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If Brad Cloepfil's new Museum of Arts and Design were simply another white box for art, it would be just plain mean not to give it a decent grade. It's humanly scaled, nicely detailed, and allows light to flutter into the galleries through strategically placed horizontal and vertical slits. Visitors get intimate bird's-eye views of Central Park and Columbus Circle, along with congenial spaces to contemplate art. It's a conscientious if unspectacular effort.

Yet it's impossible to forget that this decorous little tower was once something flamboyant, fun, and maybe even a little foolish, a swinging '60s art museum designed by Edward Durell Stone for the eccentric heir to the A&P fortune, Huntington Hartford.

Cloepfil and his team at Allied Works Architecture literally wrapped their new museum around the concrete bones of Stone's white marble folly. But they failed to exorcise its ghosts, and now they hover in eternal reproach. It feels as if all the idiosyncrasies were focus-grouped out of the place.

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