Magazine article Newsweek

MoMA Cops Street Cred: A Move to a Stylishly Gritty Temp Home Is Recasting Its Image

Magazine article Newsweek

MoMA Cops Street Cred: A Move to a Stylishly Gritty Temp Home Is Recasting Its Image

Article excerpt

Byline: Cathleen McGuigan

For the architect, the terms of the job were daunting: a tiny budget, an impossibly tight deadline--and a shelf life for the finished project no longer than a car warranty. But the client was the Museum of Modern Art in New York, so for Michael Maltzan, 42, an up-and-coming California designer, the challenge was irresistible. MoMA, shuttering its old Manhattan museum to make way for the construction of a huge new $800 million building, needed a temporary space. This week Maltzan's MoMA outpost is opening--in Queens, of all places. It's a borough many Manhattanites rarely venture to, unless they're going to the airport. But that will change. Not only does the new "MoMA QNS," as it's dubbed, raise the profile of its architect, but more profoundly, it changes the image of MoMA itself--from an elitist institution detached from the messy making of art, to a grittier place, more embracing of diverse audiences and artists.

For its new home away from home, MoMA bought the old Swingline stapler factory, typical of the industrial buildings that make up the neighborhood. Maltzan calls this a "middle landscape"--not unlike the grungier parts of Los Angeles. Clearly, MoMA was aware of the success of L.A.'s Temporary Contemporary, designed in 1983 in an old parking garage in Little Tokyo by Frank Gehry (for whom Maltzan once worked), while the Museum of Contemporary Art was being built. The T.C. became too popular to close, though MoMA says its new place will shut. …

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