All posts in Preservation
A Case for Conservation
The Getty Trust will invest $100M in a 10-year plan to save global artifacts
Place Your Bets
Last home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright will be auctioned off
Historic Hollywood library converted into emergency homeless shelter
Lights, Camera, Action!
The concrete towers of the New York State Pavilion are ready for restoration
Oak Park's historic preservation commission rejects proposal for Frank Lloyd Wright visitor center
“As a 21st Century organization, the Trust is resolved in its mission to honor the innovative vision and legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and to further contribute to the vitality of Oak Park as a living museum of significant architecture...Our commitment to design education will ensure that future generations value achievement in art, architecture and design for which Oak Park is renowned. To retain the value the Trust has added to Oak Park over the years, we must keep pace with standards of best practice in cultural tourism and education and set a tone of forward-thinking that Wright himself advocated.”Located within the Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture Historic District, the proposal was slated to set the Trust up for a new space that would filter the 90,000 people who visited the famous site each year. Visitors currently enter and exit the historic locale through a cramped garage shop, noted the Chicago Tribune. A design for the visitor’s center had already been in the works for the past few years since the Trust purchase 925 Chicago Avenue. The organization held a local competition for the project and announced in June that Chicago-based John Ronan had won. His vision included a reception hall, gift shop, a ticketing and information area, and an outdoor plaza with green space. According to the Trust’s chairman Bob Mill, the proposal was selected between it had a “quiet presence within the site” and used materials that reference the surrounding neighborhood. Despite what appeared to be a thoughtful proposal, there was overwhelming opposition to the project. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy all denounced the scheme. The Village of Oak Park said the Trust must submit a new application with a different proposal through the Historic Preservation Commission. Last week, the Trust issued a noted saying it will not appeal the commission's decision, but instead reconsider its plan.
On Solid Bedrock
ODA tapped to transform Detroit’s historic Book Tower
Up To Olympic Standards
The Los Angeles Coliseum undergoes a monumental renovation
Fate of Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower still up in the air
After years of back and forth, Tokyo’s iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower may face demolition after all, according to Citylab. The 13-story building, which has stood in the Shinbashi neighborhood since 1972, is a distinct relic of the Metabolist movement that dominated architectural discourse in post-World War II Japan. Maintenance issues have plagued the site for over a decade, with certain stakeholders now reiterating that demolition might be the most economical option.
Many architectural historians consider the Nakagin Capsule Tower to be one of the best surviving examples of Metabolism, a movement that explored methods of large-scale reconstruction for Japan’s war-ravaged cities. Between the 1950s and 1970s, Metabolists like Pritzker Prize winners Fumihiko Maki and Kenzo Tange emphasized the need for Japanese architects to emulate organic systems in their designs for urban megastructures, highlighting how metabolisms in complex organisms work to maintain living cells.
Kishō Kurokawa, a prominent voice in Japan’s post-war cultural resurgence and the author of the 1977 book Metabolism in Architecture, designed the Nakagin Capsule Tower at the request of the Nakagin real-estate company’s president, Torizo Watanabe. The structure is an agglomeration of 140 prefabricated “capsules” affixed in varying orientations to two concrete cores. Each unit is one hundred square feet in area and has a single porthole window. The highly formulaic design enabled construction crews to assemble the entire structure in only 30 days, resulting in a tower that hosted both commercial offices and private residential space. Kurokawa also intended for the capsules to be removed and replaced as needed. Ironically, the ability of capsule occupants to refurbish or replace their individual units was supposed to preclude any sort of large-scale demolition of the building. Perhaps the current state of affairs in Shinbashi is a reflection of the model’s shortfalls.
Over the years, not a single one of the 140 capsules have been removed or replaced. Many are still in use as apartments or offices, but some have been repurposed as storage compartments or outright abandoned. Certain owners have made an effort to preserve or restore their capsules, but many have fallen into visible disrepair. In 2007, the tower’s management company announced that asbestos had been found in many of the units and cleared the entire building for demolition. Financial difficulties at the construction company that was tapped to lead the lot’s redevelopment stalled the project, and the debate over whether to tear down the Nakagin Capsule Tower has remained at a standstill ever since.
By 2018, Nakagin Integration, Inc. had become frustrated with high maintenance costs and sold the land under the building, which currently operates as a condominium, to a real-estate company. In a move permitted under Japanese law, the new land-owner then prohibited any new sales in the tower and considered the site’s potential for redevelopment. As Jiji Press reported last month, though, an unnamed foreign buyer has expressed interest in purchasing the land and preserving the tower.
While maintaining the Nakagin Capsule Tower has grown into too great a burden for some managers and unit owners, the movement to preserve the building has also amassed support. Activists and organizers formed the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building Conservation and Regeneration Project to protect the building from developers in bustling Shinbashi. One member, Tatsuyuki Maeda, now owns 15 units in the building and hopes his investment in the property will help tip the scales in favor of preservationists.
Regardless of one’s standpoint on the importance of architectural preservation, the Nakagin Capsule Tower’s status as a rare built example of Metabolist architecture is indisputable. Investors will ultimately decide whether this legacy is worth defending, but preservationists are slowly accruing more of a stake in the building.
Nostalgia by the Numbers
#modTEXAS is crowdsourcing midcentury design across the state
To cull together support for the campaign, modTEXAs is working with some major groups on the project including Preservation Dallas, the Texas Historical Commission, the North Texas and San Antonio chapters of Docomomo, and the American Institute of Architects chapters in Corpus Christi and Dallas. As Walton gleans information on the documented projects from various posts, she’s sharing stats and geotags with the groups for their own conservation efforts. D Magazine reported that a real estate site called Candy’s Dirt has also joined the campaign and has created a map of where photographs are taken. Of course, many people are hashtagging images of architecture in more metropolitan cities around the state, so it’s unclear what treasures might be threatened in rural areas if more awareness isn't built on their existence.
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The June theme for our Mapping Mod Challenge is Car Culture (share what you uncover using #modtexas). Built in 1947, the Pike Drive-In Theater in Lancaster featured a massive cowboy mural accented by neon lighting. 📷: @fortworthhistorical. #modtexas #fortworthhistorical #fortworthinsta #fortworthtexas #fortworthhistory #docomomo #modernist #ilovetexasphoto #texashistory #texasphoto #texasphotography #texasphotographer #texas_ig #texasarchitecture #texasarchitecture #midcentury #midcenturyarchitecture #postwarmodernism #modernism #midcentury #midcenturydetails #docomomous #texasarchitect #midcentury #midcenturyarchitecture #modernistarchitecture