Guggenheim’s sidewalk food kiosk rejected

Museum sought to have its own food kiosk; claimed it would reduce concentration of food cart vendors outside main entrance. On October 19, 2010, Landmarks rejected a proposal to build a small, curvilinear food kiosk in front of the land-marked Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The Guggenheim and Restaurant Associates, which manages the museum’s Wright Restaurant and its third-floor cafe, proposed building the free-standing kiosk along the Fifth Avenue facade underneath the museum’s cantilevered overhang. Guggenheim representatives claimed that the kiosk would alleviate the congestion caused by the high number of sidewalk food carts that congregate in front of the museum.

Guggenheim CEO Mark Steglitz testified that the museum wanted to provide patrons and neighbors with high-quality food at a lower price than its indoor options. Steglitz said the kiosk, by limiting demand, would also minimize the “carnival like atmosphere” outside the museum created by street vendors. He also said it would complement the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, “not compete with it.”

Architect Andre Kikoski explained that the double-skinned kiosk would feature stainless steel covered by clear cast resin and be approximately thirteen feet long, nine feet tall, and six-and-a-half feet wide. The kiosk’s service counter would face the museum’s book store, and customers would queue along the structure’s blank, outward-facing rear wall. Kikoski said the location was chosen because it was unobtrusive and near a power source.

A representative of the architectural advocacy group Docomomo testified that the kiosk would obstruct “the most iconic view” of the museum and adversely alter the experience of entering the building. A member of the Carnegie Hill Neighbors community group sympathized with the museum, but said any kiosk should be smaller and movable so that it could be stored elsewhere after closing. Manhattan Community Board 8’s landmarks committee also opposed the proposal.

Commissioner Fred Bland said the kiosk compromised the visual experience of a “near sacred place,” and Commissioner Joan Gerner said it detracted from one of the most prominent examples of modern architecture in New York City. Commissioner Diana Chapin liked the kiosk’s design, but said its location was inappropriate. Chair Robert B. Tierney agreed that the proposal detracted from the museum and that Landmarks’ tests of appropriateness had not been met.

Landmarks unanimously voted to deny the proposal.

LPC: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan (11-0430) (Oct. 19, 2010) (Architect:Andre Kikoski).

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