Art and Beauty Will Save the World

This post is adapted from remarks delivered at the opening ceremony of the new Whitney Museum of American Art on Gansevoort Street, Manhattan.

Mrs. Obama, Mr. Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the Whitney and welcome in name of the thousand of people that designed it and built it.

Architecture is a team job. This is why all my recognition and gratitude go to the client, the architects, the engineers, the builders and to all the thousand and thousand of people that realized it.

Welcome to this brand new piazza in New York.

I know that somebody called it lobby, but I prefer to call it piazza: open, accessible, public, not intimidating. A place for people to meet, to stay together and to share values.

The building flies above this piazza. Buildings don't fly, of course, I know. Especially because it weighs 28,000 tons.

But fighting against gravity is a constant job for an architect. Actually, fighting against gravity is a continuous job for everybody for life.

This building does not take away the ground level, but it gives it back.

Welcome to the great collection of art upstairs. It is a visible expression of freedom.

Art is freedom, the American art is even more free, sometimes a bit wild, even impolite (irreverent, disobedient), but free.

And the building had to deserve the honor to house this great collection of art.

That is why it extends above the street, flirting with the city on the East Side, there, and watching the far west on the West Side, there.

Brave, a bit wild as well, maybe even impolite (irreverent, disobedient).

Certainly surprising.

I love making public buildings because they become places for people to stay together, to meet their experiences, to accept diversity, to build up a sense of community and tolerance, eventually they become places of civic pride.

But I even more love to make places for art, because art is beauty. Because art makes people better people and it switches on a little special light in their eyes. Art suggests curiosity and desire.

And building places for art makes our cities better places to live.

Yes, art and beauty will save the world.

They will do it one person at a time, but they will do it.

Thank you.