At a public hearing this afternoon, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission denied an application by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to build a food kiosk outside the entrance of its Frank Lloyd Wright–designed home on 5th Avenue’s Museum Mile.
Designed by Andre Kikoski Architect, the proposed design called for a teardrop-shaped, double-skinned structure, clad in brushed stainless steel with an outer layer of cast resin panels. During the hearing, museum officials, including the institution’s council and deputy officer for operations, expressed the desire to clean up the area around the museum, which is popular with food and merchandise vendors, as well as capture some of the revenues that go to the vendors. Kikoski described the atmosphere outside the museum derogatorily as “carnival-like” and “cluttered.”
The proposal called for a 12-and-a-half-by-6-foot kiosk with a solid wall facing out to the street. The only opening in the 9-foot-tall structure would face the bookstore, just north of the entrance, and a series of menu stanchions would guide lines around the curved perimeter. The structure would be placed underneath the museum’s cantilevered entrance portico. Kikoski argued that the “diaphanous” effect of the steel and resin skin would differentiate the structure from Wright’s design, while paying subtle homage to his formal language.
Preservation groups ranging from the Historic Districts Council to the Friends of the Upper East Side to Docomomo all spoke against the project. Speaking on behalf of Docomomo, John Arbuckle warned that the kiosk would disrupt Wright’s famed entry sequence, the feeling of compression upon entering the portico followed by the release of entering the vast rotunda.
The size, location, and permanence of the structure all proved objectionable to the commissioners. “While I admire the design and find the material selection interesting,” said Fred Bland, a commissioner and principal at Beyer Blinder Belle, “at no level can I accept the design. The quality of the museum and particularly the cantilevered entrance would be violated.” Chairman Robert Tierney concurred: “All the standards by which we judge applications are not met in this proposal.”
Kikoski previously designed the eye-catching Wright restaurant inside the museum, as well as a discreet coffee and wine counter within the galleries. Several commissioners suggested that a movable cart, like those of the street vendors lining the sidewalk, would be more appropriate.