2 Columbus Circle
The seven-story Pabst Grand Circle Hotel, designed by William H. Cauvet, stood at this address from 1874 until it was demolished in 1960. From 1964 to 2005 the site contained a 12 story modernist structure designed by Edward Durell Stone for Huntington Hartford, heir to the founder of A&P Supermarkets, to display his art collection. As Stone designed it, the building was marble-clad with Venetian motifs and a curved façade. It had filigree-like portholes and windows that ran along an upper loggia at its top stories.
The building was often called "The Lollipop Building" in reference to a mocking review by architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable in which she called it a "die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops." However, three decades later she admitted that she got "a little lift, a sense of pleasure" when she walked past it. Nonetheless, Huxtable took issue with the campaign to save the building, writing in the Wall Street Journal that: "It was an unworthy performance that did little credit to anyone who cares about preservation and can only serve as an object lesson of how not to go about it."
With architect Philip L. Goodwin, Stone had previously designed the Rockefeller family's Museum of Modern Art in the International style. Hartford wanted his "Gallery of Modern Art" to represent an alternative view of modernism.
Interest in landmarking this building began in 1996, soon after the building turned thirty years old and became eligible for landmark designation. In this year, Robert A. M. Stern included it in his article " A Preservationist's List of 35 Modern Landmarks-in-Waiting" written for the New York Times.
Stone's design at 2 Columbus Circle was listed as one of the World Monuments Fund's "100 Most Endangered Sites for 2006." In 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation called it one of America's "11 Most Endangered Historic Places."
Architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff named the new building as one of seven structures in New York City that should be torn down because they "have a traumatic effect on the city." Ouroussoff also wrote:
- The renovation remedies the annoying functional defects that had plagued the building for decades. But this is not the bold architectural statement that might have justified the destruction of an important piece of New York history. Poorly detailed and lacking in confidence, the project is a victory only for people who favor the safe and inoffensive and have always been squeamish about the frictions that give this city its vitality.
Redesign and landmark controversy
Proposed changes to the building by architect Brad Cloepfil touched off a preservation debate joined by Tom Wolfe (The New York Times; October 12, 2003 and October 13, 2003), Chuck Close, Frank Stella, Robert A. M. Stern, Columbia art history department chairman Barry Bergdoll, New York Times architecture critics Herbert Muschamp and Nicolai Ouroussoff, urbanist scholar Witold Rybczynski, among others. Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) referred to it as "one of New York's most photographed and readily recognizable buildings."
Stone's building was listed as worthy of preservation by organizations, including: the New York/Tri-State Chapter of DOCOMOMO, the Historic Districts Council, the Municipal Art Society, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Preservation League of New York State, and the World Monuments Fund.
Despite this, the New York City Landmarks Commission never held a public hearing on its fate. E-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act between NYC Landmarks Commission chairman Robert Tierney and Laurie Beckelman, who worked for the Museum of Art and Design, suggest that the pair worked behind the scenes to keep the building from being considered by the landmarks panel. A city permit to allow removal of the existing facade was issued on June 29, 2005.
The August 9, 2005 edition of The New York Times reported that members of the Landmarks Preservation Commission took the rare step of public disagreement over this issue, despite City Hall's insistence that the case against the building had been closed for nine years. Roberta Brandes Gratz, a commission member, said in a letter to The New York Times, "Neither I as an individual commissioner nor the current commission as a whole has rendered a 'professional judgment' on whether there should be a hearing or a designation." In addition, telephone interviews conducted by The New York Times suggested that at least some of the other eleven commissioners also favored a public hearing. Yet the commission's executive director, Ronda Wist, said chairman Tierney "is not inclined to revisit this question."
Tierney said his principal architectural education occurred when he took an undergraduate course with Vincent Scully, now the Sterling professor emeritus of art history at Yale University. On August 14, 2005, Scully stated in a letter to Tierney:
Something rather wonderful has occurred, by which the building, rarely anyone's favorite in the past, is looking better every day.... Its own integrity, its uniqueness, the indomitable determination to make a point that produced it, are coming to the fore and are powerfully affecting the way we see it. ... It is in fact becoming the icon it never was, one about which the city now cares a great deal.
The New York City Landmarks Commission's refusal to hold a public hearing on the building was based on a consensus reached in June 1996 by a four-member committee made up of the Rev. Thomas F. Pike, Charles Sachs, Vicki Match Suna, and Professor Sarah Bradford Landau. However, on August 18, 2005, The New York Times reported that Landau joined other former commissioners – William E. Davis, Stephen M. Raphael, Mildred F. Schmertz, along with Gene A. Norman, a former chairman, and Beverly Moss Spatt, a former chairwoman – in calling for a hearing. She wrote:
Had there been such a large and broad demand for a public hearing about the building in 1996, I'm not at all sure I would have voted the way I did.... It is in the long-term interest of the commission to maintain good rapport with the preservation community. Whether the building merits designation is another issue, and should be decided by the current commission.
On December 25, 2005, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote:
Recent landmark preservation battles in New York suggest that the civic powers-that-be insist on defending a narrow view of the past and of Modernism in particular. That became apparent during the crusade to preserve Edward Durell Stone's so-called lollipop building at 2 Columbus Circle, a landmark of late Modernism. ... As a result, the facade is being utterly revamped. ... This was an atrocious betrayal of the public trust. ... A similar debate is unfolding in Berlin, where the German government plans to demolish the 1970s Palast der Republik. ... Both 2 Columbus Circle and the Berlin building represent important moments in their cities' collective memories. The pressure to remake or raze them is arguably a form of censorship, a drive to cleanse history of anything but a strictly prescribed view of the past.
In 2008, Ouroussoff named the building as one of seven buildings in New York City that should be torn down because they "have a traumatic effect on the city." He also wrote:
The renovation remedies the annoying functional defects that had plagued the building for decades. But this is not the bold architectural statement that might have justified the destruction of an important piece of New York history. Poorly detailed and lacking in confidence, the project is a victory only for people who favor the safe and inoffensive and have always been squeamish about the frictions that give this city its vitality.
The redesigned building has the same massing and geometric shape as the original, but has channels carved in the its exterior. The original white Vermont Marble has been replaced with a glazed terra-cotta and glass facade.
Ada Louise Huxtable, who had originally coined the term "Lollipop Building" for the original structure, wrote:
Two Columbus Circle was on the down curve of an architect who had done his best work in the 1930's.... Something has gone noticeably wrong. This is a precisely calibrated aesthetic that can be destroyed by one bad move, and that move has been the late insertion of a picture window on the restaurant floor. The client insisted and the architect resisted, and we will never know when and where the relationship fell apart – but at some point it obviously did, and so did the design....The eternal banality of the picture window is forever with us...Even with the building's flaws, however, criticism of the structure has been alarmingly out of proportion and flagrantly out of control.
Of the newly uncovered redesign, James Gardner, architecture critic for the New York Sun wrote:
Say what you want about Stone’s building, it was indubitably a landmark; the best that can be said for its replacement is that, if we’re lucky, no one will ever notice it...A thought occurs that might help us out of our newfangled mess: Assuming that what was done to the interior is what needed to be done all along, it might be relatively easy – not now of course, but after a decent interval of, say, five years – to restore the original façade.
Francis Morrone, also of the Sun, wrote:
The new façade...uses glass bands, or "cuts," rather than conventionally patterned fenestration, across a plane of ceramic tiles glazed so as to change color subtly when viewed in different light conditions. For me, I am sorry to say, it's all scaleless. Where Stone's original building read as neatly scaled to its setting, Mr. Cloepfil's redesign reads as a piece of abstract sculpture that, at building scale, seems all wrong.
Ultimately, Cloepfil has been trapped between paying homage to a legendary building and making something of his own. As a result, if you knew the old building, it is nearly impossible to get it out of your mind when you look at the new one. And, if you’ve never seen Columbus Circle before, you probably won’t be satisfied, either: the building’s proportions and composition seem just as odd and awkward as they ever did.
feels like an alien presence ... Slots appear at random, and a continuous ribbon of fritted glass zigzags down the building, graphic effects that belong more to the packaging of consumer products than to architecture. At the base, several of Stone's original Venetian columns are preserved behind murky glass like body parts in formaldehyde. As for the glazed terra-cotta tiles of the exterior, they are dull and lifeless and make even the slick steel-and-glass facade of the Time-Warner Center next door look lively. The new Museum of Arts and Design is artsy and designy, but it is not good architecture, and it makes me miss Stone's winsome palazzo all the more.
This version won’t satisfy those who thought it should never have been touched, and it’s not bold enough to overpower their arguments—or, I suspect, to turn the Museum of Arts and Design into an essential destination.
History of attempts at preservation
- November 2003 – The Preservation League of New York State listed 2 Columbus Circle among its "Seven to Save" sites, prompting artist Chuck Close to write, "I have always enjoyed this distinctive and delightful building with its opaque white facades and punched out hole windows."
- December 2003 – Then chief New York Times architect Herbert Muschamp cited the failure of the Landmarks Commission to hold a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle one of the architectural "Lows" of 2003, writing, "The refusal of the New York City Landmarks Commission to hold hearings on the future of 2 Columbus Circle is a shocking dereliction of public duty. Unacceptable in itself, this abdication also raises the scary question of what other buildings the commission might choose to overlook in the future."
- May 2004 – The National Trust for Historic Preservation named 2 Columbus Circle as one of America's 11 "most endangered" buildings, stating, "Radically altering 2 Columbus Circle would create a gaping void in the record of design and urbanism in the city, state, nation, and world."
- August 2004 – Former Landmarks Commissioner Anthony M. Tung wrote a letter to Landmarks Commission Chair Robert B. Tierney, stating, "Simply, in the twenty six years of my involvement in preservation matters, beginning with my appointment as a commissioner by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1979, I have never seen the commission turn its back on such a widely supported and substantive argument for a hearing."
- September 2004 – Former Landmarks Commission Chair Beverly Moss Spatt wrote in a letter to current Chair Tierney that "a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle is necessary to afford space and opportunity to hear from all sides whether it is not or is worthy of designation.... Good government is that government in which all people have a part."
- March 2005 – An article entitled, "In Preservation Wars, a Focus on Midcentury," featured quotes from Robert A. M. Stern ("The commission ought to hear the arguments and let them be debated in a public forum – that's democracy.") Modern Architecture Working Group co-chair John Jurayj ("Modern preservation is in a major crisis in our city, a crisis that is shortly going to get worse unless the Landmarks Preservation Commission starts to act more aggressively.") and Landmarks West! Executive Director Kate Wood ("If the Landmarks Commission held a public hearing for 2 Columbus Circle, literally hundreds of people would attend and testify – both for and against designation. The question is, what more will it take?")
- May 2005 – The New York Times reported: "Not to preserve [2 Columbus Circle] is shocking, but not to hear it is criminal," said architect and Yale Dean Robert A. M. Stern to fellow panelist Robert B. Tierney, Chair of the New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), at the 92nd Street Y.
- May 2005 – Crain's New York Business reported: "The battle between preservationists and the city over 2 Columbus Circle is about to get noisy again" – Landmark West! hired The Advance Group, the consultants behind the successful "Save the Plaza Hotel" campaign, to help convince the Bloomberg Administration to hold a landmark designation hearing on 2 Columbus Circle.
- May 2005 – At a May 16 City Council oversight hearing on the Landmarks Preservation Commission (only the third in the forty-year history of the agency), former Landmarks Commission Chair Gene A. Norman called on current Chair Tierney to hold a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle, arguing that "if people are preventing things from moving in a forward direction, they should be replaced."
- May 2005 – Nicolai Ouroussoff, chief architecture critic of The New York Times, wrote, "Representing a pivotal moment in architecture's eventual turn from mainstream Modernism, the Stone building's modest scale and concave facade are a gentle counterpoint to the new Time Warner Center's bland gigantism. Even so, the [Landmark's Preservation] commission declines to debate whether it deserves landmark status.
- May 2005 – "Architecture Lovers Rally to Save 2 Columbus Circle" is the headline of an NY1 news report following a May 31 demonstration in front of the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD, formerly the American Craft Museum).
- May 2005 – Landmark West! files Article 78 lawsuit against LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney, MAD and its affiliates Laurie Beckelman, Holly Hotchner, and Jerome Chazen for "conspiracy to obstruct and subvert the lawful functioning of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission." Holly Hotchner wins the right to go ahead with her Portland architect for removing the outside of 2 Columbus Circle using the lawyer Charles Moerdler from Stroock Stroock and Lavan Law Firm.
- June 2005 – Supporters of a public hearing for Edward Durell Stone's iconic 1964 design join hands in a "circle of support" all the way around the building's famous "lollipop" base at a rally on June 23.
- June 2005 – The World Monuments Fund (WMF) included 2 Columbus Circle on its 2006 "Watch List" of the 100 Most Endangered Sites on earth. WMF's website (www.wmf.org) states, "The listing of 2 Columbus Circle highlights the widespread failure of public authorities to recognize the architectural merit of postwar buildings and sites as part of our collective cultural heritage."
- July 2005 – The New York Times, New York magazine, and the Architect's Newspaper report on "chummy" e-mail exchanges between NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission chair Robert Tierney and Laurie Beckelman, a representative from the Museum of Arts and Design. Their relationship is described as a "conflict of interest" and "easily lead one to think that Tierney...is in cahoots with MAD." In one e-mail, Tierney tells Beckelman, "Let me know how I can help on the trouble ahead." The e-mails were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Landmarks West!
- July 2005 – The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, announced in a letter to Landmarks West! that 2 Columbus Circle "does appear to meet the eligibility criteria for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places." The State is reviewing the building's eligibility under criterion "C" for sites that "embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values..."
- July 2005 – The New York City Law Department commits to a New York Supreme Court justice that the City "will neither close on the sale [of 2 Columbus Circle] nor authorize work under any existing building permits prior to either September 7, 2005" or the date of a court decision in the matter of Landmark West! et al. v. City of New York (one of three still-pending lawsuits brought by LW! and other citizens to prevent the defacement of 2 Columbus Circle without due process).
- August 2005 – The New York Times reports in an article titled “Unanimity on a Building Is a Façade, Insiders Say": “The debate over whether 2 Columbus Circle merits consideration as an official landmark is playing out on the Landmarks Preservation Commission itself. A letter from Landmarks Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz to the editor of the Times “suggested that at least some of the 11 commissioners favor a public hearing, as did telephone interviews yesterday with several members.”
Timeline of the site
- 1874 – John D. Voorhis, a carriage maker, builds the seven-story Pabst Grand Circle Hotel on this irregular plot. Designed by William H. Cauvet, the hotel was made of brownstone with a mansard roof.
- 1913 – One hundred and twelve stage performers gather at the site and vote to form a union, the Actors' Equity Association.
- 1964 – A&P Heir Huntington Hartford hires Architect Edward Durell Stone to build a museum for him at 2 Columbus Circle. Hartford has one of the world's greatest art collections with a Rembrandt, Claude Monets, Manet, Turner, Salvador Dalí. Hartford commissions Salvador Dalí to paint a painting called The Discovery of America by Chrisopher Columbus for the opening. The opening attracts many celebrities such as the Duke of Windsor. Hartford poses in the lobby in Black Tie with a Camel. The building at Two Columbus Circle, designed by Edward Durell Stone, opens as the Gallery of Modern Art. It displays the collection of Huntington Hartford, heir to the founder of A&P Supermarkets.
- 1969 – The Gallery of Modern Art closes. Fairleigh Dickinson University receives 2 Columbus Circle as a gift from Hartford and operates it as the New York Cultural Center. Art exhibitions are sometimes hosted there.
- 1975 – Gulf and Western Industries purchases 2 Columbus Circle, Sumner Redstone The building is unused until 1980.
- 1980 – Gulf and Western presents 2 Columbus Circle to the City of New York as a gift. The City of New York accepts 2 Columbus Circle and installs the headquarters for the Department of Cultural Affairs. The New York Convention and Visitors Bureau will also be housed in 2 Columbus Circle.
- 1996 – Jennifer Raab, Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, reviews with the Designation Committee of the Commission the possibility of recommending a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle.
- 1998 – The Department of Cultural Affairs and the Convention and Visitors Bureau vacate 2 Columbus Circle.
- 2002 – Under Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Sherida Paulsen, the Designation Committee reviews the request to hold a hearing and again votes not to.
- June 2002 – The Museum of Arts & Design (MAD) is designated as the site developer of 2 Columbus Circle by the NYC Economic Development Corporation.
- June 2005 – The NYC Department of Buildings approves the permit for the Museum of Arts & Design to begin removing 2 Columbus Circle's facade.
In popular culture
- Mikasa & Company created a china pattern inspired by "the graphic window pattern" of Edward Durell Stone's original design.
- In March 2007, artist Emily Katrencik created an homage to Edward Durell Stone's lost design at the EXIT ART gallery in Manhattan. The artist formed a sculpture of hung lollipops containing flakes of marble from Stone's original facade. The sculpture’s architectural form, outlining the shape of the building, slowly eroded as visitors to the exhibit were invited to take a lollipop.
- Dunlap, David W. "Ada Louise Huxtable, Champion of Livable Architecture, Dies at 91" The New York Times (January 8, 2013)
- "A Preservationist's List of 35 Modern Landmarks-in-Waiting". New York Times. November 17, 1996. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- Ouroussoff, Nicolai (September 26, 2008). "New York City, Tear Down These Walls". New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 October 2008. Retrieved September 28, 2008.
- Ouroussoff, Nicolai (September 25, 2008). "New Face, Renewed Mission". New York Times. Archived from the original on 29 September 2008. Retrieved September 28, 2008.
- "Transmogrifying 2 Columbus Circle – NYC Artscene & personalities – NYC.com New York City Advice from real New Yorkers". Newyorkcity.com. June 30, 2005. Retrieved March 1, 2012.
- Huxtable, Ada Louise (December 10, 2008). "Setting the Record Straight About Ed Stone and Brad Cloepfil". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- Gardner, James (April 15, 2008). "Missing the Marble at 2 Columbus Circle". New York Sun. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- Morrone, Francis (August 7, 2008). "Taking a Fresh Look at Columbus Circle". New York Sun. Archived from the original on 5 October 2009. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- Goldberger, Paul (August 25, 2008). "Hello, Columbus". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- Rybczynski, Witold (January 14, 2009). "Goodbye, 2 Columbus Circle". Slate Magazine. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- "Museum Date". New York Magazine. September 7, 2008.
- "2 Columbus Circle Redesign – Orginal: Edward Durell Stone – Redesign: Brad Cloepfil [Archive] – Wired New York Forum". Wirednewyork.com. Retrieved March 1, 2012.
- "The Building Show". Exit Art. February 17- March 31, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-02-18. Retrieved 2012-03-20.
- Chicago Tribune June 22, 2005. Abstract of Discussion on the 2006 list of the world's 100 most endangered artistic, historical and cultural sites.
- The Historic Districts Council
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 2 Columbus Circle.|
- 2006 World Monuments, 100 Most Endangered Sites
- Solomon, Deborah (May 15, 2005). "Building His Case". New York Times. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- live webcam of work on the Bldg
- Essay: Modernism Endangered
- Wolfe, Tom (June 26, 2005). "The 2 Columbus Circle Game". New York Magazine. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- Report by NY1 of a rally
- Recent Past Preservation Network
- The Architect's Newspaper
- LANDMARK WEST! website
- Eyesore or Icon?
- Dunlap, David W. (February 25, 2005). "Museum Wins a Court Battle on Columbus Circle Renovation". New York Times. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- The Rape of 2 Columbus Circle
- Men's Vogue Article on Brad Cloepfil
- Muschamp, Herbert (January 8, 2006). "The Secret History of 2 Columbus Circle". New York Times. Retrieved August 11, 2010.