It is somewhat of an unwritten rule that architects do not comment on other on work by other architects. It is impossible to know the constraints and the process of how a building was eventually conceived, and the process is always difficult and challenging. However, the design of the new art museum requires a straightforward statement. At our recent 50th reunion, I questioned a number of our classmates about the exterior design. Everyone I spoke to had a similar reaction in that it is inappropriate from its aesthetic standpoint, from the quality of the spaces remaining around it, and from the imposition on the surrounding buildings and gardens. The historic Ralph Adams Cram buildings have wonderful human scale, timeless natural materials, and variety in craftsman details. The courtyards between the buildings serve as outdoor rooms for activities as well as forecourt extensions of the buildings. The new art museum has none of these, and therefore seems alien to the center of the older campus.
Even though recognizing that there was certainly a lengthy process that led to this design, it seems essential to review the result. In addition to the aesthetic issues, the Financial Times has reported that the architect has been “accused of sexual misconduct.” Whether these accusations are correct or not should be reviewed by the University. Given the above, it may be necessary to seriously consider what would be unthinkable under normal circumstances, which would be some kind of serious reappraisal of the building. Clearly, the building is far enough along that any changes would be expensive, schedule-altering, and time-consuming. However, since the building is so long-lived, and given the high aesthetic and moral standards of the University, a reappraisal seems mandatory.