Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Curating the Immovable

Photo by Dean Kaufman.

An interview with the Museum of Modern Art’s chief curator of architecture and design, Martino Stierli.

Alexandra Lange There have been a lot of recent articles about whether museums should start buying famous houses. What do you think about that, given that you’ve done a lot of work on Robert Venturi and one of the houses that particularly gets mentioned in this context is the Vanna Venturi House?

Martino Stierli There are two answers. My personal answer is that I would be thrilled if we had houses in the collection; a place like MoMA has a historic responsibility towards preserving. John Lautner’s Sheats-Goldstein House in Los Angeles was just given to LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art], so I’m a bit jealous. At the same time, the idea is very problematic. Firstly, by putting houses in this context you’re taking away their original function as a home for a family or whatever and transforming them into a mere display space. They lose something. Another problem is that if a museum enforces collecting something like this, then you create a market. That’s problematic.