planned as controversy erupts over AT&T Building. (Courtesy Nathan Eddy)

The protest will happen Friday, November three from p.m. to four p.m. at 550 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Already, activists have began utilizing the #saveatt hashtag on Twitter and elsewhere. There may be additionally a change.org petition circulating, which can be found here.

Right here is the Fb occasion description from the organizers:

Philip Johnson’s AT&T constructing is the defining icon of submit-trendy structure and a towering tribute to the monumental masonry skyscrapers of the 1920s. It's at risk of shedding its exemplary granite base, a destruction that may shatter the creative integrity of Johnson’s meticulous design. This should not be allowed to occur. We're aggressively devoted to the preservation of Johnson’s scrumptious crowning achievement. Please be part of us in preserving one of many seminal landmarks of the 20th Century.

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[UPDATES] Protest planned as controversy erupts over AT&T Building - The Architect's Newspaper