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Controversial Hood Museum Renovation Plan Sparks Heated Debate

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Critics contend the plan would ruin a key aspect of Charles Moore's 1985 design

Recently released renderings of a reworking of the Charles Moore-designed Hood Museum in New Hampshire have caused a backlash from fans of the Postmodern architect and author, according to The New York Times. Many detect a certain amount of irony in the situation, since the team presenting a new version of the structure, Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, protested when they discovered the Folk Art Museum they designed in Manhattan was being demolished by MoMA to make room for an expansion.

"It’s almost as if they were getting revenge for what MoMA did to their Folk Art Museum," E. J. Johnson, the author of "Charles Moore: Buildings and Projects 1949-1986," told The New York Times. "It’s totally insensitive to the Moore building."

Designed in 1985, the Hood Museum, located on the Green, the quadrangle lawn on Dartmouth’s campus in Hanover, was one of the key works of Charles Moore, whom critic Paul Goldberger called "our age's greatest architectural enthusiast." According to Kevin Keim, the Charles Moore Foundation director, the design's strength and importance come from the way it meditates space, linking the Romanesque, 19th-century, brick-clad Wilson Hall and the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Wallace Harrison in 1962. It's all about context, while also offering a unique reclamation of industrial space and industrial architecture, an aesthetic choice much more uncommon in the '80s.

The Tsien-Williams plan would convert the open courtyard into a covered concourse, which they contend would both renovate the structure and add 40 percent more gallery space to the building, while keeping much of Moore’s design intact. Critics argue that covering up Moore’s ceremonial entrance, one of the eclectic courtyards that became a signature stylistic touch, ruins the "connective tissue" of the museum, as well as the overall structure. Others, including Roger A.M. Stern, also expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposal.

Keim believes the renovation wrecks the entire original conception of the building, and "gobsmacks the building." He suggests the architects take another look, and consider rearranging some of the interior rooms, such as the administrative spaces, to add gallery space, than moving offices and other needed expansions to new structures built on open space around campus, such as a nearby parking lot. Completion of the $50 million renovation project is currently slated for 2019.