Andrew Cusack hates Architects

Actually, he hates Renzo Piano’s Morgan Library addition, a project I happen to like very much (and yes, had a hand in). I don’t know that it would make a difference to Mr. Cusack, but there are a few key points on which he is mistaken. Beyond that, he is certainly entitled to his opinion.

First off, the view that Mr. Cusack shows of the Phelps mansion with the Polish Consulate beyond still exists. He just conveniently cuts out the Consulate and pans south to include the Piano entry pavilion. Disingenuous to say the least.

Mr. Cusack also shows a view of the original Charles Follen McKim Morgan Library, with the caption “The Morgan Library, how it was originally meant to be entered”. The caption should read: “how it was meant to be entered by J. P. Morgan”. Even in Morgan’s day that entrance was ceremonial, and it was never public. Morgan Sr. lived next door in a brownstone mansion at the corner of 36th and Madison (where the annex building is now), and usually entered the library through the back or through the basement. The public was never meant to see the library – it was Morgan’s private domain, and was only made “public” after his death. As far as I know, the McKim building was never used as the main entry to the Morgan Library in all the time it has been a public institution. The Morgan Library, as a public institution, was always entered through the annex, on 36th just off Madison.

In another photo, Mr. Cusack refers to the “old Morgan house” at the corner of 37th and Madison. This was the Phelps mansion, which later became the home of Morgan, Jr. Morgan, Jr. had his father’s mansion demolished to construct the annex at 36th and Madison.

The “happy garden” that seems to be one of the primary sources of Mr. Cusack’s regret was lost some time ago, when the Landmarks Commission approved a connecting building by Bart Voorsanger. It was this building that was lost in the Piano project. Also lost in the Piano project were a 1950s office building on 37th and a literalist extension to the annex building (which also took away part of the “happy garden”).

The beauty of Piano’s expansion is that it takes a semi-public institution and makes it a truly public destination, while at the same time giving that institution the vault space it needs to store its many treasures.

(As for Mr. Cusack’s lament on the Brooklyn Museum of Art – surely he knows that the entry steps for the Metropolitan Museum of Art are a 1970s Kevin Roche addition?)