While I have heard many concerns about the architecture for the new Princeton University Art Museum (On the Campus, November issue), I would like to draw attention to its site plan. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Princeton’s campus is not the architecture of its buildings but its parklike setting, crafted over centuries by carefully positioning each building in relation to its surroundings. This legacy dates back to Nassau Hall, whose expansive front lawn was so impactful that it prompted in 1774 the first recorded use of the word “campus.” The result today is a whole greater than the sum of its parts, elevating separate pieces of architecture to a cohesive composition.
The design for the new museum threatens to break with this tradition and destroy a key part of our historic campus. PAW inaccurately states that the new museum will stand in the footprint of the existing museum. In fact, the museum will expand to take up the entirety of the existing Dod Courtyard, leaving Dod and Brown halls with little breathing room. Most importantly, longer vistas towards other corners of campus will be compromised, disrupting the otherwise contiguous, flowing landscape that knits the campus together.
I admire Sir David Adjaye’s work, and I have no doubt that the building as designed would be superbly executed. However, I implore the University and Adjaye to think like curators and recognize that the benefit of squeezing in one more piece of too-big art is not worth the cost of upending the coherence of an entire gallery.