The Architect’s Approach to the Design of the Whitney Museum

IMG_2199“In the designing of the project and after establishing its working and its program, we have faced the first and most important problem: what should a museum look like, a museum in Manhattan? Surely it should work, it should fulfill its requirements. But what is its relationship to the New York landscape? What does it express? What is its architectural message?

It is easier to say first what it should not look like. It should not look like a business or office building, nor should it look like a place of light entertainment. Its form and its material should have identity and weight in the neighborhood of 50-story skyscrapers, of mile-long bridges, in the midst of the dynamic jungle of our colorful city. It should be an independent and self-reliant unit, exposed to history, and at the same time it should have a visual connection to the street. It should transform the vitality of the street into the sincerity and profundity of art.

The photograph below shows a sunken sculpture court between the sidewalk and the building, spanned by the entrance bridge; it shows the glass front of the lobby facing Madison Avenue, and the sculpture gallery which provides contact with the street and with the passerby. While the inverted pyramid of the building mass calls attention to the museum and to its special dedication, the mass is surfaced with a most durable, retiring, and serene material: a warm gray granite which is rather dark and has a mild play of reflection of the surroundings…”

Marcel Breuer, The Whitney Review 1965-1966, The Whitney Museum of Art,  1966.