I had high expectations for the first show by Barry Bergdoll, Philip Johnson curator of architecture at MoMA. I was expecting futuristic designs, sleek living modules that would make me want to buy a plot of land and build something from plywood in 10 days. I wanted the ease and glamour of 21st century architecture.
What I got were a few flimsy houses, most of which were hot and stale on a summer Saturday. I don’t want to offend the architects who designed the five prototypes for Home Delivery — they’re probably all paragons of originality — but these prefab houses looked decidedly 1999 and while they all seemed to exemplify the important trends in housing of the past twenty years, they didn’t seem to add much new to the conversation.
I am afraid to write a nasty review, but I must. (And I apologize that I can’t write this all out in one long blog post, but I have a lot of other work to do.)
Let’s start with the web site for the show. Impressive graphics, nice design. It’s about five times more exciting and user-friendly than the physical show. The show at MoMA entails a gallery on the building’s 6th floor with bits of Prouve and other prefab icons. Right next to the blockbuster Dali show, this is the gallery that most people walk through while waiting for the crowds to quiet down. To get to the Home Delivery prototypes, you have to exit the building and walk down 54th street. Here the houses are presented on a blacktop — no text here, no attempt to make these houses feel like they are connected to any landscape or living arrangement. They look as random as cars parked in a mall.
The review will appear in segments throughout the week.
Diana Lind is the former executive director and editor in chief of Next City.