Form Over Function


Teichner notes that renovation to the museum must take place both on the inside and outside. "My answer to that is the building failed after five years when it opened originally because it was so deadly as a visitor experience," Hotchner tells Teichner. "To turn this into a truly public space we do have to change it very, very dramatically."

Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, opposes change to the museum. "It's going to be known as the -- unless we have a miracle -- the museum that trashed Ed Stone's most important New York building.

Stern is just one of the high-power New York names furious that the city refuses to consider protecting 2 Columbus Circle as is.

"You don't kill your old grandma just because of funny breath and bad teeth. And you don't tear buildings down because they don't exactly conform to who you are. That's the whole point."

With the average price of office space close to $500 per square foot in New York City -- more than double the national average -- the temptation to take down the glass boxes of the 1950s and 60s and supersize is obvious, unless you're Aby Rosen..

"Here's a late Warhol, 1985. Says, 'Somebody wants your apartment buildings.' I thought it was appropriate," Rosen explains as he gives Teichner a tour of his art collection.

Rosen and a partner own and manage something like 6 million square feet of prime New York real estate. But Rosen says buying two modernist masterpieces, Lever House and the Seagram Building, was one of the most thrilling things he's ever done.

"We all think that things that are a couple-hundred-years-old need to be protected. It's a wake-up call for all of us that suddenly something that's been only 20-, 30- or 40-years-old might be worthwhile to be protected as well," Rosen says.

Lever House, built in 1952, was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. The Seagram Building, completed in 1958, was designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson.

In the same way canvas is timeless, so is the glass, so is the stainless steel and the façade of this building.

Rosen considers the two buildings as much a part of his art collection as part of his collection of buildings.

But, that begs the question: how does a structure manage to survive the changes in fashion and taste not to mention the politics long enough to be appreciated? The answer: sometimes it's just luck.

Who could have predicted that the High Line, a long-abandoned elevated railroad that meanders for a mile-and-a-half around and even through Manhattan's industrial past -- a strictly no-trespassing, off-limits to the public kind of place -- would find itself about to be reborn as a $100 million park, like nothing else in the United States.