It was Philip Johnson, the esteemed designer of such New York City landmarks as the Seagram Building, 550 Madison Avenue (the skyscraper previously known as the Sony Building) and Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, who said, “Architecture is art, nothing else.” While the is-it-or-isn’t-it art question remains moot, the city’s museums and galleries know where they stand when it comes to the achievements of architecture’s best, be it buildings, aqueducts or even extravagant can openers.
(1) With 41 miraculous miles of iron pipe and masonry, the Croton Aqueduct opened in 1842. By transporting clean, drinkable Croton River water to New York City, this unparalleled engineering feat improved lives and helped transform New York into the young nation’s foremost city. “To Quench the Thirst: The Croton Aqueduct at 175” documents this game-changing waterway though photographs and the letters and drawings of engineer Fayette B. Tower (1817–1857), including “Croton Aqueduct at Sing Sing Kill’ (ca. 1842). Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave., 212.534.1672, thru January 2018
(2) If his 150th birthday wasn’t reason enough for a grand-scale exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art’s acquisition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s enormous archives sealed the deal. With nearly 400 architectural drawings, models, building fragments, television broadcasts and more, “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive” envelops you in the iconic designs of an architectural polymath, from Prairie Style houses to a mile-high skyscraper. Wright’s rejects are an unexpected pleasure. Who knew he contemplated pink, orange and Cherokee red versions of New York’s Guggenheim Museum? Or considered Eugene Masselink’s vivid stained-glass design for his Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (1955–61) in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin? Museum of Modern Art, 11. W. 53rd St., 212.708.9400, thru Oct. 1
(3) From red Olivetti typewriters to vibrant ceramic totems, the wildly original, slyly subversive creations of Italian architect Ettore Sottsass (1917–2007), founder of the 1980s Memphis design collective, unleashed seismic ripples throughout 20th-century design. “Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical” showcases his art and how he was influenced by ancient works, as well as his own influence on designers working today. Spot the connections between his works and those of others like Memphis cohort Peter Shire’s “Mexican Bauhaus Can Opener” (1981). The Met Breuer, 945 Madison Ave., 212.731.1675, thru Oct. 8.