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“Towards A New Museum”

If the occasional fistfights over seats on Richard Meierþ s Getty Center tram are any indication, millennial Americans visit museums in numbers unanticipated by the architects that designed them. Consumer demand for cultural attractions has spurned colossal new building projects—the Los Angeles area alone incubated nine new museums in the past decade. Architectural historian Victoria Newhouse, in her comprehensive new criticism of late-20th-century museum architecture, Towards a New Museum, catalogs the containers for art that architects have fashioned over the last 30 years—from private museums like the Renzo Piano-designed Menil Collection (1987) in Houston, a Miesian rectangle with spectacular movable ceiling light baffles, to Frank Gehryþ s recent Guggenheim Bilbao (pictured), the titanium-coated cabbage that Newhouse classifies as environmental art and declares a prototype for future museum architecture. But itþ s Newhouseþ s animated railings against modern additions to old-guard New York classics such as the now-unwieldy Metropolitan Museum of Art, that deliver the bookþ s juiciest critical morsels. Her fellow panelists—J. Carter Brown, blue-blood director emeritus of the National Gallery, Daniel Libeskind, postmodern architect of the new Jewish Museum in Berlin, and Ralph Appelbaum, exhibition designer at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Museum of Natural History—should provide animated sparring. Architectural writer and editor Suzanne Stephens moderates, and Newhouse signs copies of her book at a reception following the symposium. At 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 30, at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. $15. (202) 272-2448, X3904. (Jessica Barrow Dawson)