One such space, I believe, is the outdoor sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. It is simply a divine space to inhabit. At first blush, one might not associate tranquility with a space jammed up against West 54th Street amid the canyons of midtown Manhattan. This tension would seem to be exacerbated by the sheer height of the other bounding walls and yet it is just the opposite effect – the walls are stepped down just enough from the overall scale of midtown's skyscrapers to provide the perfect balance of relief and protection. The corresponding proportion of the park base to its enclosures is perfect too. And the various ranges of transparency only enhance the effect. One shares experience with the crowds you spy on as they move up, through, and around the galleries and yet one never feels crowded. The palettes of greys and whites and blacks punctuated by the green trees and ivy seem to melt into the air giving the soul a sense of buoyancy as if floating in the space. Everything is spare, thought out and one can recognize Philip Johnson's admonition to, "Choose few things and place them exactly." The pools and their sublime bridges break down the large area into a series of hideaways that succeed in providing intimacy in an otherwise huge space. Finally the sculptures themselves, so spare too, are simply a part of the whole rather than objects to focus on. They are experiential. I can think of few other more magical plazas and I suggest it is a great place to ponder the roots of your next project while you sit and enjoy a glass of wine.
In previous posts I have noted my strategy of having clients recall great spaces they've been in as a way of enabling their vision. This gives client and architect a shared point of reference that we can collectively explore and deconstruct as we work towards solutions for their project. I have my own reference "places" some of which I have visited only once and others I go back to often. I try not to impose my taste on clients but I think really good spaces transcend taste and bestow universal pleasure to nearly anyone who experiences them. These are the touchstones that can and should be experienced by anyone looking to build a work or living space.