All last week while writing and thinking about Mass MoCA I had the contemporary museum at the other end of Massachusetts in the back of mind due to the negative review of the Boston ICA's new building at metropolismag.com (via) and Greg Cook's remarks on it from the perspective of another critic who had a negative evaluation of it (as he points out, a rarity at the time of its opening locally.) My own feelings about the building are mixed--but then, I haven't even been to it since it opened, which is horrible even by my lax standards. Greg's undoubtedly right that the building orients itself to the waterfront and offers little visually from the Northern Avenue side, although my recollection is that the profile from the sides as one approaches in either direction gives a pretty good view of the cantilever. As for criticism of that element, I happen to favor it even though it isn't exactly cutting edge, having a modernist pedigree back to Le Corbusier or Wright. But you know what? Done boldly, it still can look real good, and the ICA does it well. True, the waterfront is a cold, windy, inhospitable place for long stretches of the year, but as far as Boston goes, this is the business we have chosen (like it feels much better walking down Com Ave with the wind whipping your face.) Greg's post about the ICA's windows as an example of the architect's controlling, alienating style, however, is spot on. I was also struck by his criticisms of the building not taking part in new developments such as green architecture. The Boston Children's Museum underwent an well-regarded if less heralded expansion during the time of the ICA's building project and became in the process the first museum in Boston to obtain the US Building Council's LEED certification (more here.) I wouldn't be surprised if in time their addition works better for the institution than the ICA's building does, too.
For that's one of the big questions, ultimately: as Greg put it, "What will we think of Boston’s ICA three years from now?", not to mention five or ten. I was pretty enthusiastic about it, and still will withhold judgment until the time (you know, two or three years from now) I actually go see it. I've generally had a positive attitude toward the new building, but I can't help but remember seeing the photograph Exhibitionist posted of the party held for the opening of the old building (posted about it at the time, can't find it now.) Everyone looked very happy for that one, too.