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Hung Up

What is going on with the AT&T Building lobby?
Last month The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reported that the AT&T Building's lobby was demolished. Now, though, preservationists believe the lobby at 550 Madison Avenue is more intact than previously thought. Permits for the lobby demolition were issued in December, and in January, developer Chelsfield and investment group Olayan America, the team behind the postmodern tower's redesign, confirmed the interior had been sledgehammered. Acting on that information, Manhattan Community Board 5's (CB5) Landmarks Committee voted on a draft resolution last month that condemned the development team's decision to demolish the lobby in the middle of talks with the board and preservation groups like the Municipal Art Society (MAS) and Docomomo US, among others. Although the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) excluded the lobby of the Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed tower from landmark consideration last November, 20th century preservation experts consider the interior and exterior of the building to be one cohesive space, even after early 1990s renovations enclosed the lobby and surrounding arcades. Earlier this month, however, preservation activist Thomas Collins said he walked by the building and saw most of the lobby was still intact. Most of the granite walls, the oculus, and the ceiling appear to be there. At the top of the arch, the north wall was still visible, but when Collins walked by the building today, the lobby was scaffolded up to the oculus level. It appears the main plan is to rotate the elevators a quarter-turn, opening up a sightline from Madison Avenue into a garden that will replace an annex and the enclosed arcade between 55th and 56th streets. In Collins's estimation, the programmatic requirements of the proposed work do not necessitate cosmetic changes outlined in the demolition permits. He believes the elevators could be rotated while "[retaining] 80 to 90 percent of the historic fabric.” When prompted for an accurate and detailed description of the work performed, a spokesperson for the developer issued the following statement, which was attributed to Chelsfield Managing Director David Laurie:

"We are six weeks into an approximately eight-week demolition process, consistent with LPC-approved permits issued in December. The entire space is beyond restoration with the majority of the lobby’s features now removed. This renovation work is in accordance with our plans to revitalize 550 Madison, making it viable for multi-tenant occupancy."

Through the spokesperson, Laurie declined to elaborate on repeated requests to give details on whether the floors, fixtures, and interior partitions had been demolished per the permits for the $100,000 project that were issued in December. Architect Scott Spector, principal of Spector Group Architects, is signing permits for this phase of the lobby project. Given the developer's reluctance to share details on the state of the lobby, the community board is trying to determine the exact scope and scale of the demolition-in-progress. "Until we know it is not correct, we cannot take any information as fact until [the board] can verify it," CB5 Landmarks Committee Chair Layla Law-Gisiko said. "If we were to find out that it was a misrepresentation, it would be very disappointing and worrying. We're always trying to work in good faith with all the stakeholders." She added that the board knows the building must be altered to prepare it for multi-tenant occupancy, but that the alterations must be contextual. "Putting Philip Johnson's architecture in the dumpster? No," she said. At the full CB5 board meeting last week, members approved a resolution in support of landmarking, and encouraged the LPC to review the lobby as-is for potential interior landmark designation. The resolution also recommended reverting the public spaces Sony (the primary tenant after AT&T) had converted to retail in 1993 back to public use. Although community board decisions are non-binding, the LPC takes them into account in its deliberations. In addition to CB5's voice, five local politicians signed a letter to Laurie urging the development team to "engage in a good-faith dialogue" with preservationists and others to make sure the renovations honor Johnson and Burgee's original design intent. The undersigned—two state senators, two assembly members, and new City Council District 4 rep Keith Powers—said they understood the lobby wasn't up for landmark consideration, but encouraged Chelsfield and Olayan America to treat the space sensitively nonetheless. This latest controversy is an aftershock from the October reveal of Snøhetta's renovations, which sought to replace 550 Madison's imposing pink granite facade with an undulating glass curtain wall that would expose the 37-story tower's steel framework. The $300 million redo was met with an avalanche of criticism, with some architects and pomo enthusiasts taking to the streets to protest the planned changes. Collins took the lead on the landmarks nomination, preparing the LPC paperwork for the building's nomination. These are the first major changes to 550 Madison, as the building is now officially known, since Olayan America acquired the property for $1.4 billion in May 2016. Since last February, records show the owners have paid two lobbying firms over a quarter-million dollars to attempt to influence the Manhattan Borough President, the Department of City Planning, and various council members—not an unusual move for a development of this caliber. This year, the group has retained the lobbyists at Kasirer to speak with the Manhattan Borough President, the Department of Buildings, community boards, and the LPC, among other entities. Records show the group, working as OAC 550 Owner LLC, has spent no money so far in 2o18 on these efforts, however. An AN reporter went to eyeball the lobby on February 2, looking for possible changes. Whereas it was previously possible to see into the space through cracks in the butcher paper, workers have taped the cover-ups to the glass so thoroughly that none of the lobby is visible from the street. For his part, Collins believes the permits are for preemptive demolition. "They don't have a plan for the interior; they just want to mess up enough of the interior so the LPC won't touch it," he said. This story has been updated to clarify the scope and impact of the interior renovation.
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Out of Service

It’s official: The AT&T Building lobby is gone
Last night Manhattan Community Board 5's (CB5) Landmarks Committee unanimously approved a resolution in support of protecting the AT&T Building, Philip Johnson and John Burgee's 1984 postmodern tower on Madison Avenue. Although the objective was primarily to discuss building's historic merit and landmark eligibility, the committee's wide-ranging conversation returned repeatedly to the owner's decision to sledgehammer the building's lobby in the midst of talks with preservation groups, CB5, and other stakeholders. Much of the lobby talk focused on what constitutes interior or exterior space in a young-ish building whose public areas were cocooned by a major renovation less than a decade after it opened. In 1993, Sony Corporation, the building's new tenant, tapped Gwathmey Siegel (now Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman) to glass in a rear arcade as well as the loggias on either side of the Madison Avenue entrance, a move that created retail from previously open, public space. Although the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has already said it will not landmark the formerly exterior, now interior spaces, this didn't stop the Landmarks Committee from expressing its disappointment towards the agency's decision to okay demolition permits. The committee, seated before reporters and a half-dozen members of the public, heard remarks from the project team first. David Laurie, managing director for developer Chelsfield America, read a statement to the board on behalf of his company and Olayan America, the owner of the building and Chelsfield's partner in the redevelopment. "We have taken our role as stewards very seriously," he said. Their goal was to adapt the building, erected as the headquarters for AT&T only, into multi-occupant Class A office space for future tenants of 550 Madison, as the building is now officially known. On the ground floors, he said, renovations will "finally deliver on the building's promise for public space." Laurie explained his team has commissioned a public garden that will be "marginally larger" than the sculpture garden at MoMA, which is 21,400 square feet. Floorplans on 550 Madison's site give an idea of how the new spaces will flow together. The lobby, at center, remains in a similar configuration, as does the existing retail on either side. Behind that, plans show that the garden will replace an adjoining annex and the enclosed arcade between 55th and 56th streets. Despite these renovations, the lobby is—or rather, was—one of the best-preserved public postmodern interiors in New York. CB5 Landmarks Committee Chair Layla Law-Gisiko confirmed that, per permits the LPC signed off on in December, the lobby has been demolished. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to Chelsfield America for comment on its decision to alter the lobby but had not heard back at press time. On February 1, a representative for the developer confirmed the work described in the permit—the removal of interior partitions, ceilings, elevators, and finishes—has been completed. The representative could say whether the patterned marble floor remained intact. The ground floor plans are part of Snøhetta-led renovation of the building that was unveiled in October 2017 and immediately condemned by leading architects as context-clueless and disfiguring. Among other changes, the Oslo- and New York-based firm proposed a striking exterior alteration of the structure's monumental Madison Avenue facade that would have swapped the rosy Stony Creek granite, a contextual reference to the city's classic Beaux-Arts skyscrapers, for an undulating glass curtain wall. The outcry over the design prompted preservationist Thomas Collins to initiate the building's landmarking, which usually (though not always) stops the clock on major renovations. The LPC subsequently added the structure to its calendar for landmark consideration last November. Over objections from Collins and others, however, the LPC is only considering 550 Madison's facade and public spaces, not the lobby, for landmarking. Four members of the public spoke in support of landmarking. These included Collins, a representative of civic group the Municipal Art Society, and Liz Waytkus, the executive director of modern architecture preservation group Docomomo US. "The historic nature of AT&T is one whole design," Waytkus said. She decried what she characterized as "backroom lobbying" that led to the LPC's approval of lobby demolition permits. Others praised the building's completeness and its singular place in 20th-century architecture. "Beyond its 'period room' appeal, the AT&T lobby is a uniquely attractive space with exceptional materials and attention to detail," Collins said. "It has aged well and offers valuable lessons to a younger generation of designers bored with the antiseptic minimalism currently in vogue." Landmarks Committee Vice Chair Renee Cafaro largely agreed, calling the recommendation to landmark the (formerly) granite-walled, black-and-white marble-floored lobby "imperative." "The intent of the interior, historically, was to be the exterior—to be exposed to the elements was holistically part of the building. Even if some of the grandeur is gone, presumably the original height of the space is still there," she said. "All they really did here was throw some glass in the main archways." After some back-and-forth on the interior-exterior question, the committee drafted and approved a resolution that recommended the designation of the exterior and expressed disappointment at the LPC's approval of the lobby demo permits, saying the agency's move sets an "unfortunate precedent." The full board will vote on the Landmarks Committee's resolution at its meeting this Thursday. Although community board resolutions do not carry the weight of law, the LPC takes their decisions into account during its own deliberations. This post has been updated with new information about the state of the lobby. 
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Gutted

Exclusive: Demolition begins on AT&T Building lobby
Though it's up for landmarking, parts of the AT&T Building are being torn down this minute. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has approved demolition of the lobby at Philip Johnson and John Burgee's postmodern tower at 550 Madison Avenue. Though the 1984 tower is up for landmark consideration, the designation would only protect the facade, not the interior. Department of Buildings (DOB) records show demo plans received LPC staff approval on December 15 and permits were issued that same day. The move to sledgehammer the soaring granite-clad entrance comes even as project partners publicly support landmarking. David Laurie, Managing Director at Chelsfield America, issued a statement in support of 550 Madison's landmarking shortly after the LPC calendared the property. At that hearing, LPC commissioners debated whether to calendar the interior, too, but ultimately decided against it, as the commissioners claimed that renovations throughout the years—most notably Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman's 1993 revamp—had diminished the lobby and the atrium's integrity. A letter from the LPC to preservation advocate Thomas Collins explains the department's reasoning on the lobby. "In our evaluation the lobby does not hold the same level of broad significance," said LPC Director of Research Kate Lemos McHale. "[With] the removal of 'Golden Boy' as a focal point, alterations within the lobby itself, and its diminished relationship to the overall design of the base, we have determined that it does not rise to the level of an interior landmark." McHale's letter also stated that compared to the building's genre-defining top and base, the interiors received less attention from critics and the media, and the attention they did receive was often tepid at best. In reply, Collins, who filed the initial paperwork to landmark the AT&T Building, noted that the statue, Evelyn Beatrice Longman's Spirit of Communication, used to top AT&T's old headquarters before it was moved to the 550 Madison lobby. Even the best interiors, he explained, generally score less ink than easier-to-see exteriors. Collins also pointed out that other, older designated interiors were much altered from their original state—the Empire State Building's lobby, for example, was landmarked with a drop ceiling. On a walk by the building about a week ago, Collins saw workers had papered over the lobby and erected scaffolding inside. "It's not clear why they're rushing forward at this stage. I believe they are primarily gutting the lobby for aesthetic and marketing purposes," he said. The move to landmark the 37-story Midtown Manhattan tower (now known as the Sony Building) responds to a Snøhetta-designed plan to replace parts of the now-vacant building's monumental granite facade with a curving glass curtain wall—the Madison Avenue–facing facade was deemed "uninviting" in a press release. Among other changes, the New York– and Oslo-based firm's plan would reveal the tower's steel structure, and double the size of the public space around the building. Olayan America, the investment division of multinational The Olayan Group, and developer Chelsfield are behind the $300 million redesign. A representative for the development team promised a statement on the lobby work close to deadline (see update, below). Here's what the 550 Madison team had to say about the lobby demolition:

"All work being performed is in accordance with appropriate permits and approvals, and is being reviewed by the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission, which is not considering the interiors as part of the designation process. We support the designation of the building and are currently preparing a carefully revised design that respects 550 Madison’s importance, and we look forward to continued discussions with interested parties, including the LPC, to make that happen. We are committed to creating a rejuvenated 550 Madison that retains its important presence, works for modern office tenants, and dramatically improves public spaces and amenities available to the larger East Midtown community."

Unsurprisingly, the surprise demolition didn't please preservationists. "The LPC made this decision behind closed doors—they knew they were going to rip out the interior," said Liz Waytkus, executive director of Docomomo US. "I feel like it's a bait-and-switch." This would not be the first substantial change to the structure. In 1993, electronics giant Sony commissioned Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman to convert the loggias on either side of the main entrance into retail, and enclose the open arcade at the building's rear. Johnson served as a consultant on the project. The 550 Madison team promised extensive community outreach on the project, but aside from the Landmarks hearing, no public community meetings have been scheduled so far. When prompted, a spokesperson for the developers did not volunteer specifics on the forthcoming community outreach efforts.
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In Memoriam

Remembering Albert C. Ledner, pioneering New Orleans modernist
In the unfolding of any design movement, there are outliers who are seen as too far from the mainstream, too quirky to be celebrated by peers and historians. Over many decades of abundant architectural accomplishment, Albert C. Ledner was one of those. But he recently had the good fortune of winning widespread admiration in the months before his death on November 13 at the age of 93. Born in the Bronx in 1924, Ledner arrived in New Orleans at the age of nine months and left it only for short periods thereafter. His studies at Tulane were interrupted by his World War II service as a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. While stationed in Arizona he made a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's winter work place, Taliesin West, an event that, in his words, "had such a great bearing on my life." After the war, he finished his degree program at Tulane and spent some time with Wright at his base at Taliesin East in Wisconsin. By 1951, Ledner had started his own practice back in New Orleans, dedicated not to the Bauhaus-based Modernism largely dominating U.S. architecture of the time, but to the more adventurous variety associated with Wright. And unlike many Wright disciples, Ledner was able to escape the intimidating shadow of the master's creations to explore his own related design inspirations. Over a career that extended throughout his final years, Ledner created some 40 houses in the New Orleans area, not only designing them but directing their construction. He was thus a pioneer in the "design-build" process, led by the architect, not the builder, that has only recently been applauded in the architectural community. By proceeding this way, he was able to seize opportunities for unusual structural systems, distinctive uses of materials, and refinement of details without the tedious negotiations and cost premiums for innovation imposed by the traditional design-bid-build sequence. Ledner's relatively unfettered design approach led him to construct spaces of unconventional configuration and detail. In one house, he affixed some 1,200 amber glass ashtrays to the exterior, in part because the owners were heavy smokers (considered okay in the 1960s), but mainly because he admired the ashtrays' circle-in-a-square configuration. In another of his houses, he based his design on the owner's collection of traditional windows salvaged from the convents for which they were designed—assembling their curved-top shapes both right side–up and upside-down to striking effect. Ledner's youthful leap into structures of larger scale grew out of his first commission for the National Maritime Union for its meeting hall in New Orleans, a circular volume topped by a roof of radial, pleat-like forms. Pleased with this functional and visually iconic 1955 structure, the union commissioned him to design its buildings in the port cities of Mobile, Alabama; Baltimore, Houston, and Galveston, Texas. The most ambitious of these Maritime Union projects were the three structures he designed in Manhattan: the Joseph Curran Building in the West Village area, completed in 1964, containing its hiring hall, offices, and training facilities. Two residence halls for union members were completed later in the mid-1960s on two adjoining sites in Chelsea. All three eye-catching buildings have now been successfully and sensitively adapted for new uses. The sculptural six-story hiring hall and training structure, now under city landmark protection, is now the O'Toole Building, an emergency room and medical center. The residential structures, widely recognized for the circular windows that dot their tall facades, gracefully house the Maritime and Dream hotels. In recent years, Ledner's daughter Catherine produced a documentary on his life and work that featured a number of key buildings and much of his own charming commentary. She found an able and dedicated collaborator in Roy Beeson, her cousin on her mother's side. The film was shown in New Orleans last summer and at a September gathering co-hosted by the Modern architecture advocacy group DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State and AIA New York. For its showing at New York's Architecture and Design Film Festival in early November, Ledner himself attended and spoke, less than a week before his death. It is good to know that he was at last able to enjoy these heart-warming celebrations of his achievements. John Morris Dixon is a board member of DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State.
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#SaveATT

‘Hands off my Johnson’: Protestors rally against AT&T Building redesign
Today New York’s architecture community came out in force to protest planned renovations to the base of the AT&T Building, Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s iconic postmodern tower. "We're on for a photo op, where I cradle a model like Philip Johnson did on the cover of Time Magazine," said Robert A.M. Stern, cradling a model of the AT&T Building that RAMSA crafted for the occasion. Stern was accompanied by a coterie of designers from his firm ("my young people!"), all carrying blow-ups of the cover or "Save the Stone" posters. Architects, curators, and members of nearly all the city's major historic preservation groups were in the streets snapping pictures of each others' signs and discussing the cheeky granite tower beneath scaffolding, a sign of renovations that have stirred the ire of preservationists and postmodernists alike. The protestors, about 20 strong, were responding to a Snøhetta design released this week that would modify the ground floor public spaces and glass over the building's arched stone entry. Renovations would add a larger garden connecting the building, now known as 550 Madison Avenue, to nearby 55th Street, while a multistory glass wall would make retail spaces visible from the street. After hearing the news, filmmaker and modern architecture lover Nathan Eddy organized a protest on Facebook and put out calls to action. Already, his change.org petition to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to save the building has garnered almost 800 signatures. (Although Landmarks considers public testimony submitted through its channels, this petition is not the first official step in the landmarking process.) A few days ago, however, preservation activist Thomas Collins took that first step by submitting a formal Request for Evaluation to the LPC to designate the AT&T Building an individual and interior landmark. Despite the provocation, Eddy said the group "is not shaming Snøhetta—but we want the building to remain as is." Nearby, Docomomo US, the modern architecture preservation organization, was handing out #SaveATT pamphlets that encouraged people to write to Landmarks to show support for preserving the building, inside and out. "Radical for its return to ornamentation and playfulness of design, the AT&T building is without question a New York City landmark with broad significance to the story of American architecture," Docomomo US said in a statement. "Long misunderstood, much like its Postmodern counterpart the Portland Building, the AT&T building is a door to the future of design." Johnson experts weighed in on the controversy, too. "The building is an extraordinarily important building for New York and for the history of postmodernism," said Hilary Lewis, the Glass House chief curator and creative director. "I would encourage the owners to take a close look at what they have and [find] a way to bring it back to its former glory. Snøhetta is a significant firm that could do something interesting, but in a way that treats the integrity of the facade with greater delicacy." Since it was commissioned by AT&T in the early 1980s, the building has churned through owners. The latest, Saudi Arabian investment group Olayan America, bought the 37-story property for $1.4 billion in June 2016 with plans to convert it into offices. (RAMSA was brought on board by previous owners to turn the vacant building into luxury apartments.) This is not the first time the building has undergone substantial renovations, either. In 1993, then-owner Sony commissioned Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman to enclose the 60-foot-high north and south arcades in glass to create two retail electronics stores for Sony products, a significant rework and reduction of the building’s privately owned but publicly accessible spaces. Today, scaffolding surrounds the building, and workers were painting sheetrock in the lobby, which is closed to the public. The protest was tight-knit but attracted the attention of a few passerbys, including Noel Robichaux, a worker at the old Four Seasons restaurant who followed the restaurant when it left its Johnson-designed home last year. Robichaux hadn't known about the protest in advance, only noticed because he was passing by and said that he thinks it's "interesting that Phillip Johnson's work is under attack across the city," with two iconic buildings being assailed in such a short time. Although it wasn't present at today's event, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) is in talks with Snøhetta about the design. “We have significant concerns about the proposal,” said Tara Kelley, MAS's vice president of policy and programs. In addition to concerns about the integrity of the building, the group is also worried about the accessibility of the POPS. The redesign project team presented its plans to MAS recently, and the group's planning and preservation committee is meeting with stakeholders again soon for further discussion. One little-discussed feature of the now-sealed-off second floor space is two murals by abstract artist Dorothea Rockburne. MAS doesn’t have details on the fate of the Rockburn murals, but AN is in touch with the artist's studio and will be printing a follow-up story shortly. (Update: We got the latest from the artist herself.)
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Little Museum on the Prairie

Edward Durell Stone gem gets a comprehensive rehab
Grand Island is in the center of Nebraska. Halfway between Chicago and Denver along Interstate 80, it is perhaps best known for being the home to the Nebraska State Fair. It is also home to the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Designed by modernist architect Edward Durell Stone in 1963, the museum documents the lives of European pioneers who first settled Nebraska. Recently, the museum underwent a comprehensive renovation and rehabilitation, led by Lincoln, Nebraska–based BVH Architecture. BVH provided architectural and engineering services for the project. Working with the museum staff, the Stuhr Foundation, and the museum’s board, BVH developed a master plan to look into the 75,000-square-foot museum’s future. While addressing the changing needs of the museum’s collection and exhibition spaces, the master plan called for the careful treatment of the iconic building’s exterior. The facade, interior finishes, structural stability, HVAC system, fire and life safety, and accessibility were all addressed. Each of the improvements was designed not in interfere with the building’s operations or modernist styling. Following the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, the building was also added to the National Register of Historic Places 2015. The project also won a 2017 Docomomo Citation of Merit Award | Civic. All of this comes as the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary.
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Past and Present

Saving our heritage: top historic preservation stories from across the U.S.
Historic preservation stories always stir up a conversation: What parts of American architectural history should be preserved? What doesn't need saving? Since our last coverage of 2016's top historic preservation articles, many new buildings have become imperiled or found respite from demolition.As we celebrate America on July 4, here's an updated list that includes a unique Brutalist building in Southern Florida under threat, a recently-saved Frank Lloyd Wright home, and As we celebrate America on July 4, here's an updated list that includes a unique Brutalist building in Southern Florida under threat, a recently-saved Frank Lloyd Wright home, and many more. Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture's latest addition Without homebuilding entrepreneur Zach Rawlings, this 2,500-square-foot Frank Lloyd Wright–designed concrete home would have succumbed to developers who wanted to bulldoze it and replace it with more profitable housing. But Rawlings, along with architect Wallace Cunningham, saved the David and Gladys Wright home. Now it's being transferred to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; students will have the opportunity to engage with the building and its renovation process in a design studio specifically designed for the site. New York's landmarked Citicorp Center Plaza demolished Designed by Sasaki Associates in 1973, the Citicorp Center’s plaza and fountain were just recently demolished, despite their landmarked status. The opaque and irregular approvals process deprived the public of the opportunity to weigh in on highly visible changes to the iconic plaza. It was eventually revealed to The Architect's Newspaper that Boston Properties, the owner proposing the changes, had received permits from the Department of Building (DOB) just four days before the site was landmarked, which technically allowed the changes to be made. Fate of iconic Kenneth Treister-designed Miami tower unclear  A building that heralds back to Miami's "Tropical Brutalism" era, this Brutalist tower known as "Office in the Grove" is threatened with demolition if it is not saved and landmarked. Designed by Florida's modernist architect Kenneth Treister in 1973, it is among the first buildings to be constructed of post-tensioned concrete slabs and a completely prefabricated concrete facade. While Brutalism may be hard for the public to appreciate, the concrete style intended to create openness in public buildings while responding architecturally to the climate. According to Docomomo US/Florida, “this was Miami’s first office building to give the community an eye-level, landscaped grass berm as its facade.” The hearing for the building's landmark status will be held on September 5. New master plan proposal for The Alamo in San Antonio raises debate A $450 million plan for The Alamo Mission, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, wants to declutter its plaza, which involves relocating an historic cenotaph. Architects have expressed tentative approval of the plan, but have also voiced concerns that the current proposal—which includes glass walls separating the Alamo grounds from the rest of the city—inhibits the use of space for the public. The public was also skeptical of the glass walls, raising questions about a modern design in San Antonio's historic downtown. Philip Johnson's New York State Pavilion revamp A modernist icon, the New York State Pavilion was originally designed by architect Philip Johnson for the 1964 World's Fair. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but years of neglect have left the structure in abandoned, despite a new coat of paint in 2015. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, preservation group People for the Pavilion, and New York City government began soliciting ideas for a bold new take on the structure, ultimately selecting the design "Hanging Meadows" last August. Meanwhile, a separate $14.25 million renovation is underway to re-open the Pavilion to the public in the fall of 2019. America's first glass house, a National Treasure, will be restored  It's often referred to as "America's First Glass House." Now, the House of Tomorrow (a remnant from the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress World's Fair) by Chicago architect George Fred Keck is set to receive an update from a team of Chicago firms. There was a $2.5 million campaign to restore the house last year led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Indiana Landmarks. The building's design features glass curtain walls for passive solar heating (coming well before Philip Johnson's 1949 Glass House and Mies van der Rohe’s 1951 Farnsworth House), an "iceless" refrigerator, and the first-ever General Electric dishwasher. The restoration plan includes removing deteriorated surfaces, replacing the current glass walls with modern glass, and the revealing cantilevered steel girders that give the house its open floor plan. Gordon Bunshaft–designed addition to Albright-Knox Art Gallery threatened While he was at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Buffalo native Gordon Bunshaft created this addition to the original 1905 Albright-Knox museum; it included an auditorium with jet-black windows (seen above), galleries, and a courtyard that extends between the addition and the original building. Now, as part of a plan put forth by OMA's New York office, its courtyard and galleries would be demolished while the auditorium would remain. OMA contends that the courtyard divides the park in which the museum sits; removing it and the galleries will restore circulation to the site while making way for bigger exhibition spaces. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery still needs $20 million for the expansion, though groundbreaking is planned for April 2019. The City of New York wants to raze Wagner Park One of the best places to see Lady Liberty is Wagner Park, a small green slice of Battery Park City on the lower edge of Manhattan. Two decades ago Boston-based Machado Silvetti, in collaboration with landscape architects at OLIN, unveiled the park, an open space that ushers people towards the water’s edge with sweeping views of New York Harbor and that famous freedom statue. Now, in response to the specter of Hurricane Sandy and the threat of rising seas, the agency that oversees the area is planning a total park overhaul. The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) is set to replace the existing landscape that architects and residents love with a park it says will align better with new resiliency measures that are reshaping the Manhattan waterfront. Illinois Governor ransoms Thompson Center for public school money In an act of political wrangling that typifies the relationship between the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced that if the city would allow the sale of the Helmut Jahn–designed James R. Thompson Center, he would provide the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with additional funding. Last week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that he would block the sale of the postmodern building out of fear of having to replace the large CTA subway station beneath it.
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Hearing Tomorrow

Iconic Kenneth Treister–designed modernist Miami tower threatened
Miami has a reputation as a place that is supportive of adventurous architecture. It is home to several firms building internationally and its property developers understand the branding value of affixing design stars' names to buildings. It has, of course, been known for its winter holiday architecture going back to the 1920s and architects, for their part, seem more than willing to still build there and take a whack at a glass tower channeling South Florida’s blue sky’s, aqua water, and relaxed lifestyle. However, there was a time in the post-WWII period when Miami was less internationally focused on selling to international buyers and had a small group of local designers who tried to create another architectural aesthetic that the architectural historian Jean-François Lejeune calls ‘Tropical Brutalism.’ There is a building—known as Office in the Grove—that represents this earlier Miami aesthetic and, with its fate is uncertain, Docomomo US/Florida is asking for it to be designated as a historic architectural resource. It's is an eight-story hexagonal, concrete tower floating over a three-level, grass-landscaped pedestal and it's an example of that homegrown Miami style. It was designed in 1973 by the important Florida modernist Kenneth Treister, whose buildings are important in the urban landscape of South Florida, particularly in Miami and Miami Beach. Lejeune argues that the concrete style (arguably refined to its finest expression by Paul Rudolph on the west coast of Florida) intended to create openness in public buildings while responding architecturally to the climate, and is part of a larger argument about the style known as Brutalism. There quite a few of these public projects still in existence scattered around Florida. However, they are increasingly under attack as no longer relevant and are being reconfigured.Lejeune points, in particular, to The Miami Dade College campuses (1961) by Pancoast-Ferendino-Grafton-Burnham (with Hilario Candela as primary designer) as well as William Morgan’s Police Memorial Building (1971-75), both of which are in excellent condition. The explanation of how Brutalism was meant to be an expression of the notion of the public may be hard to understand today but was based on notions like patios, open air-circulation, monumental public entrances, and sheltered loggia "assertively conveying a nobility of public service in behalf of the law" as architect William Morgan wrote about his Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale (1976-79), now threatened. Lejeune points, in particular, to The Miami Dade College campuses (1961) by Pancoast-Ferendino-Grafton-Burnham (with Hilario Candela as primary designer) as well as William Morgan’s Police Memorial Building (1971-75), both of which are in excellent condition. The explanation of how Brutalism was meant to be an expression of the notion of the public may be hard to understand today but was based on notions like patios, open air-circulation, monumental public entrances, and sheltered loggia "assertively conveying a nobility of public service in behalf of the law" as architect William Morgan wrote about his Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale (1976-79), now threatened. As a commercial office tower, Office in the Grove is not a public building, yet it is significant for its conveyance of ‘publicness.’ This, along with many other respects, qualifies it for designation as a landmark. Besides its substantial street presence (at 2699 S. Bayshore Drive) it is among the first buildings to be constructed of post-tensioned concrete slabs and a completely prefabricated concrete facade. It features an important integration of architecture and landscape and is a building that integrated art into its concrete surface with styled period images of the Everglades. According to Docomomo US/Florida, "this was Miami's first office building to give the community an eye-level, landscaped grass berm as its facade." Office in the Grove also is one of Triester's best buildings and it would be a tragedy if it is left to the fate of developers. The hearing is September 5 and we will report on the application to preserve this important work of architecture. It will be held at the City of Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board's hearing at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr., Miami, FL 33133.
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Biennial Buddies

Chicago Architecture Biennial announces over 100 Program Partners
The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) has announced over 100 Program Partner organizations that will produce additional events and exhibitions across the city during this year’s event. Program Partners include a range of institutions, NGOs, museums, galleries, universities, and foundations. While most are based in Chicago, a number of national and international partners are also on the list. “The Program Partners of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial will further explore and examine the meaning of architecture today, and reflect and expand on the Biennial’s theme of ‘Make New History,’” said the 2017 Biennial Artistic Directors, Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee in a press release. The 2017 CAB Program Partners include: 6018North Adaptive Operations AIA Chicago AIA National AIA Practice Management Knowledge Community AIGA Chicago Archeworks Architecture & Design Society Arquitectos, Inc Art Institute of Chicago Arts + Public Life Arts Club of Chicago Aspect/Ratio Gallery Association of Architecture Organizations Benjamin Marshall Society Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation for Women Block Museum California College of the Arts Canadian Centre for Architecture Chicago Architectural Club Chicago Architecture Foundation Chicago Cultural Alliance Chicago Design Museum Chicago History Museum Chicago Ideas Week Chicago Loop Alliance Chicago Park District—Culture, Arts & Nature Chicago Public Library Chicago Women in Architecture Chinatown Public Library, Chicago City of Chicago, DCASE, Year of Public Art City of Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events City of Chicago, Department of Planning and Development Columbia Books on Architecture and the City Columbia GSAPP (Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation) Defibrillator Gallery DePaul Art Museum DePaul University Department of History of Art and Architecture Design Evanston DOCOMOMO_Chicago DuSable Museum of African American History Edgar Miller Legacy Experimental Sound Studio EXPO Chicago Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Frank Lloyd Wright Trust Friends of Historic Second Church Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Garfield Park Conservatory Glessner House Museum Goethe-Institut Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Arts Harvard Graduate School of Design Hong Kong Design Center Hyde Park Art Center Illinois Humanities Council Illinois Institute of Technology Institute for Public Architecture Lampo Landmarks Illinois Logan Center Exhibitions Mana Contemporary MAS Context Metropolitan Planning Council Mies Society Monique Meloche Gallery Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago National Museum of Mexican Art National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture National Public Housing Museum Navy Pier, Inc. Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society Northwestern University Department of Art History Palais de Tokyo Pleasant Home Foundation Preservation Chicago Rebuild Foundation Renaissance Society Rhona Hoffman Gallery Rootwork Gallery Royal Institute of British Architects US Region Ruth Page Center for the Arts SC Johnson School of Architecture at Taliesin School of the Art Institute of Chicago Sixty Inches from Center Smart Museum of Art Society of Architectural Historians The Cliff Dwellers The Farnsworth House The National Trust for Historic Preservation Annual Conference, PastForward The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation The Ruth Page Center for the Arts Unity Temple Restoration Foundation University of Chicago University of Illinois Chicago School of Architecture UW-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP) Van Alen Institute Volume Gallery Workshop 4200 "It's exciting that visitors to the Biennial and Chicago residents will be able to enjoy the architecture related programming throughout the entire city," said Mark Kelly, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. "Chicago's architectural history is embedded within every neighborhood and touches so many of our world-class cultural organizations and venues." The Chicago Architecture Biennial will run from September 16, 2017, through January 7, 2018. Once again, the center of CAB will be the historic Chicago Cultural Center on Michigan Avenue, in Downtown Chicago. The opening will align with the EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, which will run September 13 to 17 at Navy Pier.
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Rudolph Revisited

Update: Renovation of Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center nears completion
UPDATE 8/8/2017: A new image of the Orange County Government Center surfaced on Twitter and sparked quite a discussion. That tweet has been embedded below; the original article begins after the break.
Since early 2016, when images surfaced showing the skeletal condition of Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, construction has continued at a fast pace in the Village of Goshen, New York to renovate and expand the iconic Brutalist building. New pictures reveal the scope and scale of the renovations. This saga began in 2011 when the municipal occupants vacated the complex citing damages from Hurricane Irene and began the process of planning its remodeling. After Boston-based designLAB withdrew its proposal because of ethical concerns over the project’s scope, Rochester, New York–based Clark Patterson Lee took on the renovations. Against the almost united outcry of architects and preservationists, the county government ultimately decided to demolish roughly one-third of the complex and replace it with a new architectural appendage. The new wing cuts off access to the central courtyard from the outermost corners of the site and leveled much of the exterior site design, dramatically changing the building's relationship to the ground. Additionally, the corrugated concrete blocks from the facade were stripped from the reinforced concrete frame and replaced only after the interior walls and windows were gutted. The video below, from early April, shows construction in progress: In a meeting with the Orange County Building Committee in March of this year, Clark Patterson Lee presented a full set of floor plans. They show an extensive revision of the interior organization of space, favoring conventional double loaded hallways instead of Rudolph's more organic layout. The plans also indicate a subdued sectional profile that eliminates many of the dynamic elevational changes found in Rudolph's seminal sectional perspective drawing of the building. County officials were not immediately available for comment regarding their motivations for the interior refiguring or decision to demolish part of the historic structure. However, a recent report from The Warwick Advertiser does cite a county official who stated that the project would be done “on time and on budget.” For others though, discontent with the project persists. Liz Waytkus, executive director of Docomomo US, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of modern architecture, recently visited the site, calling the renovations a “cultural crime.” She also highlighted the precarious future for Rudolph's other buildings around the country, including Government Civic Center in Boston. As construction comes to an end, loyal disciples of the Brutalist style may elegize the Orange County Government Center such as Rudolph designed it; however, architects may yet find value in the final building as a cautionary case study for how to strategize future preservation efforts.
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DOCO-OH NO

As Cuba’s economy embraces global tourism, modernist works fall under threat

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Preservation efforts aimed at recognizing and restoring Cuba’s storied architectural relics—long a pet project within professional and academic circles—might finally become mainstream as the country adopts market-based policies.

The implications of these economic and political changes for Cuba’s cultural heritage—much of which suffers from decades of deferred maintenance—are potentially vast and unknown. Architect Belmont Freeman, who has led many tours to Cuba on behalf of Docomomo and the Society of Architectural Historians, said, “There are a lot of cranes in Havana right now, every one of them related to a hotel project.”

Recent years have seen a ballooning interest in Cuba by international hoteliers. European luxury-hotel group Kempinski is set open its first hotel in Cuba this summer. The hotel will feature 246 rooms in the renovated Manzana de Gómez building, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was designed as Cuba’s first shopping mall in 1910. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is also entering Cuba by taking over operations of Havana’s neoclassical Hotel Inglaterra, the Hotel Quinta Avenida, and the colonial-era Hotel Santa Isabel. The move makes Starwood the first United States hotelier to enter the Cuban market since 1959. Hotel Quinta Avenida was renovated in 2016 and opened last summer. The Hotel Inglaterra, originally built in 1844, is expected to open in late 2017 after its renovation.

Real questions exist, however, not only in terms of the quality of these renovations, but also with regard to the status of other cultural, archeological, and architectural artifacts in the country. Cuba is home to a vast array of architectural history, including relics and sites important to the indigenous cultures that originally inhabited the island. However, colonial-era fortifications and more recent building stock, including successive waves of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century development, make up the vast majority of structures across the country. What will happen to those less prominent and more sensitive relics? Many of the city’s inner neighborhoods are filled with eclectic Beaux Arts–style structures, while the outer city and its environs are a hotbed of proto- and early-modernism, with works like the Hotel Nacional by McKim, Mead & White from 1930 and the Habana Libre Hotel by Welton Becket with Lin Arroyo and Gabriela Menendez from 1958 standing out both in terms of architectural style and for their respective roles in local and international history.

Furthermore, the Revolution’s communist utopianism was codified through the prodigious production of radically progressive works of architecture by Cuban modernist architects. Those works include the expressionist National Schools of Art by Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti, and Roberto Gottardi from 1961; the Brutalist Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio Echeverria (CUJAE) building by Humberto Alonso from 1961; and the vast neighborhoods of Habana del Este that are made up of locally derived designs modeled after Soviet modular apartments.

It is unclear if and when future building improvements are undertaken across the city, whether more recent works of architecture will be prized to the same degree as colonial-era works. Freeman painted a grim picture, saying, “There has been a steady pace of cosmetic refurbishment of old buildings in the colonial core of Old Havana, but (generally speaking) historic preservation efforts have not picked up in any significant way except for those related to tourism infrastructure.”

The effects of the recent formal economic and political changes in official policy are not necessarily new phenomena, however: Havana has strong track record of using historic preservation as an economic driver. The office of the City Historian, led by Eusebio Leal Spengler, has pioneered local attempts to embed the preservation and restoration of Old Havana’s neighborhoods into economic development plans. Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, and while many projects in the colonial core have benefitted from Leal Spengler’s efforts—namely the restoration of Plaza Vieja and a slew of other properties the office has converted for hotel and tourismuses—many of the city’s early modernist and post-revolutionary architectural marvels sit in various states of decay and disrepair. The restoration of the National Art Schools was, until recently, slated for completion and renovation. Those efforts have petered out, subsumed by a new economic downturn following geopolitical turmoil in Venezuela, one of Cuba’s chief oil providers.

Cuban architect Universo Garcia Lorenzo, who was coordinating the renovations for the National Art Schools until the funding dried up, explained that with the Cuban government strapped for cash, major restoration projects in the country will have to rely on international funding. Some help is coming: The Italian government is funding the continuation of work on Gottardi’s School of Dramatic Arts and also, England’s Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation was working to finance the rehabilitation of the ruined, Garatti-designed School of Ballet. But, Garcia Lorenzo said, “I can’t speculate now on when the restoration will be completed,” adding that despite the fact that Porro’s School of Plastic Arts and School of Modern Dance had been completely renovated in 2008, the current funding lapses meant there would be a shortage of funds “dedicated to maintaining those structures into the future.”

International funding cannot come soon enough, as the partially completed and dilapidated structures are exposed to the tropical elements. Garcia Lorenzo said, “Essentially, the three unfinished buildings are frozen in time, slowly decaying and waiting to be restored.”

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Up for Grabs

Peter Eisenman’s ‘House II’ is for sale and listed at $425,000
UPDATE, 5/26/2017: The following statement was released by Docomomo US:
After a year-long attempt to find new stewards, Peter Eisenman’s House II in Hardwick, Vermont is reaching the zero hour. Devin Colman, the Architectural Historian for the State of Vermont, contacted Docomomo US this week stating, "the owner is willing to sell the house and 15 acres for $425,000 to anyone who will save the house. If it doesn’t sell, he has a buyer ready to purchase it for the land only, demolish House II, and build a new home on the site. The buyer wants to close by the end of June so he can start demolition this summer.
Only the price in the title has been amended. The article otherwise appears as it did on April 24.

Have you always dreamed of living in the cozy hills of Vermont? Do 80 acres of organic farmland and a pond sound just lovely? How about windows in your bedroom overlooking the beautiful mountains and the neighboring rooms?
If this sounds like the life for you, look no further than American architect Peter Eisenman’s experimental ‘House II,’ which has just hit the market for $850,000. ‘House II’ is the second of ten experimental houses designed by Eisenman, and one of only four that were ever built. The project was built in 1969 and the listing hails it as a “mid-century modern” home. Potential buyers should be warned, however, Eisenman’s version of modernism in 'House II' relates more to Noam Chomsky's linguistic structuralism than to the Case-Study Houses and Palm Springs aesthetic that are usually associated with the phrase ‘mid-century modern.’ Eisenman’s experimental houses were known for, well, being very experimental and challenging conventional ways of living. When designing 'House II' Eisenman aimed to create something ambiguous, resembling both an architectural model, an object that dwells in an enigmatic world often lacking scale and materiality, and a home, something physical and, in most cases, functional. In order to accomplish this, Eisenman designed a series of volumes and planes around a square, three-by-three grid. The end result is a home that feels more like an inhabitable sculpture than a traditional house. Since its completion, the home has gotten a new roof (something about flat roofs and Vermont snow causing leaks) and a complete renovation to bring it back to its original semi-livable glory. If all the above facts still do not deter you, you can visit the home’s listing on Zillow here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.