All posts in Preservation

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Concrete Paradise

Paul Rudolph’s Milam Residence splashes onto the market

Paul Rudolph’s Milam Residence, located in Ponte Vedra Beach outside of Jacksonville, Florida, has hit the market for $4,445,000, according to the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. Built from 1959 to 1961 and situated on just over two acres of land, the property boasts 6,800 square feet of living space, a swimming pool, and a guest house separated by a central courtyard. Between the two residences, there are five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and two half-bathrooms. Other amenities include central air-conditioning and an in-ground sprinkler system.

Perhaps the Milam Residence’s most distinctive feature is its eastern frontage, which faces the Atlantic Ocean. A series of rectangular concrete block extrusions extend outward from the houses’s windows, adding a 3D depth effect to the facade and distinguishing the building from its neighbors. The hard edges of the structure contrast markedly with the softness of the surrounding beach, helping the house stand out as a local landmark.

As Rudolph’s only building in northeastern Florida, the home has remained in the hands of the Milam family since attorney Arthur Milam originally commissioned the project in the late 1950s. At the time, Rudolph was still in the incipient stages of a career that would be defined by some of the most renowned concrete and modernist designs in the country, including the Yale School of Architecture’s Paul Rudolph Hall in 1963. In a move that reflects both the architect’s renown and growing interest in the preservation of modernist buildings as unique cultural artifacts, the Milam Residence was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. With an eye toward the future of the property, the Milam family is searching for a buyer who understands the home’s architectural significance and recognizes this as an opportunity not just to live by the sea, but to own a piece of history that needs to be properly cared for.

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Feu! Feu!

New report details what went wrong the night of the Notre-Dame fire
Apparently, Notre-Dame Cathedral was more likely to collapse than we were led to believe on April 15, when a historic fire sent not only Paris but the world into a state of mourning over the potential loss of a beloved architectural landmark.  The New York Times has discovered, after reviewing hundreds of documents and completing a series of interviews with church officials and leaders from the fire security company responsible for Notre-Dame, that there was a major miscommunication about where exactly the flames had started. According to the report, when the fire alarm went off at 6:18 p.m., the guard sent to check on the warning went to the wrong building—the sacristy, not the attic—which seriously delayed the response effort.  It took 30 minutes before anyone realized what was happening. By the time the guard climbed up to “the forest,” the famous attic constructed of aged timber beams holding up the roof, the fire was unstoppable. Failure to identify the location of the blaze in time was only the first misstep in a series of errors that night.  The NYT found another critical reason why the damage was so bad; the fire warning system was “so arcane that when it was called upon to do the one thing that mattered — warn “fire!” and say where — it produced instead a nearly indecipherable message.” Reporters uncovered archival documents in a Paris library detailing the lengths at which the cathedral staff and fire protection experts had taken over six years to put the alarm in place, but it was simply too old and too slow. Not only that, but Notre-Dame’s attic didn’t contain any sprinklers or firewalls.  Perhaps one of the most unfortunate causes of the blaze was the newness of the employee who communicated the location of the fire to the guard. The NYT reported that it was only his third day on the job, and he had just started a double shift manning the presbytery room, which contained a complicated control panel that alerted him to smoke anywhere in the complex. There’s debate over whether he understood the alert and whether he communicated it correctly. Recent staff cuts at Notre-Dame had left him solo, according to The Telegraph. The cathedral’s spire had fallen an hour into the fight against the blaze, and the fire was so all-consuming that all firefighters on site were ordered to return to the ground where, after realizing the wind was pushing the fire towards the northern bell tower, they switched their efforts to save that structure instead. By 9:45 p.m., things were under control.  This NYT report sheds light on the various elements that caused the fire at Notre-Dame to get so far out of control. By chronicling the night’s events, hour by hour, we can now see how fragile the cathedral truly was, and how close we were to losing it forever—and by some estimates, still are. An official investigation by the French government is still ongoing to determine the cause of the fire, though it’s believed that no malice was intended. As of yesterday, parliament has approved a bill to reconstruct Notre-Dame by 2024, meaning the $954 million collected in donations following the fire will go directly to the restoration. According to the Senate, the building will be rebuilt to historical accuracy, though it will be a while before that can begin. Work on reinforcing the structure is currently proceeding very slowly and the project’s chief architect says it could still collapse if the flying buttresses aren’t shored up properly, CNN reports
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Futuro on the Roof

This strip club's VIP room is a long-forgotten Futuro house
I first encountered a Futuro house in a lavish palazzo during Milan Design Week in 2016. It was part of Louis Vuitton’s exhibition Objets Nomades. Fifty years, ago, a futuristic prefab house hit the market in the U.S.A. Originally designed in the 1960s by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, the portable houses featured built-in furniture, a full bedroom and bathroom, heating and air conditioning, as well as a living room and dining room. The fiber-reinforced fiberglass shell was punctuated by oval windows—an iconic shape now associated with futuristic design (and UFOs). But despite its place in design history, very few Futuro houses remain. There are around 60 of the houses left, which have become a mix of residences, tourist-draws on Airbnb, and museum pieces, among other quirky uses. The most exciting might be in Tampa Bay, Florida. Suuronen's company stopped production in 1975, partly due to rising production costs in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. One house, a display model used in Clearwater, ended up in the hands of local Futuro dealership manager Jerry DeLong, who also happened to also own “2001 Odyssey"—a local strip club. The spaceship first appeared in ads in 1971, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The club was making big money until the mob pressured DeLong to sell, and, according to the Tampa Bay Times, fell under the ownership of “the Trafficantes,” or the crew led by Santo Trafficante Jr. Several years later, in 1974, Pasquale “Pat” Matassini bought the club, but Matassini was later convicted of distributing $1 million in counterfeit cash, and in 1992, was accused of having ties to the Tampa crime family because he owned a bar called Godfather’s on Trafficante-owned land. These days, according to the Tampa Bay Times, "the spaceship is entered via a carpeted staircase from the first floor of the club. There’s a curved bar in the center, serving soft drinks and water. Black lace curtains hang over leather booths that wrap around the mirrored walls. The ceiling is adorned with glow-in-the-dark constellations and a disco ball." the Futuro house has become 2001 Odyssey's VIP room." Well, this is one possible “future,” but probably not the one Suuronen imagined for his visionary design. For more on where the other remaining Futuro houses have landed, check out thefuturohouse.com.
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A Center for Corbusiers

Le Corbusier's final project opens to the public with Mon univers
To even the most casual observer, Le Corbusier has become a household name. His lifetime achievements in brutalist architecture, city planning, and pilotis represent his tireless search for modernism, and now, more than a half-century after his death, the Swiss architect’s legacy is being reconsidered with the public reopening of his final work, the Centre Le Corbusier, in Zurich. Originally named the Heidi Weber Museum, or “La Maison de l’Homme,” Le Corbusier designed the museum for his friend and patron Heidi Weber. A tireless devotee to the architect and his other forays into art, Weber envisioned displaying her large collection of Corbusier-designed objects in this purpose-built building. It is the only museum exclusively dedicated to an architect as a visual artist and includes his paintings, sculptures, furniture, tapestries, and collages, among other media. The museum recognizes the building itself as central to the collection and narrative as well, as many of Corbusier's artistic ideas are manifest in his final body of work—despite being one of his only buildings composed almost entirely of glass and steel. The building aligns with many modernist ideals and aesthetics. The structure was prefabricated, with the steel parts cast in foundries off-site and installed in the largest pieces possible. The primary color scheme is a nod to the De Stijl, a popular Dutch movement focusing on color founded after World War I. Corbusier also manages to integrate his signature concrete elements in the highly stylized inner staircase and in the fabrication of an external ramp. The concrete is raw and textured, and the lines of the formwork are visible for posterity. Warm wooden elements on walls and on the stairs add a soft contrast between the natural and manufactured materials of the building, as seen in his famous works at Ronchamp and the Maisons Jaoul. Le Corbusier died the same year he completed the design for the museum, however. The building was completed two years later in 1967, but only after the chaos of the unexpected death and the assemblage of a new construction team. The building faced further complications after its final opening, as its sole proprietor, Heidi Weber, struggled to maintain the museum both physically as well as programmatically, with the building often only sporadically open as Weber juggled logistics and operating costs. In 2014 Weber’s 50-year operating term came to a close, and the city of Zurich began its search for a replacement that would celebrate Le Corbusier’s legacy and final work in the way the architect envisioned. The Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, a specialist institution for art and communication, was selected in 2019 and both city and museum agreed to invest in inside-out renovations. Local architects Silvio Schmed and Arthur Rüegg were selected to head up the project, and the pair collaborated on the restoration process while adhering to preservationist principles. The opening exhibition, Mon univers, runs through November 17 and achieves the exhibition vision of the famous Swiss architect and his patron—an impressive and comprehensive collection of Corbusier’s art and objects acquired on world travels, coupled with both a photographic exhibition highlighting the architect himself by René Burri.
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Outstanding Universal Value

Eight Frank Lloyd Wright buildings are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites
A collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of The 20th Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, a 382-page nomination document. The eight major works span fifty years of Wright’s career and represent the first modern architecture designation in the country on the prestigious list. The designation was announced during the World Heritage Committee meeting on July 7 in Baku, Azerbaijan. The property consists of eight buildings, including Unity Temple (1909, Oak Park, IL), the Frederick C. Robie House (1910, Chicago, IL), Taliesin (1911, Spring Green, Wisconsin), the Hollyhock House (1921, Los Angeles, CA), the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (1937, Madison, Wisconsin), Taliesin West (1938, Scottsdale, Arizona), Fallingwater (1939, Mill Run, Pennsylvania), and the Guggenheim Museum (1959, New York). UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) recognizes landmarks or sites for having cultural, historical, or scientific relevance throughout the world. The international importance of a potential World Heritage Site celebrates places of “outstanding universal value.” The process to be added is strict, with locations needing to meet certain criteria, such as being an example of human creative genius. Wright is widely considered to be the greatest American architect of the 20th century. In its nomination, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy stressed Wright’s architecture as a response to functional and emotional needs, the evolving American lifestyle, and rooted in nature’s forms and principles. The Wright nomination has been in development for more than 15 years. Spearheaded by the Chicago-based Conservancy, the nonprofit organization facilitates the preservation and stewardship of the remaining structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. "Each of these buildings offers innovative solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work or leisure," wrote members of the World Heritage Committee in a press release announcing the designation. "Wright's work from this period had a strong impact on the development of modern architecture in Europe." Wright’s buildings will be the 24th American site on the World Heritage List, which includes over 1,000 sites around the world. The U.S. Department of State’s press office released a statement expressing pleasure about the decision, though in 2018 the Trump administration withdrew from UNESCO, citing anti-Israel bias. A majority of American sites on the list are national parks, as well as Thomas Jefferson’s neoclassical Monticello and the University of Virginia.
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Love It or List It

Chicago’s Thompson Center is up for sale
Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker has signed a law that authorizes the sale of Helmut Jahn’s controversial postmodern icon, the James R. Thompson Center. Postmodern buildings have only recently become eligible for landmark status, a fact that highlights the need to preserve significant buildings that have years to go before reaching a minimum of 50 years old. The center is located prominently in Chicago’s Loop at 100 West Randolph Street, where it takes up an entire city block, with a Chicago Transit Authority “L” train station nestled underneath. Stout and glassy, the massive building opened in 1985 as the home of state government offices. It was named after Illinois’s longest-serving governor, James R. Thompson, who chose Jahn’s then-futuristic design. Aiming to invoke ideas of “an open government,” Jahn designed a glass-encased 17-story atrium and a large exterior plaza in a bid to create contemporary large public spaces. Chicagoans either love it or hate it. The story of the Thompson Center is a political saga that could end in a daring feat of conservation or a sad finale of destruction. Preservationists have been rallying and petitioning for the building to achieve landmark status since the first mention of its possible demise in 2007, when Governor Rod Blagojevich said he was interested in selling it. However, since the building is known for its major maintenance issues, like heating and cooling problems and physical deterioration, it will likely be demolished rather than repurposed. The Architect’s Newspaper's Midwest contributor Jamie Evelyn Goldsborough reached out to major figures in the Chicago architecture and preservation community for their takes on the controversy. Alexander Eisenschmidt, designer and architectural theorist, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture: Jahn’s Thompson Center is certainly a quintessential Chicago construct. Not so much for its often cited but rarely understood postmodernism, but because of its urban and infrastructural theater. In fact, reducing it to its material, color, and formal palette (its architecture) diminishes its public function (its urbanism). After all, the building is a subway stop, an elevated train station, a pedway intersection, an interior marketplace, a food court concourse, an exterior plaza, and the list goes on—a kind of city-extension that inhales and breathes public life. In an age of ever-expanding privatization, aggressive outsourcing, and shrinking government investment in public services and facilities, the sale of the Thompson Center is yet another instance of the lack of inventiveness and a blind belief in quick fixes (not unlike Chicago’s disastrous parking meter sell-off). But it’s also a mistake for architects to focus on preservation. There is the potential for crafting solutions for a productive (even lucrative) re-, dis-, mis-, trans-, and cross-use of this piece of the city. John Ronan, architect, professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture: The State of Illinois Building should be saved (and repurposed). It's one of the few good examples of postmodern architecture in Chicago from a period of architectural history that was not particularly kind to the city. Bob Somol, design critic and theorist, professor and director of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago: The debate over the shaky future of a once-futurist ruin raises paradoxical questions about postmodern preservation and the ongoing privatization of the public realm. What happens when a rhetorical ruin becomes a literal ruin within 30 years of its completion, when a project that inaugurated a mixed public-private model of government itself falls victim to economic expediency? Helmut Jahn’s 1985 Thompson Center was an awkward building at an awkward time, appearing after faith in public monuments had waned, but before the rise of iconic spectacles. It was the James Stirling building that Chicago never got, typical of many atrocities of the ’80s that attempted the shotgun marriage of high tech and historicism. The Thompson Center remains Chicago’s only legitimate heir to this thankfully aborted legacy. And for all of these reasons and more, we should keep the starship boldly going. Stanley Tigerman, architect: I don’t want to comment about it, because I will say something bad. Ellen Grimes, associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: It’s our own lesson in John Portman/Jon Jerde postmodernism, repurposed for retail politics. I love it! It makes the ’80s urban in a way that didn’t happen with similar buildings of the period. There’s nothing like floating up the escalator from the Red Line into a monumental atrium that smells like burgers and falafel. To save it, [Governor] Pritzker should use it as the emblematic policy initiative in reforming the state’s pathetic finances. He should landmark it, lease it to a casino/hotel operator, and send the profits straight into the state’s underfunded mass transit budget. (Imagine playing the slot machines as you get off the train.) That way, we get to keep the thing, and get some money out of it, and it’s climate friendly. And Thompson gets the monument he deserves. Iker Gil, architect, editor-in-chief of MAS Context: It is a significant building with a truly remarkable interior public space. Unlike most buildings, here we have one that welcomes people and celebrates public space. We need to think beyond its current state of neglect and envision its potential. It can become a vibrant 24-7 space with the addition of expected and odd uses that can be combined unconventionally. The building has unique characteristics and it should remain a unique place, but, as Tim Samuelson would say, the building is in a period of aesthetic limbo. It’s not old enough to be appreciated; there is no historic perspective. Given time, care, and a programmatic overhaul, it would find its place in the history of the city. Chicago can’t afford to continue to demolish unique buildings only to replace them with generic ones for a quick economic return. This practice won’t solve Chicago’s structural issues, and the city will lose its assets and identity. Nathan Eddy, filmmaker, Starship Chicago: The Thompson Center shouldn’t just be an official landmark for Chicago; it should also be listed on the National Register of Historic Places alongside Adler & Sullivan’s Auditorium Building or the Chicago Federal Center by Mies van der Rohe. I defy anyone to stand in the Thompson Center’s launchpad rotunda and not be moved by that magical, mirrored-glass cyclone of space. It courses with power and drama and excitement and an expansive, glittering optimism. It doesn’t look dated to thousands of young people who gasp when they walk into it—to them it looks like the future. Are we really prepared to give up this prime, publicly owned forum in the civic heart of Chicago for a bargain-basement price? To be replaced with what?—a mute glass box designed not by an architect but by some false acceptance rate algorithm? And perhaps—if we’re good—a handful of half-hearted privately owned public spaces? Sounds like small plans to me. Judith De Jong, architect and urban designer, associate professor and associate dean for academic programs at the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago: Built 20 years apart, and each very much of its respective time, the Brutalist Netsch campus at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the postmodern Thompson Center are unlikely bedfellows. However, both are hard-to-love forms of architecture that are seemingly out of style, and both once modeled important new forms of public access to public institutions that are perhaps even more important today. The Netsch campus, which opened in early 1965, was a new model of an urban public university, making higher education accessible to a wide range of new audiences. Rather than mimic the pastoral forms of the traditionally rural public university (the model of which was the University of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson), Walter Netsch and his team from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill sought to materialize a new expression of public education through urban and architectural design. Conceptualized as a pebble dropped in a pond, representing “knowledge spreading out,” the dense inner rings of campus contained the shared lecture halls and classroom buildings, flanked by the library and the student union, while outer rings contained discipline-specific buildings. The campus was connected throughout by raised walkways—human highways designed for a projected enrollment of 32,000 students—that came together in a great public amphitheater called the Circle Forum at the literal and conceptual center. Photographs of the campus at the time show the Forum’s use as an important space of daily life. Buildings were also carefully arranged to shape urban parks and plazas for public student life across the site. The Thompson Center, which opened in 1985, was a new model of access to urban public government. Rather than mimic the classical grandeur of the Illinois State Capitol Building, Helmut Jahn and his team from Murphy/Jahn Architects materialized a new expression of state governance through an enormous interior atrium—a lopped off rotunda—limned by 16 floors of the mostly open offices of public employees. The atrium was intended as an active, new, year-round public “plaza” in the middle of downtown, enabled by “retail” government services like the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as shops, a food court, and integrated access to the Chicago Transit Authority trains. At the Thompson Center, government was meant to be as accessible and transparent as the building itself. As experiments in new forms of public institutions, both UIC and the Thompson Center had their issues, all of which were or are solvable, should the political will exist. At UIC, complaints about the walkways, framed through concerns about maintenance, safety, and a lack of “green,” led to their eventual demolition in the 1990s, taking the Circle Forum amphitheater with them. Likewise, the environmental and maintenance issues at the Thompson Center are well-documented, and just as Netsch provided possible solutions to issues at UIC that were ignored, Jahn has provided possible options for the Thompson Center that are being ignored. But whereas at UIC the form of the campus was diminished by the loss of the Circle Forum, its overall organization and many of its original buildings remain basically intact. Moreover, UIC continues to be a state institution, and as such, the architecture and urban design remain a powerful symbol of public access to higher education. While I believe strongly that a robust public life can and does occur in privately owned spaces, which could perhaps be the case at the Thompson Center should it be sold to a sympathetic owner, much more is at stake here. In an era of relentless privatization, where public institutions are under sustained attack, the sale of the Thompson Center would be a significant blow to the idea of public access to state government, and raises a much more fundamental question: Is the public institution, rather than its architecture, going out of style?
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Mallcore

OMA to convert historic Houston post office into mixed-use bonanza
OMA has revealed plans to convert Houston’s Barbara Jordan Post Office into an office building and mall with a rooftop farm. POST Houston will turn the 57-year-old former post office and warehouse, situated on a sprawling 16-acre site in the Theater District, into a mixed-use venue designed to attract arts and creative tenants to the previously industrial downtown Houston. According to the Houston Chronicle, the concrete-finned structure was designed by Wilson Morris Crain & Anderson and used as a post office until it closed in 2014. The 500,000-square-foot project is predominately devoted to offices (130,000 square feet for regular offices, and 20,000 for coworking), followed by a hotel and a venue (70,000 and 80,000 square feet, respectively). About 60,000 square feet of retail will be complemented by 50,000 square feet of public spaces and a 45,000-square-foot food hall. 45,000 square feet of space for arts and culture activities round out the program. Developer Lovett Commercial will use historic tax credits to convert the building. OMA Partner Jason Long is the lead on the project. On his watch, the roofs of three atria will be hacked off and replaced with ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) panels to daylight each of the spaces, while connectivity will be improved with an assortment of staircases up to the roof, that zig-zag around tiered retail on the first and second floors. Each atrium has been named after the shape of its unique stairway; the project will gain "X," "Z," and "O" atriums. More about that roof: It will feature a garden and farm spooled out over a combined 170,000 square feet, bringing the total project to 670,000 square feet. When complete, it will be one of the largest planted rooftops in the world. Restaurants in POST Houston will be able to source fresh vegetables from the garden. Chicago's Hoerr Schaudt is the landscape architect on this part of the project, which was dubbed Skylawn in a press release. Houston's Powers Brown Architecture is the executive architect, while the New York-based MTWTF is handling the wayfinding signage.
Construction on phase one began in 2016 and is expected to finish in 2020.
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Coworking Coming Soon

DesignAgency to retrofit L.A.'s historic Bradbury Building for coworking
NeueHouse, the private coworking space company in Hollywood, has announced its expansion to the iconic Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. Coming this November, the up-and-coming company will cement its place in the history of businesses that have occupied the 126-year-old property.  Built in 1893, the Romanesque-office building is lauded for its Victorian-style skylit atrium—a narrow scene featuring balustrades of ornate ironwork and a series of walkways, stairs, and elevators that conjure up memories of a Parisian alleyway. It was designed by architect Sumner Hunt and is the oldest commercial building in L.A.’s central city. Following a $7 million renovation in the 1990s, square footage in the city-landmarked building has been in high demand. In recent years, it’s been home to a Chinese art gallery, an architecture and design museum, Marvel Comics, and the Berggruen Institute, among others. The police department currently holds a 50-year lease for its office of internal affairs.  Keeping this productive and inspired spirit in mind, NeueHouse has called upon local firm DesignAgency to outfit the second floor of the building with a contemporary vision that’s respectful of the structure’s historic integrity. Utilizing the entirety of the 25,000 square feet of space, the design team will have plenty of room to build out amenities for the company’s professional members, such as a gallery, lobby café, conference space, private offices, and a meditation nap room. According to DesignAgency’s founding partner Anwar Mekhayech, this is what the interior architecture studio does best.  “Inhabiting signature buildings, we create interiors that offer a sense of history, an air of residential modernity, an aura of timelessness,” he said. “At the same time, we are driven by the challenge of anticipating every need of the contemporary creative professional.”  The Bradbury Building is a fitting second West Coast location for NeueHouse given the track record of innovation and artistry that’s happened within the historic structure. Many films such as the original Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer have been shot in the five-story building, as well as music videos by Janet Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire, Cher, and Justin Timberlake. According to NeueHouse CEO Josh Wyatt, who just secured $30 million in funding for the startup, the new space supports its main goals. “Our mission of fostering a creative system at the intersection of commerce and culture, underpinned by design-driven environments, elevated hospitality, and original cultural programming, is what sets NeueHouse apart.” NeueHouse Bradbury is the company’s third location. In 2016, the company opened its flagship office in the former West Coast CBS headquarters at Columbia Square, which is currently at capacity and boasts an extensive waitlist for membership. Its second spot in Madison Square, New York, is full as well.
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Laser Mies at the Planetarium

The Farnsworth House will get an x-ray makeover for the Chicago Architecture Biennial
All eyes will be on Plano, Illinois, the small town nearly 60 miles west of the city that’s home to the Miesian masterpiece Farnsworth House, for the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial. Artists Iker Gil and Luftwerk duo, Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, are teaming up to shed new light on the pioneering international style house, lining its underlying geometries with beams of neon laser light. The laser installation, Geometry of Light, will be open to the public from October 11th to 13th for an evening walk-through like no other.  Fitted out for a tech- and social media-savvy audience, the neon-saturated installation is sure to bring attention to the Fox River site, as the home will become the next in a series of architectural icons to get the Luftwerk treatment. In 2011, the collective brought a prototype of Geometry of Light to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater for its 75th anniversary. That installation was named INsite, and the artists collaborated with video designer Liviu Pasare and composer Owen Clayton Condon to create an audiovisual study of the house. INsite focused on outlining the building's geometric components and the experience of moving through the lines of the space. An INsite-style study was also conducted independently for the Farnsworth house in 2014 However, the latest iteration of Luftwerk’s fluorescent vision debuted this past February as Geometry of Light was applied to another famous Mies project, the Barcelona Pavilion. Both the Pavilion and the Farnsworth House, with their open, overtly modernist massings, appear to be viewed through an x-ray after Luftwerk's illumination, exposing the bones of the building from a fresh new perspective. The 2019 Farnsworth exhibit will also be enhanced by sound, as a “minimalist” soundtrack will be pumped through the home in sync with the visuals.  The installation is a notable part of a wave of recent publicity for the Farnsworth House, as effort mounts to attract attention towards its preservation. Situated on the Fox River floodplain, the property of the modernist monument has been inundated by water several times since 2013, and a debate has erupted amongst preservationists and the home’s current owner over whether to protect the house or to take more drastic measures: relocation. Even though the house sits on stilts, the swampy site presents structural dangers and the stilts may not prove high enough as the flooding is predicted to worsen.  “Such are the choices in an era when disastrous '100-year floods' seem to occur every few years,” a spokesperson for The National Trust for Historic Preservation, who have owned and operated the structure since 2003, told the Chicago Tribune. The group even suggested the installation of hydraulic jacks programmed to physically elevate the base of the house when floodwaters rise.  Though the Mies-designed home is about an hour-and-a-half drive from the Chicago Biennial's core, Luftwerk’s eye-catching installation is sure to saturate the social media airwaves come this fall.
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Eames for the Sky

The Getty Conservation Institute charts a 100-year plan for the Eames House
It’s not easy being a septuagenarian, especially when your bones are made of steel and your skin consists of little more than brittle sheets of single-pane glass. Just ask the Eames House, an icon of midcentury industrial modernism designed as a personal residence by storied design duo Charles and Ray Eames in 1949. The conservation of the breezy home, filled with the eclectic knick-knacks and thoughtful design objects that define the couple’s colorful and practical oeuvre, is the subject of a new plan crafted by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), the Eames Foundation, and project architects Escher GuneWardena Architecture that aims to preserve the residence for posterity. Described as an “outstanding international exemplar of postwar modern residential design” by GCI, the house, a national historic landmark, sits on a scrubby, eucalyptus-filled bluff outside Los Angeles overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was originally developed as part of the influential Case Study House Program initiated by Arts and Architecture magazine editor John Entenza. Organized as a pair of spartan volumes set on a landscaped terrace, the home pioneered a new approach to residential design that married soaring, interlocking interiors with industrial construction materials—steel trusses, plywood paneling, and expanses of early curtain wall glass—to “humanize” the fruits of mass production while also providing effervescent but economical accommodations. But in the decades since, those then-experimental approaches have shown their wear, despite the Eames Foundation’s laudable stewardship. GCI’s plan, like the inventive spirit that went into designing the house, will work as a global case study in its own right by piloting conservation and research approaches for stabilizing and maintaining modernist-era structures. Detailed conditions assessments, an inventory of existing elements, and long-term site stabilization strategies are being developed in conjunction with the plan in an effort to create an approach that better resembles a cohesive preservation ethos rather than a detailed to-do list for the home. As a result, the effort is focused on problem-solving tasks like replacing asbestos tiles with nontoxic finishes, adding moisture barriers to prevent indoor condensation, and examining microscopic layers of paint around the premises to develop a detailed color-coded timeline for the complex. Describing the plan, Tim Whalen, the John E. and Louise Bryson Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, said, “While the GCI undertakes initiatives all over the world, it is critical to recognize the important organizations that we engage locally, like our work at the Eames House,” adding, “We are pleased that the completion of the Conservation Management Plan will now guide future conservation efforts.”
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It Goes to 11

Audible opens its next chapter in a New Jersey church
Audible’s “Innovation Cathedral” opened its doors on May 17, bringing 80,000 square feet of high-tech office space for 400 employees to Newark, New Jersey. The name is much more than a metaphor. The Newark–based audiobook company converted a cathedral at 15 James Street— formerly the home of the Second Presbyterian Church—and two adjacent church buildings into its technology offices. Perkins Eastman restored the landmarked exterior and the global firm Spector Group handled the interior transformation. The finished design actually unites three buildings into one. A Gothic church—erected in 1932—was connected in the back to the 108-year-old Hunter Hall, a squat former parish house, which is joined to a large brick community center that sits at the very end. As the middle building in the site, Hunter Hall was designated as the main entrance and central circulation point to reach the cathedral and community center. The church-to-office conversion involved dropping an entirely new structure within the shell of the landmarked cathedral. Thus the new office structure doesn’t touch the walls of the church. Instead, Spector Group used a series of freestanding, elevated platforms to build out space and create new vantage points. “We created catwalks and perches around the sanctuary with glass dividers so you’re able to look down from the top library floor all the way to the lower main level,” said Marc Spector, principal and owner of Spector Group. As such, the conversion preserved many of the features of the original church and adjoining buildings. The auditorium, basketball court, and bowling alley in the community center were restored, as well as the pipe organ and organ screen in the main sanctuary space. All of the original cathedral’s paneling, pews, and groin vaults were kept intact. Its stained-glass windows were minimally modified to remove overtly religious references and create a more inclusive workspace. Game areas, lounges, an exhibition area, production rooms, and a commissary floor were added. Flexibility and deference to the cathedral were the driving motivators for Spector Group’s design. The employees in the Innovation Cathedral are all technologists, with different teams assigned to specific floors. However, there are no set desks and workers can sit wherever they’d like on their floor. “We added floor space in Hunter Hall, capped by this beautiful Tiffany glass ceiling that we rear-lit to really give it presence,” said Spector. “It’s an incredible edifice, and after three and a half years of working through existing conditions, we were [still] finding treasures of structure each time we did a little bit more demolition. We had to be flexible in the design.”

Architect of Record: Perkins Eastman Architects

Interior Architect: Spector Group

Associate Architect: Bill Mikesell Associates

Structural Engineer: Silman

Contractor: Century 21

Mechanical Engineering: Goldman Copeland Associates, PC

Exterior and Interior Lighting Designer: Bliss Fasman Inc.

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Erasing History

National Trust for Historic Preservation names 2019's most endangered places
The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) released its annual list of the U.S.'s most endangered places on May 30, highlighting an often surprising group of places and spaces threatened by forces like climate change and aggressive developer schemes across the country. While a listing signals a building’s realistic peril, a listing can also aid in reviving a building, as the NTHP brings national attention to the spaces, which can help spark awareness and action. The list has been published for 32 years, and has highlighted over 300 places. In that same time period, only five percent of the listings were actually lost. Katherine Malone-France, the interim chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation said in a statement, “We know that this year’s list will inspire people to speak out for the cherished places in their own communities that define our nation’s past.” The tides of taste often bring buildings in styles like postmodernism and brutalism to the list. The youngest building selected this year is the Thompson Center in Chicago, a spaceship-shaped building of glass and steel known for its soaring 13-floor atrium. In 1985, the design was meant to allude to a new, more transparent government. However, like many of the listed buildings, the Thompson Center is in danger due to neglect and financial troubles. Often developers see these historic buildings as opportunities for more profitable high rises or denser floor plans, and swoop in on economically imperiled lots. Nashville's Music Row, a historic district listed this year, is threatened by a tantalizing proximity to the city's downtown core and its relatively low density. Developers are itching to knock down the 19th-century homes and set plans in motion for high rises and corporate office spaces, much more profitable footprints that would erase much of the music-making history of the city. Aside from development, climate change and social justice histories also play a large role in the 2019 selections; the iconic National Mall Tidal Basin is under threat from rising sea levels and unstable sea walls. Small establishments, like the Excelsior Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, an African-American social club dating from 1944, that trace the history of race relations in America, have far less attention and protection.  The eleven design landmarks that make up the 2019 list are not only aesthetically appealing, but they are also vital chapters of the American cultural, historical, and artistic stories, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to help inspire their rescue. The eleven places listed in 2019 are: Tenth Street Historic District Dallas, Texas Nashville's Music Row Nashville, Tennessee Hacienda Los Torres Lares, Puerto Rico Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah Southeast Utah James R. Thompson Center Chicago, Illinois Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge Bismarck, North Dakota Industrial Trust Company Building Providence, Rhode Island The Excelsior Club Charlotte, North Carolina National Mall Tidal Basin Washington, D.C. Willert Park Courts Buffalo, New York Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital Mount Vernon, Alabama