In the wake of the new MoMA opening, the Whitney Museum unveiled the model for their new expansion by Renzo Piano. [Drumroll please]….its a white volume connected to the existing museum by glass walkways! TADA! Although perhaps somewhat…um, understated, (to say the least) the new addition stands in quiet homage to Marcel Breuer’s building, leaving the original structure untouched,while adding special exhibition galleries, education space, an auditorium, research center, a paper study room, library, and administrative space. Contextually, the addition is scaled to the neighboring residential brownstones, and doesn’t significantly change the alter image of the Whitney. Something Rem Koolhaas’ proposal failed to do.
Koolhaas reimagined the entire museum, even re-dubbing it the “NeWhitney.” In his newest book “Content,” Koolhaas says that his Whitney “…was a native New Yorker: shaped by zoning laws, surrounded by Landmarks, killed by conservatism.” I think, however, that there is a difference between conservatism and respect. Although, in my opinion, Koolhaas’ strategy worked at IIT, I don’t think it would have been successfull in this instance. Reacting to Mies and the IIT campus, is a lot different than reacting to Breuer and a Manhattan block of Brownstones.