It’s a common story within our cities: an old building needs to be replaced with a new development and a process of demolition begins. Sometimes it’s met with outrage and a fight from citizens; other times it goes quietly and, occasionally, it gets more complicated. Enter two recent cases that made headlines in Norway and the US relating to art within architecture – instances that we hope will push city builders to rethink the concept of redevelopment.
In Oslo, two giant concrete Picasso murals (pictured) attached to a 51-year-old government building will be relocated to avoid the wrecking ball (while the building they’re attached to gets destroyed). In New York, an Isamu Noguchi sculpture is likely to be removed from a modernist Manhattan tower as it undergoes a revamp. The trouble is that both examples are from a period when art and architecture were thought of as part of a whole – and urban developments were constructed with a little more care.
While the art may be rescued in both cases, its meaning is likely to be lost by separating it from the architecture it was created to complement. As soulless profit-driven developments continue to rise in our cities, perhaps architects will learn lessons from these failures and push clients a little harder to consider more artful approaches to their projects in the future.