Designed by Tokyo partnership Sanaa, The New Museum in New York City posses as a tumble of hatboxes wrapped in a sheer stocking. The blankly provocative stacked forms are clad with an expanded steel mesh, adding thin but vivid texture. The distinct architectural expression of arranged polyhedrons is very clear from the outside, and the experience of this idea is re-emphasized on the building’s interior. Each vast empty cube defines a floor of the museum, as is made clear by way-finding diagrams in the elevators and stairs. One interesting decision was to place a standard sized elevator right next to a massive oversize museum elevator and equip them both to be used easily by the public.
The first thing one notices is the how the building drastically stands out from the surrounding Bowery neighborhood of cracked brick walls and parapets. Given the recency of the project’s completion, one could say it predicts the future of development in the area. But imagine an urban fabric composed entirely of such individualistic conceptual sculptures. We cannot assume that all following architects will pick up this particular formal expression and apply it as assiduously as the jack arch has been above the windows of the other buildings in the area. Historically, the style of buildings in cities is established and perpetuated by a distributed vernacular network of common patterns. These patterns are traditionally driven by factors like the availability of local materials and the local conventions of building construction and iconography. In the current era, the same limits on development do not apply. The deconstruction of formal expression in architecture as well as industrial advances in transportation and fabrication have freed the outlying practice to build deliberately unique creations. This leads of course to a question of saturation. How much can an existing typology accommodate each new building before loosing its original character?
The exhibit currently on display was titled “Younger than Jesus” and it featured all artists born around 1980. Most of the work was motley punk-aesthetic-inspired post-everything commentary on corporate consumerism and political corruption. The emphasis on conceptual weight over technical skill and precision was pervasive and a little disappointing. But there was one piece that I found rather interesting called this is xx by Chu Yun. There was a simple bed in the middle of one of the gallery spaces with a sleeping girl in the sheets. At first I assumed it was the artist herself, pretending to sleep. But I was fascinated to discover that the bed is occupied by rotating volunteers who take sleeping aids in order to fall asleep during the open hours of the show. That the person is actually asleep while the public considers her like a sculpture, and the fact that they have to take drugs to attain that state I find quite curious.