All posts in Preservation
Horton Hears a Backhoe
Total conversion of San Diego’s postmodern Horton Plaza sails to approval
From Notre Dame to Now
Why are architects focusing on Notre Dame and not St. Landry Parish?
It’s not often that Los Angeles moves to demolish one of its 1,158 Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCM), a list of relics that includes Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, and three of the city’s majestic Moreton Bay Fig trees. But if developers Townscape Partners had their way, their Gehry Partners–designed 8150 Sunset project could do just that.
The controversial three-tower 8150 Sunset development aims to bring 229 apartments—including 38 low-income homes—and 60,000 square feet of commercial programming to the site of the Lytton Savings bank, a commercial structure with a folded concrete roof designed by local architect Kurt Meyer in 1960, an advocate for architectural preservation in L.A.
Designated HCM no. 1137 on the HCM list, Lytton Savings was recognized in 2016 after Gehry’s project was initially proposed. If demolished, it could be the first time a city monument is intentionally destroyed in 27 years, following the demolition of the A. H. Judson Estate—HCM no. 437—in 1992. The site of the Judson Estate, a mansion designed by George H. Wyman, the architect of L.A.’s Bradbury Building, remains empty to this day. In 1985, the deliciously gaudy Philharmonic Auditorium—HCM #61—in Downtown Los Angeles was also reduced to rubble and remained vacant until 2017.
This troubling legacy haunts Steven Luftman and Keith Nakata, two preservationists fighting to save Lytton Savings. They have been trying to work out a way to relocate the structure, though a new site and funds to relocate the 180-foot-long building have yet to materialize.
“It's a long shot, but it's important to make a try,” Luftman explained while highlighting the lengthy and complicated effort, adding, “The biggest obstacle to moving it is the building’s sheer size.” A recent 180-day grace period to create a plan to move the building expired on April 30, clearing the way for the developers to seek a demolition permit.
Like many buildings in Los Angeles, Lytton Savings has a hotly contested history that goes back to its prior incarnations. The structure was built atop the site of the former Gardens of Allah, a collection of bucolic hotel villas frequented by famous personalities, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Greta Garbo, and Ronald Reagan.
Frank Gehry, however, has no nostalgia for Meyer’s bank. “I came to L.A. when the Gardens of Allah were still there and was witness to [Bart Lytton] tearing them down,” Gehry said. “The way it was done was ruthless.”
Gehry explained that he was bothered by “the history of [how Lytton Savings] got there” and that he “didn't feel compelled to fight to keep it,” adding, “I offered to live with it, but the client did not want to.”
“Four of my buildings have been torn down without anyone asking,” Gehry added. “It’s kind of a better way to have it happen.”
Going Down, Coming Up
Forty-five story jail tower could be coming to Lower Manhattan
The Notre Dame Greenhouse
Foster + Partners pitches new Notre Dame spire as competition heats up
Of course, Foster isn’t the only architect to propose a radical overhaul of the 19th -century spire. Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, known for his neo-Gothic, laser-cut steel sculptures, announced last week that he would be entering the design competition as well. Since the international competition was announced, plenty of people have gotten creative in envisioning “adaptive reuse” projects that give the historic cathedral a bland, modernist overhaul without regard for its surroundings. Even though these have been done in jest, some of them have come quite close to what Foster has proposed.
It's a Gothic cathedral not a conference centre in Essex.— Ispíní Mac Scúps (@LiamTheBrewer) April 20, 2019
Restoration of Notre Dame should be mindful of its past while revealing its unique potential as an urban mixed-use development. Here at Pick Rogarth + Baumsnatch, we believe... pic.twitter.com/7XkTyPppo7— C:\temp\ (@BryceElder) April 16, 2019
"This Incandescent Wound"
Dominique Perrault reflects on the Notre Dame Cathedral fire
Notre Dame, the heart of the heart of Paris, treasure of the Île de la Cité, has just suffered one of the most trying moments in its long history. Across all lands and cultures of the world, this drama leaves us speechless, touching the hearts and arresting the gaze of everyone. It reminds us all how much architecture, and indeed every artifact, is a fragile thing. Notre Dame is now tragic proof that the preservation of our rich built heritage, of the tangible traces of the great heights of craftsmanship that have been achieved, wherever they may be, is indispensable. This incandescent wound also reveals the emotional dimension carried by architecture and how its universal cultural value, its unique symbolic force, and its mythical dimension nourish the arts, literature, and every individual’s own, personal geography.
Notre Dame is an absolutely unique place, at the heart of the Île de la Cité, from Roman Lutetia to Greater Paris, a land unto itself. This disaster has aroused an immense wave of emotion in the hearts of architects who every day are building and rebuilding the history of architecture.
Tasked in 2015 with conducting an in-depth study of the means of ensuring the continued urban centrality of the Île de la Cité, in collaboration with Philippe Belaval, President of the Center for National Monuments, this event leaves me particularly heartbroken. We made this “island monument," included on UNESCO's World Heritage List, the focus of innovative research and experimentation concerning the island’s future that was open to the participation of the public.
The rebuilding of Notre Dame will be an extremely delicate undertaking, and we must not allow ourselves to be discouraged by the irreversible loss of the medieval ribbed roof, also known as “the forest." Our heritage is a sedimentation deposited across the ages, with practically every century leaving its imprint on the cathedral. “Every wave of time superinduces its alluvion." It will have to be rebuilt, and without altering the substance of its heritage.
Therefore, we are compelled to completely review our relation to our heritage and to believe in its capacity for resilience. Notre Dame must be made to live again, and the best way to protect it is to see it through a vision of the future, which, through beauty, will transcend a simple restitution.
Finally, the unique energy of this place must be marshaled to restore to it an even more powerful presence, a wider resonance, transfiguring, amplifying, and exalting it into something else. The stakes regarding the future of this monument are unique. For Notre Dame and its island must once again incarnate the beating heart of a city that has become a vast metropolis. A most fascinating challenge indeed.
Dominique Perrault, Architect, Member of the Institut de France
Churches Under Fire
St. Patrick's Cathedral also potentially threatened by fire this week
The neo-Gothic church sits on Fifth Avenue across from Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan. Completed in 1878, it was designed by renowned architect James Renwick, Jr. Today, it’s one of the city’s most iconic places of worship and a National Historic Landmark that sees an influx of over 5 million visitors each year. The cathedral has been added on to and renovated extensively since first opening; MBB Architects most recently completed a $177 million restoration of the building in 2015. This isn’t the first time St. Patrick’s has been subject to some form of terrorism. In 1914 and 1915, respectively, a small bomb exploded on the northwest corner of the cathedral and a trio of Italian anarchists tried to detonate a bomb inside the church. While St. Patrick's Cathedral was only threatened with potential arson this week, a beloved parish uptown actually did get some real heat. The crypt at the historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic Revival structure in the world, caught fire on Sunday morning. New York Daily News reported that a small blaze broke out at 10 a.m. and was extinguished by the fire department in under an hour. Located in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood, the late-19th-century piece of architecture was most recently renovated in 2008 after a 2001 fire swept through the north transept of the church, damaging the gift shop and a bit of its famous Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. In 2017, the building and its historic grounds were designated a New York City Landmark.
UPDATE: Marc Lamparello, 37, of New Jersey, has been charged with Attempted Arson, Reckless Endagerment and Trespassing. https://t.co/PYuOrqo1zS— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 18, 2019