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Guggenheim Museum’s entrance emerges unscathed

October 21, 2010

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission on October 19 voted unanimously, or nearly so, to deny the Guggenheim Museum’s application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for its proposal to construct a food service kiosk at the entrance to the Museum. 

DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State testified at the hearing in opposition to the Museum’s proposal, as did Carnegie Hill Neighbors, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, and the Historic Districts Council. Community Board 4 also opposed the application.

During discussion, all but one commissioner spoke in opposition to the proposal.  That commissioner didn’t seem to vote against the motion to deny the application, however—at least not noticeably.  And Chairman Robert Tierney basically said that the proposal violated all the standards of landmarks preservation.

Objections were based on the altered appearance of the main entrance facade of the museum presented by the (rather large) proposed kiosk; increased “clutter” at the entrance (at the hearing, the Museum and architect disclosed that the kiosk would be accompanied by signage stanchions and possibly queuing cordons, further cluttering the already congested area); and skepticism about the feasibility, and desirability, of displacing the independent sidewalk vendors who presently provide outdoor food service, referred to by the Museum as “a carnival atmosphere.”  Some commissioners suggested that if the Museum wants to capture some of the revenue from outdoor food vending, which it admittedly does, they could create their own well-designed cart and compete with the other vendors.  Or if visual appearance is the concern, the Museum could design and build a number of carts for all vendors to use in front of the Museum (tongue was probably in cheek for that one; not likely to happen). 

If the Museum pursues its intention to establish outdoor food service by its in-house vendor and comes back with another proposal, the commissioners made it clear that a kiosk would need to be smaller and located farther away from the building, or perhaps incorporated within the building, e.g. as part of the present bookstore space.
—reported by Kyle Johnson

Rendering from LPC Hearing. photo: John Arbuckle