Detractors have been so vocal in opposing the demolition of the Folk Art Museum building that Architectural League president Annabelle Selldorf and moderator Reed Kroloff opened by reminding the audience to keep comments and questions civil. This warning came before the featured speakers — MoMA director Glenn Lowry and chief curator of painting and sculptureAnn Temkin, followed by DS+R principal Liz Diller and a panel of commentators that included former New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff and Columbia preservationist Jorge Otero-Pailos — even graced the stage. As the conversation progressed, it turned out that such cautionary comments were unnecessary: many audience members, it seemed, had come out of respect for the architecture, to mourn Williams and Tsien’s idiosyncratic building.

Six hundred and fifty people came out that evening to remember the American Folk Art Museum building, an unusual show of solidarity in the often-cleaved New York architecture community. “The Folk Art Museum was part of our lives here, not just its facade but its presence on the street,” said panelist Cathleen McGuigan, the editor-in-chief of Architectural Record. Construction of the Folk Art Museum unified the city’s architecture community, she observed, at another critical moment too, when it first opened three months after 9/11.

It should be MoMA’s responsibility to ensure that this structure’s short but significant history is preserved after the building is leveled. Why not, for example, stage an exhibition about the building, its historic significance, and the reasons for its eventual demolition, compiling the displayed materials into an archive for future historians and critics? That would do more than Lowry’s terse statements on Tuesday to convince the architecture community and the public that MoMA has thoroughly considered the consequences of its actions.1

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