All posts in Preservation

Placeholder Alt Text

You Must Remember This

Diller Scofidio + Renfro tapped to restore Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater in Dallas
Dallas’s iconic but ailing Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only completed freestanding theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the only public Wright building in Texas, will be restored based on a master plan devised by New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). Mark Lamster, architecture critic at the Dallas Morning News, writes that the announcement, which was made by the city-owned building’s longtime tenant (and original owner) the Dallas Theater Center (DTC), comes with a “combination of optimism, trepidation, and vigilance.” Reads a statement released by DTC:
“The building has been home to DTC since its opening in 1959, and the renovation efforts aim to preserve the theater’s distinct architecture while equipping it to inspire a new generation. A steering committee made up of diverse community stakeholders selected Diller Scofidio + Renfro after a thorough selection process, and the firm —with DTC—also will create a master plan for the nine-acre Kalita Humphreys site, which will include new theater spaces and a connection to the Katy Trail.
Completed several months after Wright’s death, the Kalita Humphreys Theater is one of the final projects designed by the influential American architect. The design was technically conceived, however, decades earlier for another theater company in a project that was ultimately never realized. The theater was subsequently adapted for its current Dallas site, perched on a heavily wooded bluff above Turtle Creek, when then-fledgling regional theater company DTC approached Wright to design a venue. At the time he claimed he was too busy to design something new, and suggested that DTC use the never-completed design. The theater is named after a local actress who perished in a plane crash in 1954—a year before construction kicked off—and whose parents made a significant donation to DTC to ensure the building would be named in her memory. The building famously features a revolving stage that, in the words of DTC, “exemplifies Wright’s Organic Theory of architecture,” which stressed the unification of the building’s form and function.” The theater, which has suffered through shoddy previous renovations and years of general negligence, was declared a City of Dallas Historic Landmark Structure in 2007. In 2009, DTC relocated its administrative offices from the languishing Wright-designed building along Turtle Creek to the newly-built Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by REX | OMA, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas. The Tony Award-winning organization currently stages performances at both venues. As detailed by DTC, the master plan will entail general restoration work of Wright’s deteriorating main building as well as the creation of two new, smaller performance venues to be used by other regional theater companies. The theater will also be further incorporated into the surrounding natural landscape. “By creating new spaces and opening up the site, the new master plan will boost the natural beauty of the theater’s surroundings and improve its ability to serve as a welcoming, accessible space for all,” said DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. Texas-born Charles Renfro, working in collaboration with his partners at DS+R, will lead the project. He remarked in DTC’s announcement that:
“As a native Texan, I am particularly excited to contribute to our state’s architectural heritage and partner with Dallas Theater Center, whose bold productions are equally matched by their bold commitment to architectural innovation. This project is an opportunity to restore the Kalita Humphreys—one of Dallas’s most overlooked pieces of architecture—to its rightful place in the pantheon of design masterpieces in the city. Not only is it Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built theater, but it has also made significant contributions to the way theater has been presented and seen. “Since it was built, the theater’s bucolic setting between Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail has been overwhelmed by parking lots and roadways. Our approach will seek to slow the site down and add new architecturally significant programs grown out of the surrounding urban green. The Kalita Humphreys complex will be an idyllic and iconic refuge surrounded by nature, merely footsteps away from the bustling city.”
DTC is slated to present a master plan developed by Renfro and his colleagues to the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture by the end of this year. The Dallas City Council will then vote to give the plan final approval. The public and various local stakeholders have been invited to attend an information session to be held on March 4 at the theater, and are encouraged to provide feedback. In sharing the news, Lamster pointed out that the involvement of a firm with such a high level of prestige as DS+R is agreeable, but they have a mixed track record when it comes to preservation-based projects. He mentioned the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art and the renovation of Lincoln Center, both in New York City, involved demolishing beloved nearby spaces—a neighboring museum and public plaza, respectively. In 2018, Lamster referred to the Kalita Humphreys theater as “the most neglected, misunderstood, and mismanaged building in Dallas.” Preservation architect Ann Abernathy of advocacy group Kalita Humphreys Theater at Turtle Creek Conservancy also expressed reservations, particularly with regard to the potential for overbuilding at such a bucolic site. She told the Dallas Morning News that: “The way they’re looking to sustain this property is to build more venues, and to build an income-producing garage, and an income-producing restaurant, and by the time they do that, they lose the economic value of a property of immense cultural importance.” The renovation's estimated budget has yet to be disclosed, but as Moriarty told the Dallas Morning News, he expects “it’s gonna be a lot.” “The final figure will be contingent on the master plan, which would then require the approval of the City Council. Once that happens we will move earnestly and aggressively into fundraising,” he said. While the Kalita Humphreys Theater is the only Wright-designed public building in Texas, he did design three private homes in the Lone Star State during the last decade of his career, including a Usonian house in Dallas that was featured in the 1996 Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket. Another, located in Houston, hit the market in June 2019 with a price tag just shy of $3 million.
Placeholder Alt Text

My way or the highway

MVRDV’s revamp of Amsterdam’s Tripolis Park includes a noise-buffering groundscraper
Dutch firm MVRDV has unveiled plans for Tripolis Park, a large-scale redevelopment project calling for the renovation and expansion of an architecturally significant Amsterdam office park that sits directly next to the A10 motorway (Rijksweg 10), the city’s bustling primary ring road. The most significant new addition to the existing Tripolis campus will be a rectangular, 11-story office block; a proper “groundscraper” per MVRDV, that will pull double-duty as a sound screen. Spanning nearly 400,000 square feet parallel to the A10, the photovoltaic array-topped structure will help muffle the constant roar of traffic produced by the highway. And, only fitting for a shiny, ultramodern office building situated nearly atop a traffic-clogged ring road, the star tenant will be Uber. Completed in 1994, Tripolis, which will be rebranded as Tripolis Park once the redevelopment of the site is complete, is one of the final works of influential Dutch architect and theorist, Aldo van Eyck. An outspoken proponent of Structuralism, van Eyck is best known for the Amsterdam Orphanage (1960) and for the hundreds of public playgrounds that he created across the city in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Located a stone’s throw from Van Eyck’s iconic, national monument-listed orphanage, Tripolis—itself a monument site since 2019—has historically suffered from low occupancy rates despite its eye-catching design, desirable location in Amsterdam’s fast-growing Zuidas business district, and attractive, courtyard-centered orientation. Composed of a trio of curvy mid-rises in which clusters of office suites fan out from central staircases, the existing buildings will be fully renovated by MVRDV to ensure that they “become commercially viable” according to a press release. Amsterdam-based real estate developer Flow is spearheading the project. The buildings’ signature design characteristics, namely their wood and granite facades and colorful window frames, will remain while MVRDV will add new elements such as rooftop gardens. The northernmost of the three existing buildings, Tripolis 100, will remain separate from the new groundscraper-slash-highway noise-blocker and eventually be converted into an affordable housing complex. Tripolis 200 and 300, the two existing buildings not slated for conversion into future housing, and those located closest to the A10, will be woven into the footprint of MVRDV’s new building. “This block is indented where it meets the existing buildings, adapting its grid structure to the complex geometry of Van Eyck’s offices,” explained MVRDV. “The relation between the austere, regimented south façade and the playfully indented north façade is revealed by a high-transparency eight-storey window that provides a glimpse of the existing Tripolis buildings where the indentation punches almost all the way through the new structure.” This melding of old and new at Tripolis Park is certainly dramatic, especially when considering the newer building’s hulking rigidity and the wavy, organic forms of Van Eyck’s older structures. “So I am a fan of Aldo van Eyck’s oeuvre and I think we should treat his design as respectfully as possible,” said MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas in a statement. “The new building guards and shelters the existing Tripolis complex as it were, thanks to the protective layer we create. We literally echo Tripolis, as if it was imprinting its neighbour. The space between will be given a public dimension and will be accessible to passers-by. As a visionary in his time, Aldo already saw office spaces as meeting places. I want to continue that idea by promoting interaction between the two buildings in various ways.” Uber, whose international headquarters are currently located elsewhere in Amsterdam, will also take up residence in the largest of the existing Van Eyck buildings in addition to occupying several lower floors of MVRDV's A10-abutting structure. As reported by Bloomberg, Uber will occupy two-thirds of the Tripolis campus in total starting in 2022. The San Francisco-based tech giant will have the option to rent even more space as its Amsterdam workforce continues to grow. Since 2017, the number of Amsterdam-based Uber employees has jumped from 400 to 1,700, prompting the company to seek out a more spacious home.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Pisa of Texas

Change.org petition seeks to save half-imploded Dallas office tower
Forget football, frozen margaritas, and the Texas State Fair. It would appear that the one thing capable of truly bringing the entire city of Dallas together is a failed mid-rise demolition. In the seconds following a much-anticipated planned implosion of the former Affiliated Computer Services tower on February 16, it became abundantly clear that 300 pounds of dynamite wouldn’t be enough to bring the dogged 11-story building completely down. Located north of downtown Dallas off of the Central Expressway, the otherwise forgettable 1970s-era office tower in question is being razed to make way for a $2.5 billion mixed-use development dubbed The Central. But the demolition went awry, leaving the building’s concrete-and-steel core standing a distinctive tilt that's not too dissimilar from a certain Tuscan bell tower. Just like that, Dallas gained itself an instant, internet-famous photo backdrop. Now Dallasonians—tongues firmly planted in cheeks—are rallying to save the half-demolished building now known as the “Leaning Tower of Dallas.” A “dank meme"-seeking Dallas resident has even launched a Change.org petition calling for the inclined tower to be bestowed with Texas Historic Landmark status as well as UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Reads the petition:
Over the past few days, The Leaning Tower of Dallas has become the city's largest cultural icon. After making national headlines, we are finally famous for something other than the JFK Assassination. Unfortunately, the demolition will be completed soon to make way for even more hideous shops and condos for the bourgeois residents of Uptown Dallas.
As of this writing, over 900 people have signed the petition, which is directed toward Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Historical Commission executive director Mark Wolfe, and noted reprieve-giver President Donald Trump, among others. In all fairness, there is some cultural significance to the Affiliated Computer Services tower. Although owned by Xerox in its final years, the building was once home to the Southland Corporation, the parent company behind one of Dallas’s greatest contributions to modern society: 7-Eleven. While obviously unserious in its intent, the petition does serve as a sort of battle cry against The Central, a dense and upscale project that will ultimately span 30 acres. As reported by The Dallas Morning News, the first phase of development will include a 17-story office tower, two hotels, two large apartment complexes, a 3.5-acre park, and 110,000 square feet of retail, entertainment, and restaurant space. Dallas architecture firms GFF and BOKA Powell are both involved in the project, as is New York-based Perkins Eastman.

Project developer De La Vega Development plans to break ground during the third quarter of this year—that is, provided that the remaining portion of the tower fully comes down when a crane and wrecking ball finish the job at some point this week.

Placeholder Alt Text

Scoring renovation gold

Montreal's iconic Olympic Tower reborn as office complex
The second lives of observation towers built for the Olympics run the gamut from rock ‘n’ roll museums to rappelling venues to rather straightforward radio and television transmitters. Yet Montreal’s Olympic Tower, perhaps the most famous of these soaring edifices even though it wasn't finally completed until a full decade after the 1976 Summer Olympics, hasn’t really had a productive afterlife—until now. Thanks to Quebecois financial services giant Desjardins, a new purpose has at long last been bestowed on the precast-concrete landmark that looms precariously over Parc Olympique. Working closely with Desjardins, the multidisciplinary Montreal-based Provencher_Roy painstakingly converted seven of the tower’s 12 unoccupied floors into new office space that will serve as call and administrative centers for the bank over the next 15 years. In total, the renovation, which kicked off in 2018, encompasses 150,000 square feet, roughly 80 percent of the tower’s rentable space. It includes an auditorium, a trio of lounges, a 400-seat dining room, a wellness center, 25 “collaborative living rooms,” a half-dozen coffee bars, and enough open workspace to accommodate 1,400 employees. The top of the tallest inclined tower in the world, at 541 feet, has long been home to a popular observatory that’s accessible to the public via a glass-encased funicular; however, the rest of the interior space within the tilting, Roger Taillibert-designed structure has remained mostly empty. Desjardins is now the first (and only) major tenant to occupy it in over 30 years. That’s big news when considering that the stadium complex at Parc Olympique—tower included—is regarded by many as a particularly egregious white elephant despite its architectural significance. Often referred to as the “Big O” (or more commonly among locals as the “Big Owe” in reference to its exorbitant cost of over $1.1 billion), Montreal’s doughnut-shaped Olympic Stadium is the largest stadium in Canada by seating capacity with room for 56,000 patrons but has experienced woefully little post-Olympics activity. Lacking a full-time tenant since the Expos decamped in 2004, the venue has been plagued by a long list of structural issues and costly setbacks. While most criticism has been lobbed at the roof-cursed coliseum, the fact that its adjacent tower has sat unoccupied since 1987 has only soured the view of this somewhat damaging Olympics leftover. The renovation of the Olympic Tower, recently rechristened as the Montreal Tower,  is a major step in a positive new direction. The most significant aspect of the overhaul involved removing a bulk of the tower’s prefabricated concrete panels and been replacing them with an all-glass curtain wall that encases 60 percent of the building’s facade. Per a press release, this dramatic undertaking was the single “biggest challenge” in transforming the “mythical” structure, and was essential in “creating a pleasant work environment.” Antiquated mechanical systems were also replaced and brought up to code as part of the renovation. Throughout the process, Provencher_Roy was mindful not to erase the tower’s important place in Montreal history. Tributes to the building's Olympic legacy are distributed throughout the light-strewn interior, most in the form of sporty murals. “It was a privilege to work on such an exceptional site that represents so much in the collective imagination,” said Julien-Pierre Laurendeau, an interior designer at Provencher_Roy. “Our design strategy has been to showcase the spectacular architectural character of the Montreal Tower, still imbued with the Olympic spirit. Interior design encourages collaboration and sharing of knowledge in a healthy environment, as well as drawing a parallel with the values of Desjardins.” Montreal’s Olympic Stadium will likely never live down its reputation as one of North America’s most notorious white elephants. But the tower that bends directly over it can now bask in its newfound status as an example of smart, site-sensitive reinvention and reuse.
Placeholder Alt Text

Concrete Dystopia

Massachusetts considers partial- to-full removal of Paul Rudolph’s Hurley Building
The future of the Paul Rudolph-designed Boston Government Service Center (BGSC) rests in the hands of the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Last October, the state announced the redevelopment of the Charles F. Hurley Building and this week, a new report was sent to the commission detailing four options for the Brutalist structure in downtown Boston that include partial or full demolition. Produced under the auspices of the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, the document is the result of deep dive by engineers and architects into the Hurley Building and its notoriously challenging interior layout. The first option explores removing a small part of the 237,000-square-foot structure to make way for a new, high-rise construction. A pedestrian-level walkway would splice throughout the site in an effort to open up the complex to the street. Each of the other options considers demolishing half, two-thirds, and eventually the entire building for the contemporary tower, respectively, with added urban design elements thrown into the mix.  In the coming months, the Massachusetts Historical Commission will either green light or scrap these options. If one or several are seriously considered, it could help bidding developers make more informed decisions about their individual plans for the 3.25-acre site. AN previously reported that solicitations for a development partner are expected to be issued by mid-2020 and that construction slated to begin within three years. The state is also making moves to relocate the various agencies and 675 government employees within the Hurley Building ahead of future work. Part of the allure for preservationists lies in the fact that it’s a Paul Rudolph design. Located just yards away from the 50-year-old Boston City Hall designed by Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles—which is currently undergoing a five-year-renovation, the Hurley Building and the rest of the complex further connect locals to Rudolph’s legacy of Brutalism in the city. One group, the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, believes the report didn’t fully acknowledge the fact that Rudolph designed the building from 1962 to 1966, which could hurt its case in the eyes of the historical commission. “They fully note the importance of his design guidelines for the project, and his direct work on the other [Lindemann] building—but are weaker on acknowledging the intensity of his influence on the design of the Hurley Building,” the foundation stated in a press release on its website.  This debate has been going on for quite some time and it’s unclear just how serious the state will take preservation. What is clear is that Massachusetts’ Governor Charlie Baker prefers to completely redevelop the site with little focus on adaptive reuse. 
Placeholder Alt Text

WRIGHT ON THE WEB

Digital archive for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House now online
Six months after the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House was designated the first and only UNESCO World Heritage site in Los Angeles, The City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) has launched an extensive digital archive for the home spanning from 1918 to the present day. “Now everyone interested in Frank Lloyd Wright may view documents previously available only to scholars,” said Jeffrey Herr, DCA’s Hollyhock House curator, in a press release at launch. “Always stretching technology, Frank Lloyd Wright would be delighted with digital technology and the increased dissemination of his work."
Over 500 drawings, blueprints, and related items of historical documentation are now publicly accessible for the first time, giving the public another method of exploring the home following the debut of its Virtual Accessibility Experience and the self-guided tours available to the public four days a week. The online archive adds a significant amount of history concerning the many renovations, restorations, architectural details, furnishing, and the building additions on the 36-acre property. “The Department of Cultural Affairs is thrilled for the opportunity to make this archive material available to those interested in Aline Barnsdall's vision and Frank Lloyd Wright's work,” said Danielle Brazell, general manager of the DCA, in a press release. “Viewing the collection gives anyone interested in the history of the property a deeper understanding.” While highlights include schematic site maps and perspective renderings from the architect himself, the public archive also contains plenty of minutia for the Wright-obsessed, including an electrical schedule blueprint and plenty of corbel details. The home was completed in 1921 for the art collector and socialite Aline Barnsdall, who gave it up to the city shortly afterward in 1927 under the condition that the California Art Club could use the site as its headquarters through a fifteen-year lease. After the club relocated in 1942, the site was renamed Barnsdall Park and has since hosted several public events and exhibition spaces, including the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG).
Placeholder Alt Text

Order, Order!

Critics speak out over the draft federal architecture mandate
Everyone from critics to commentators to professional organizations came out swinging this week in reaction to President Trumps draft executive order to impose a neoclassical style (now publicly available) on all future federal architecture. AN reported yesterday that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) released a statement strongly opposing a uniform style, and according to Contract, the organization had prior knowledge of the draft and expressed concerns over it during a mid-January meeting with James Sherk, a top policy aid in the White House In a statement published today by Contract, the AIA issued a letter to Trump after news broke about the leak, asking the president to “ensure that this order is not finalized or executed.” At the time of the aforementioned meeting, the AIA said it believed the draft was not moving forward. “We were shocked and disappointed to hear that it is still in circulation,” the organization wrote in the letter.  The AIA isn’t the only top-level advocacy group in the industry to speak up so far, but it is one of the main avenues for those interested to take action against the draft order, outside of cold-contacting the White House Below, AN broke down highlights from the AIA’s letter to Trump, alongside responses from other major players in the industry:  American Institute of Architects  “The draft we have seen also attempts to define ‘classical architectural style’ to mean architectural features derived from classical Greek and Roman architecture with some allowances for ‘traditional architectural style,’" wrote the AIA in its letter. "Given that the specific type of architecture preferred in the order can increase the cost of a project (to up to three times as much), we would hope the GSA, Congress and others would take pause. Since these costs would have to be borne by U.S. taxpayers, this is not an inconsequential concern… “President Trump, this draft order is antithetical to giving the ‘people’ a voice and would set an extremely harmful precedent. It thumbs its nose at societal needs, even those of your own legacy as a builder and promoter of contemporary architecture. Our society should celebrate the differences that develop across space and time.” The Architecture Lobby  (T-A-L) “Seizing on architectural styles is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes,” wrote The Architecture Lobby in a statement. “The particular appeal to classical architecture often uses the nostalgic appropriation of style by fictionalizing national heritage and manufacturing an ideal subject to marginalize and other while simultaneously claiming moral superiority. The Lobby wants to draw attention to the larger ideological implications this implies, implications that go beyond a conservative approach to style or limitations to freedom of expression. Neoclassicism in the US is directly related with the construction of whiteness. It was whiteness that was sought after in the many plantations houses that chose the style, justifying it as an emulation of ancient Greek ‘culture’ to separate themselves from the Indigenous peoples whose land was stolen ad the enslaved African people forced to build and work in them. Thomas Jefferson’s excitement with the work of the Beaux-Arts school in Paris was motivated by a desire to make America ‘European,’ and white... “Privileging historicist architecture is a common tool of the capitalist class in the United States as well. This tactic is used in planning codes and by homeowners associations to favor traditional aesthetics under the guise of human-centric design, but whose true purpose is to continue the legacy of red-lining by preventing the densification and diversification of neighborhoods. The ultimate goal is to inflate property values and maintain the racial and class segregation of our cities, to create an environment fo capital to continue the destruction of communities through gentrification.  The ‘Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again’ executive order is a reformulation of these local aesthetic strictures at a national level and a blatant attempt to leverage aesthetics in the service of white supremacy.” National Trust for Historic Preservation While the National Trust values—and protects—traditional and classical buildings throughout the country, to censor and stifle the full record of American architecture by requiring federal buildings to be designed, and even altered, to comply with a narrow list of styles determined by the federal government is inconsistent with the values of historic preservation,” wrote the National Trust in a statement. “The draft order would put at risk federal buildings across the country that represent our full American story, and would have a chilling effect on new design, including the design of federal projects in historic districts…We strongly oppose any effort to impose a narrow set of styles for future federal projects based on the architectural tastes of a few individuals that will diminish, now and for the future, our rich legacy of federal architecture.” Vishaan Chakrabarti, Founder of PAU Studio “Like the fundamentalists who desecrated Bamiyan and Palmyra, it is only the most insecure, arrogant and petty of leaders who attempt to remake the world in the delusions of their dominant image,” Chakrabarti said in a statement provided to AN. “Once again the Trump administration is making their hatred of our diversity clear, a hatred we must fight to defend the pluralist idea of America that most of us hold dear. Make no mistake, this is artistic censorship, and censorship is yet another step towards the fascism that clouds our land.” National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) “Diverse cultural influences on the creative expression of our collective built environment is vital to the strength of our society and paramount to our freedom as Americans,” wrote NOMA. “Given the historical significance of NOMA, rooted in the African-American experience, we are especially cognizant of the notion that for many of our members, such buildings in certain contexts stand as symbols and painful reminders of centuries of oppression and the harsh realities of racism. As architects, we are called to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. We have a duty to advocate for design that reflects the values of the people we serve: ALL of the people. The proposed Executive Order, if enacted, would signal the perceived superiority of a Eurocentric aesthetic. This notion is completely unacceptable and counterproductive to the kind of society that fosters justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Freedom of architectural expression is a right that should be upheld at the highest levels of government.”  The Architectural League of New York The Architectural League fundamentally opposes the imposition of a “preferred” style—whether classical or any other—by diktat as the enforced representation of the American people and their institutions,” wrote Paul Lewis, president of The Architectural League NY, and Rosalie Genevro, executive director. “Such a policy would be anathema to the idea of a free, diverse, and inclusive society. “Architecture that represents the American people must be created in response to specific sites and specific needs, responsive to local communities and conditions, drawing on the skills of the country’s most talented architects.” American Society of Landscape Architects  “The American Society of Landscape Architects has profound concerns about a proposed executive order that would impose uniform style mandates on federal building projects,” said Wendy Miller, president of ASLA. “Our nation’s design professionals are admired around the world for their creativity, innovation, and diversity of thought. Designers of the built environment should not be confined by arbitrary constraints that would limit federal building projects to a single style.  ASLA believes that the public interest is best served by a collaborative place-based process that continues to produce federal projects that reflect the unique needs and values of each community and its citizens.” Docomomo US “The draft executive order which states, “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style’ would roll back Federal architectural policy by nearly sixty years and set a dangerous precedent for how we value our nation’s architectural diversity and history," said Todd Grover, the vice-president of advocacy, at Docomomo US. “We, along with our colleagues at the American Institute of Architects (AIA), oppose this change in policy to promote any style of architecture over another for federal buildings across the country. This decision could create long-standing issues with new and also existing facilities that have achieved significance since the 1960s.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Not on the SAAM Level

LMN Architects reveals newly renovated Seattle Asian Art Museum
Seattle-based firm LMN Architects has just completed its renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) in Volunteer Park, which will reopen to the public on February 8. A major element of the two-year, $56-million project was the renovation of the original museum, a palatial Art Deco building designed by Bebb and Gould in 1933. The building's ornate walls, floors, and ceiling elements were renovated to meet code requirements, and the climate control and seismic systems were also updated. Overhead lightboxes that emulate natural daylighting were embedded into the ceilings of the main gallery spaces. The museum’s central component, the Fuller Garden Court, has been renovated to its original condition to connect to a new lobby space. The building’s program spaces have been vertically connected by a glassy new lobby that provides unobstructed views of the surrounding park. A new, 2,648-square-foot gallery has been attached to the northeast facade of the original building on the opposite side of the main visitor entrance, adding significantly more space for its permanent collection and special exhibitions. The addition contrasts the original building’s opulent aesthetic with continuous floor-to-ceiling windows for maximum daylight exposure. “To work on a historic building like this is a real privilege and honor,” said Sam Miller, partner-in-charge at LMN Architects. “Working with SAAM was a great fit, because our focus is also about creating great social experiences and connecting to community. We hope the addition adds significance to the original historic building, and we are very excited for everyone to visit the museum and experience the renovation and addition for themselves.” The museum's architectural upgrade gave rise to an opportunity for its curators to reimagine the organization of its vast collection of Asian artifacts. “The newly renovated and expanded Asian Art Museum breaks boundaries to offer a thematic, rather than geographic or chronological, exploration of art from the world’s largest continent,” the museum announced on its website. This method of curation will take place across both the original and recently-added gallery spaces. A free weekend-long community celebration will take place on February 8 to inaugurate the reopening of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
Placeholder Alt Text

Out of Shape Health House

Owners of Richard Neutra's Lovell House are seeking a preservation-minded buyer
The Lovell House, designed and built by Austrian architect Richard Neutra, was a leading example of the International Style when it was completed in the hills of Los Feliz, California, in 1929. Generally regarded as the first steel-frame home built in the United States, the home elegantly demonstrated the use of industrial methods of production for domestic design and remained in pristine condition for several decades. In its current state, however, the house suffers from significant cosmetic and structural disrepair and the owners are reportedly looking to offload the building. The home, often referred to as the Lovell Health House, was originally commissioned by naturopathic doctor Philip Lovell to include spaces for medical demonstrations and experiments, such as an outdoor gym, porches for nude sunbathing, and a kitchen specifically designed for vegetarian cooking. The property was later acquired by Betty and Morton Topper in 1960 for $60,000. Morton died 11 years later in 1971, leaving the home to Betty and their five children. After Betty's death in August of last year, their children have been opening up the residence to the public for private tours and events while seeking a preservation-minded buyer (the most recent event, held on January 26, was a highly-attended screening of Elissa Brown's documentary on Neutra, Windshield: A Vanished Vision, followed by a discussion between Brown, film composter Chad Fischer, and Lovell House owner Ken Topper, one of the five Topper siblings). Although now neglected, Neutra's touches are still evident throughout the building, especially in the large, multistory window sections for letting in natural light. Neutra was no stranger to working across California, but his homes have become increasingly threatened in recent years. The recent sale of the Ennis House, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home set a mere 1,600 feet away from the Lovell House for $18 million, suggests the residence will enter the market with a high asking price when listed (although the Lovell House doesn't have the same cultural cachet as the former).
Placeholder Alt Text

Across The Street

Frick expansion critics propose buying Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion
Plot twist: Several New York preservation groups want the Frick Collection to stop part of its controversial expansion plan and instead, buy Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion across the street to use as gallery space. New York Daily News reported that two groups, Save the Frick and Stop Irresponsible Frick Development, propose that the late financier’s home, located at 9 East 71 Street, along with other buildings on the block, be alternatively used for the institution's growing needs. For years, the museum has attempted to upgrade its physical presence in the Upper East Side community but has been unsuccessful until recently in 2018, when a scheme by Selldorf Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle passed through the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The current plan includes repurposing 60,000 square feet of existing space and adding 27,000 square feet of new construction while enhancing accessibility, and most notably, moving and reinstalling the Russell Page-designed garden above its current location to make way for an auditorium underneath. Despite both pushback and support from various area residents, art world leadership, and preservation organizations, the design team negotiated several rounds of revisions on the plan, including the path to demolishing the Frick’s beloved Music Room and Reception Hall. Recently, Save the Frick launched a new petition calling for the LPC to reconsider a rejected proposal to designate the spaces as interior landmarks.   On-site work is set to begin later this year, and according to Joe Shatoff, COO of the Frick Collection, that the Epstein ploy doesn’t carry much weight given the amount of work it's taken to get the plan off the ground. He released a statement to the Daily News rebutting the proposal: 
“Our renovation and revitalization plan has been guided carefully by two key tenets—first and foremost, to preserve the unique, intimate experience of the Frick, and secondly, to ensure the long-term future of the museum and library. A separate building across the street does not answer these needs and would not provide the critical adjacencies required to make it a functional solution.”
It remains unclear what will happen to Epstein’s estate. His Upper East Side home—one of many—is reportedly valued at $77 million and where police uncovered hundreds of photos of underage girls. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Making History

Major updates proposed for Rockefeller Plaza overhaul
  The landmarked public spaces and plaza of Rockefeller Center, designed in large part by The Associated Architects (an umbrella name for a collection of firms at the time) and built in the early 1930s, are up for a major revamp. Gabellini Sheppard Associates, along with Tishman Speyer, who owns most of the plaza, are proposing a series of changes large and small which went up in front of the Landmark Preservation Commission yesterday (the full proposal is available here). Some of the interventions, which were on the whole well-received, were intended to bring the famous Midtown location more closely in line with its original intent and increase public access and streamline circulation. Perhaps the most symbolic move towards this would be the relocation of a ten-foot-wide “credo” monument honoring John D. Rockefeller, Jr., that was added in the 1960s away from the stairwell where it currently stops the flow of foot traffic and into the gardens. The large stone parapet around the sunken plaza’s central stairwell that was added when ice skating became an annual activity, would be changed to a more delicate brass railing with planters. Both would be removable such that in the warmer months a larger staircase could be added, as was originally in place in the early 1930s. Doors within the sunken plaza that are currently of different heights and punctuated unevenly would be standardized, though the LPC seemed to push back against all-glass walls. Gabellini Sheppard intends to replace much of the stone—which is deteriorating in places—in kind, though the LPC suggested they attempt to retain as much as possible. The pools featuring block glass in the channel garden would be renovated to their former reflective luster thanks to mirror-backed structural glass that would still allow sunlight to filter to the concourse below. Other changes include the moving of statues, flag poles, and rearranging some landscaping, which the commission asked be in part reconsidered. Softer lighting would be integrated throughout, and new terrazzo and other pavements would be added. The height of the road, which is three inches lower than the sidewalks, would be brought up to that same level. The most contentious proposal was the addition of new elevators and the shifting of some stairwells. The current glass canopy elevators would be replaced with transparent volumes topped with bronze. While many on the commission commended the simplicity and transparency, the proposal to integrate screens for public art displays was opposed, including by the local community board, which supported the project otherwise. After responding to suggestions, Gabellini Sheppard Associates will go before the LPC again at a later date with a revised proposal.
Placeholder Alt Text

Green Light, No!

NYC Parks Department required to rethink controversial redesign of Fort Greene Park
Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park will live to see another day in its current state.  After over three years of controversy, the New York Supreme Court has decided that the 30-acre landscape would not be subject to a redesign or the removal of 83 mature trees until a proper environmental impact review is conducted. The lawsuit was brought against the N.Y.C. Parks Department last April, in which the Sierra Club, the City Club of New York, and Friends of Fort Greene Park (FFGP) demanded the court pause the $10.5 million renovation of the park’s northside entrance, which would have effectively destroyed a 1970’s brutalist plaza by landscape architect A. E. Bye, Jr.  Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1868, Fort Greene Park has been renovated three times in its history. The plan put forth by the Parks Department would revamp the northwestern corner on Myrtle Avenue, an area heavily utilized by local residents in a nearby housing development, and knock out Bye’s pathway—a series of mounds reminiscent of graves as AN previously noted—that leads visitors already inside the park to the 150-foot-tall Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument. The leveling of this iconic intervention, according to stakeholders, and the addition of the proposed concrete plaza would replace an existing 13,000-square-feet of green space.  The decision to update the park is part of the Park Department’s Parks Without Borders program, an initiative started in 2015 to upgrade eight city parks with enhanced accessibility and better connectivity to the neighborhoods that surround them, free of fencing. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the redesign in late 2017.  Based on the recent hearing, the Parks Department is now required to conduct a full environmental review before moving forward with the project. A previously released assessment was denounced by Friends of Fort Greene Park, which found out via a Freedom of Information Act request that the initial statement was heavily redacted and excluded comments from a city-hired landscape architect who recommended all trees be kept on-site, except those that were weak or weren’t in keeping with the park’s historic nature.  “The Parks Department fell short in its responsibilities to be transparent and accountable throughout its Parks Without Borders design process,” said Ling Hsu, president of FFGP, who agrees the northside of the park needs enhancements, but specifically, maintenance repairs and accessibility updates.  “This park isn’t broken,” she said, “so ‘fixing’ it only means giving it some long-delayed maintenance attention, not the significant redesign the Parks Department has planned.”  Nick Paolucci, a spokesperson for the city's law department, told AN in an email that it will continue to work together with Parks to pursue the proposal in full: “The court has delayed important park enhancements such as improved accessibility and other benefits that were supported by the community," wrote Paolucci. "We disagree with this ruling—the city followed the law and the approvals needed for this type of project. An environmental review was not required. We are reviewing the city’s legal options to continue this important initiative.”