First Look at MCNY’s New Exhibit ‘Saving Place: Fifty Years of New York City Landmarks’

Posted On Tue, April 21, 2015 By

Posted On Tue, April 21, 2015 By In Events

The exhibit’s title image © Iwan Baan for the Museum of the City of New York

Last night we attended the Museum of the City of New York‘s symposium, “Redefining Preservation for the 21st Century,” which explored the challenges and the opportunities of the preservation movement today and in the future. The event included such distinguished speakers as New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, starchitect Robert A.M. Stern, preservation guru Roberta Gratz, and president of the Real Estate Board of New York Steven Spinola (needless to say, it was quite the lively discussion), and it kicked off the opening of the museum’s exciting new exhibit “Saving Place: Fifty Years of New York City Landmarks,” which marks the 50th anniversary of the landmarks law in NYC. As part of the symposium we got a first look at the exhibit, which opens to the public today.

Museum of the City of New York, Saving Place exhibit, NYC landmarks law
Displays about early preservation movements: saving Greenwich Village and the Jefferson Market Courthouse (L) and Broadway Theaters (R)

Museum of the City of New York, Saving Place exhibit, NYC landmarks law
Model of the Diane von Furstenberg headquarters in the Meatpacking District

In a press release, MCNY’s director Susan Henshaw Jones said: “Saving Place and the history of the Landmarks Law underscores how civic and business leaders, grass roots activists and design professionals have come together to create a contemporary New York City that blends old and new in a dynamic urbanism. As we celebrate the law’s 50th anniversary, this exhibition is not just about preserving the past, it is also about how landmarks are a vital contribution to the City’s future for generations to come.” It was this interplay between past and future that came up time and again during the panel discussion, with speakers on either side of the landmarking debate noting that preservation is about much more than creating “a mummified city.” The exhibit does a beautiful job articulating this, taking guests through the entire history of historic preservation in New York, of course beginning with the demolition of the original Penn Station, but also including plenty of examples of how landmarks have been retrofitted for current uses, like the Diane von Furstenberg headquarters in the Meatpacking District with its glassy addition.

Museum of the City of New York, Saving Place exhibit, NYC landmarks law

The exhibit displays original documents, drawings, paintings, photographs, maps, and buildings pieces, including fragments from the original Penn Station, to illustrate the landmarks story. Additionally, the museum commissioned renowned Dutch architectural photographer Iwan Baan to do a series of panoramic photographs of current-day New York that show the intertwining of old and new architecture. Andrew Dolkart, Director of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University and co-curator of the exhibit, sums it up: “Landmarking is about creating a city where old and new buildings contribute to vibrant neighborhoods and where new construction in historic districts reinforces an area’s special character.”

Find out more about the “Saving Place” exhibit, as well as the many corresponding programs, at the Museum of the City of New York.

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