All posts in Preservation

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Making History

Major updates proposed for Rockefeller Plaza overhaul
  The landmarked public spaces and plaza of Rockefeller Center, designed in large part by The Associated Architects (an umbrella name for a collection of firms at the time) and built in the early 1930s, are up for a major revamp. Gabellini Sheppard Associates, along with Tishman Speyer, who owns most of the plaza, are proposing a series of changes large and small which went up in front of the Landmark Preservation Commission yesterday (the full proposal is available here). Some of the interventions, which were on the whole well-received, were intended to bring the famous Midtown location more closely in line with its original intent and increase public access and streamline circulation. Perhaps the most symbolic move towards this would be the relocation of a ten-foot-wide “credo” monument honoring John D. Rockefeller, Jr., that was added in the 1960s away from the stairwell where it currently stops the flow of foot traffic and into the gardens. The large stone parapet around the sunken plaza’s central stairwell that was added when ice skating became an annual activity, would be changed to a more delicate brass railing with planters. Both would be removable such that in the warmer months a larger staircase could be added, as was originally in place in the early 1930s. Doors within the sunken plaza that are currently of different heights and punctuated unevenly would be standardized, though the LPC seemed to push back against all-glass walls. Gabellini Sheppard intends to replace much of the stone—which is deteriorating in places—in kind, though the LPC suggested they attempt to retain as much as possible. The pools featuring block glass in the channel garden would be renovated to their former reflective luster thanks to mirror-backed structural glass that would still allow sunlight to filter to the concourse below. Other changes include the moving of statues, flag poles, and rearranging some landscaping, which the commission asked be in part reconsidered. Softer lighting would be integrated throughout, and new terrazzo and other pavements would be added. The height of the road, which is three inches lower than the sidewalks, would be brought up to that same level. The most contentious proposal was the addition of new elevators and the shifting of some stairwells. The current glass canopy elevators would be replaced with transparent volumes topped with bronze. While many on the commission commended the simplicity and transparency, the proposal to integrate screens for public art displays was opposed, including by the local community board, which supported the project otherwise. After responding to suggestions, Gabellini Sheppard Associates will go before the LPC again at a later date with a revised proposal.
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Green Light, No!

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

Cultural sites under attack in the age of unaccountability
In a manner befitting of the current American presidency, Donald Trump’s casual tweet “....we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!” aired some forty-eight hours ago. In fact, the president’s threat does not merit further comment beyond what has been articulated widely in the press: to destroy cultural sites would be an illegal act, and moreover a war crime. Trump’s threat has already been retracted by the Pentagon in what is, by now, a common pattern of contradictory communications so endemic of this administration. The fifty-two target sites in Iran are claimed to be symbolically linked to the fifty-two American citizens that Iran held hostage in 1979, as if those individuals asked for retribution after forty years. For those of us who remember the hostage crisis and the 444 days of suffering it created, the trauma was real and the political implications have remained intact for over forty years. But for those who remember a generation prior, we are reminded of the infamous 1953 American intervention in Iran that sowed the seeds of systematic mistrust, when a U.S. administration participated in a coup that overthrew a democratically elected Mossadegh to reinstate the Shah’s dictatorship that would guarantee American access to oil. Indeed, the Iranian Revolution may have crested in 1979, but its roots can be linked to an earlier upheaval where the American involvement cannot be understated. As the White House scrambles to justify recent actions, we are wise to recall that the direct U.S. involvement and complicity in the creation and destruction of nations is not restricted to the Iranian experience. Iraq is now reliving its own trauma, the result of rogue American judgment and the coercion of a prior U.S. administration, whose facts were not only flawed but intentions clearly motivated by an a priori decision to occupy a foreign land without any appeal to the truth. The more significant question that underlies this premise is to what degree the United States can be held accountable in the International Court of Justice in the Hague for its crimes. The United States is not a State Party to the Rome Statute which founded the International Criminal Court. By refusing to participate, the U.S. also sees itself as exempt from the international system that attempts to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. Insofar as the destruction of cultural sites continues to fall under these protective measures of the World Court, then the aim of this piece is also to demonstrate a broader link between cultural heritage, foreign policy, and a system of governance on which we can rely for checks and balances, both national and international. Though not visible at first sight, the environmental policies that drive foreign affairs is also at the center of this narrative, making important links between the American way of life and its reliance of fossil fuels, the very factor that is coming to challenge how we view the environment, whether in cultural or ecological terms. A rudimentary scan through the various heritage sites in Iran unearths a wide variety of cultural significance, protected by both World and National Heritage registers, identifying the very diversity of this region’s history. Indeed, even if the current regime’s theocracy has only enjoyed about forty years of leadership, Iran is composed of many people, tribes, and religions including Zoroastrians, Christians, Jewish, Bahai, and of course Muslims, both Sunni and Shiite. The country’s cities are known for the many contributions they have made to art, science, and architecture, as made apparent through works of infrastructure, urbanism, landscape, architecture, sustainability, and building technologies. The “Qanat” of Gonabad is estimated to be 2700 years old and an early invention of an underground aqueduct, an infrastructural system designed for arid climates –allowing provisions for agriculture, bathing, drinking water, and human survival. In turn, the urban promenade that binds Naqshe Jahan Square, the Bazaar, and the Si-o-se-pol Bridge on the Zayandeh Rud in Isfahan forms one of the most significant examples of urban design known to the discipline. The housing fabric of Kashan and their contained landscapes, “Hayats” and “Baghs”, are the basis for some of the early doctrines of landscape architecture. The wind-catching “Badgir” towers of the Yazd houses are some of the earliest examples of sustainable cooling strategies of this region’s architecture. Of course, beyond public monuments like the well-known Shah and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosques, there are many other classic icons, like the Soltanieh Mosque, whose double-shell dome is one of the most innovative engineering feats of its time, built some one hundred years prior to Brunelleschi’s in Florence. Some of the earlier passages of the region’s heritage go back to Antiquities, and Pasargad, Persepolis, and the cube of Zoroaster take us back to a time when Persia’s international relations formed a completely different dynamic with Greece. Of that era, the Cyrus Cylinder, dating back to the 6th century B.C. remains maybe one of the earliest artifacts to document the idea of a unified state under higher governance with a direct appeal to human rights as part of its contribution to humanity. Thus, while examining the current political predicaments of our moment, it is important to look at this culture’s history, with over 3000 years of documented heritage, to establish how the diversity of its people come to contribute to the legacy of world culture, and indeed, part of its living history. While few will challenge American generosity in the Second World War and its seminal role in building an alliance that addressed war crimes that defined the 20th Century, the White House’s self-entitlement today is a means to escape the very standards of law and democracy that stoke our national pride and the civil values foundational to American society. Ironically, this sense of entitlement is also foundational to what has allowed the Trump administration to relieve itself of accountability for other questionable actions over the past three years—a factor that prior generations of American leaders could neither have calculated nor fathomed. Sadly, this administration’s hubris is now part of this nation’s ethos; reversing it will be a task to reckon with in the coming years, if not decades, and it will fall on the collective shoulders of the entire nation to address. As we ponder the American omnipresence in the Middle East, Australia burns with a vengeance, a disaster seemingly unrelated to Iran in both cause and effect. And while it burns, the country’s Prime Minister returns from a family vacation in Hawaii, only after being compelled by mounting political pressure, too little too late. With all the scientific evidence behind the sources of global warming and its impact on climate change, Prime Minister Morrison remains unswerving in his commitment to the investments of fossil fuels, coal and the many policies his party holds dear in its commitment to profit. In this sense, Morrison follows a path no different than that of his American cohorts, whose military presence in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, among other places in the Middle East has defined American foreign policy for decades. Beyond the social, economic, and cultural upheaval, industry-first policies have produced the injustice of climate inequity, the very phenomenon that stands to compromise not so much humanity (although it will) but the ecosystems, flora, and fauna that do not have the legal instruments to protect themselves. Thus, the American immunity to the World Court is no small issue, because the scale of its ramifications can only be measured in relation to global forces, not merely national ones. It will only be a matter of time when the balance of world economies in Asia take a turn towards other super-powers whose might will define America’s position in the future world order. However, the imposition of their reign may not be paired with the promise of democracy, equity, or a civil society; it is at that junction when we, as Americans, will regret to have abandoned the very values for which we would want to be known today and for history to have recorded for the future. By absolving ourselves of international responsibilities in the World Court today, the US guarantees precedence for others to do the same in the future. Moreover, the current U.S. administration’s abandonment of collaborative dialogue with the United Nations, UNESCO, The Paris Accord and other world bodies only exacerbates the possibilities of other rogue states, whose strategic interests in the future might be to establish their primacy over the greater good of a global community. Trump’s disregard for democratic institutions, collective processes, and legal frameworks is only radicalized by his penchant to isolate individuals or smaller interest groups as a basis for assault. His current bombast on Iran is no different from what we have witnessed him unleash on African Americans, women, Mexican immigrants, the LBGTQ community, and many others whose diverse backgrounds, belief systems and ways of life differ from his own. Within this context, the destruction of cultural heritage sites can only be interpreted as a targeted attack on the very significance of cultural diversity, and the role that monuments play in the representation of a people. I am reminded of the vacuous niches that once held the monuments of Bamiyan. Magnificent Buddhas were destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban in an act of brutality, using cultural artifacts as pawns to eviscerate an ‘other’ culture than that of their own. Among other things, the Rome Statute was put in place precisely to protect from such eventualities. Trump’s prejudicial pattern of destruction is perhaps even more sinister because it is inflicted without pause. Some have misperceived Trump’s thuggish mockery of Greta Thunberg—an enlightened embodiment of the next generation—as an assault on an individual. Indeed, it was, but it was also a concurrent assault on the collective: on civil society, on a cultural heritage, on critical discourse, and in the age of Thunberg, on the global environment. Within this context, it is virtually implausible to make a case for the protection of cultural heritage without reinforcing the very foundations on which they rely: A global environment that is sustainable, and a faith in governance and policies of stewardship that can uphold it. The individual and the collective take on a different resonance in the context of Trump as a person and the system of governance that supports him. It is completely understandable that an individual may not be able to comprehend the basic tenets of fairness, decency or democracy; less digestible is witnessing an entire political party that shuts its eyes to a pattern of behavior that has demonstrated itself to be no accident. There may be no larger strategy to this president’s actions, but there is nothing unpremeditated: Trump behaves the way he does by design. More alarmingly, an entire Republican party behind him, composed of hundreds of individual leaders, support his illegal actions, whether in enunciated defense or silence. Without a restoration of democracy, in the way in which this country’s founders had imagined, it is hard to conceive how its politicians can advance collective agendas that transcend the terms of party lines, and moreover world politics, whose relevance to the United States should be heeded. The Iranian Revolution occurred in 1979, and its current regime is well-aware of its statute of limitations; with a population of 81 million people –that is, 43 million more than the time of the revolution—the Iranian government understands that its youthful majority can only thrive with a completely different interaction with the international sphere. Despite its acrimony with the West, the achievements of the nuclear deal set in place with the former U.S. administration demonstrated wisdom from both the East and the West. Gain can only come from good communication, collaboration and an appeal to an expanded discursive field. Here, I would argue, the nuclear deal (JCPOA) was not actually the only target, but the means to develop a discussion that could be temporally transported to future administrations: effectively to build better collaborations over time. Ironically, the Mullahs clearly understood the impending dangers of obsolescence; in order to survive, they could no longer isolate themselves from the world. The current isolationist doctrine of the United States has not only alienated its conventional adversaries; recklessly, but it has also distanced itself from the very allies that hold their connection to America so dear. For America to remain relevant to these audiences, the first step will be to recognize the all-important inter-relationship between global phenomena that sees no borders. Whether considering climate change, economic equity, fair trade policies, or the mutual respect of other’s heritage, an integrated view of world interests might be the only way for securing American priorities in a meaningful way. The monuments that populate seemingly remote regions of the world are not the ‘other’ of America; they are its foundation, its source, and its reference, and once we recognize America’s diversity again, we can also re-enter the global dialogue. An understanding of shared governance may also be the only path towards a strategic plan for survival: there is no America once the global sphere is compromised beyond repair. The disengagement of these relationships can only help to obscure the many causalities that have given rise to the dire state of affairs today. Nader Tehrani is founding principal of NADAAA, a practice dedicated to the advancement of design innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and an intensive dialogue with the construction industry. Tehrani is also Dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union.
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Cracking Up

Illinois State Capitol’s dome needs millions for repairs
A comprehensive inspection performed late last year by Chicago-based architecture and engineering firm Bailey Edward has found that the exterior metal skin of the 235-foot-tall dome topping the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield potentially needs to be replaced to stave off damage caused by active leaking. Per Capitol News Illinois, plastic sheeting is currently being used to guide rainwater and prevent leaks from entering the capitol’s magnificent stained glass inner dome and public areas of the structure. While the Statehouse has undergone several major renovations over the decades, including a $50 million overhaul in 2011, Bailey Edward noted that the dome itself has “been neglected, giving way to cracks and leaks.” The firm’s forthcoming report is set to “include a detailed and prioritized list of recommended corrections and repairs to guide the future preservation efforts of the Illinois State Capitol Dome.” Earlier restoration work performed on the nearly 93-foot-wide, 361-foot-tall dome’s protective metal shell was completed in 1975 for $950,000. Harl Ray, senior project manager for the secretary of state’s Department of Physical Services, anticipated that the cost to replace the faulty skin will range in the “ballpark of $5 million” based on the 1975 costs. This estimate is roughly $700,000 more than the initial cost of constructing the landmark Renaissance Revival capitol building in the first place, which first broke ground in 1868 and took 20 years to complete. Designed by Chicago-based Cochrane and Garnsey, the Illinois Statehouse’s soaring signature dome has helped the building achieve a notable claim to fame as the tallest classical-style state capitol in the United States at 361 feet (save for the 391-foot-tall Art Deco Nebraska Capitol). The Statehouse’s record-setting height seems appropriate given Illinois’ reputation for superlatively lanky buildings. In addition to a brand new metal skin, the study is also expected to recommend replacing the current flagpole atop the dome so that the process of raising and lowering the flag can be more streamlined—and less harrowing—for workers. “Our guys and gals are at great risk when they’re up there changing the flag. It might be zero wind down here, but up there it feels like 25 or so,” Mike Wojcik, director of Physical Services for the secretary of state’s office, told Capitol News Illinois. “We’ve been fortunate that we have volunteers that want to go up, but more and more, we have less and less people that are not too afraid to go up there.”
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Vaulting Renovation

Notre Dame Cathedral's vaulted ceiling still under risk of imminent collapse
Despite the $1 billion raised in an effort to save Notre Dame Cathedral after it was ravaged by fire in April of last year, the 850-year-old structure continues to be under threat of further damage. Jean-Louis Georgelin, a French general overseeing the building's reconstruction, announced that its ceilings are still at risk of collapsing if immediate action isn't taken. “Notre Dame is not saved because ... there is an extremely important step ahead, which is to remove the scaffolding that had been built around the spire,” Georgelin explained in an interview with the Associated Press. The condition of the cathedral's vaults, a signature element of the overall design, is difficult to gauge given the centuries of reconstructive efforts performed by variously skilled craftsmen and the relatively little attention paid to them in the last year by the renovation team. “To make sure," Georgelin said, "we need to inspect them [and] remove the rubble that is still on them. It’s very difficult work that we have started.” Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, the rector of Notre Dame, added that there is a "50 percent chance" the landmark will be saved and predicted with the same likelihood that the 500 tons of scaffolding recently erected could fall onto the building's original three vaults. The news comes two months after the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Michel Aupetit, announced that a final evaluation of the damage would be concluded in Spring 2020. “We will have to encircle the scaffolding, then put a second scaffolding over it," he said. "From this new scaffolding, workers will descend by rope and cut it bit by bit into small pieces and this will take a long time." The stonework of the vaults will then have to be examined on a near-individual level. “We cannot take any risks," Aupetit cautioned. "We have to know which ones need replacing and which ones to keep. Only then will we know how much [the repairs] will cost and how long they will take." The most likely method of preventing irreparable damage, Georgelin stated, is for the preservation team to remove the scaffolding by the middle of 2020 and resume restoration in 2021.
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Brothers to Brothers

Downtown L.A.'s Barker Brothers building to be restored to former glory
You may not find much to look at if you venture to the middle of Broadway between 7th and 8th Streets in Downtown Los Angeles' Historic Core. A barricade and opaque scaffolding currently block the tired remains of the Barker Brothers building, an eight-story structure built by real estate investor Clara Burdette in 1909 and one of the oldest of its kind in the district. Though it was the largest store in the Barker Brothers furniture chain at the time of its completion, the company shut its doors in the 1940s like many nearby retailers who migrated from downtown to the burgeoning Wilshire Boulevard. Thanks to brothers Ted and Oliver Grebelius of British real estate firm Satila Studios, the Barker is returning to its former glory over 80 years later. The duo recently bought the building with a plan to retrofit it as a mixed-use development and rebrand it as the Barker once again. The roughly-46,000 square feet of space constituting the upper six floors of the structure will be designated for commercial offices, while the 11,000-square-foot ground floor will be entirely dedicated to street-facing retail. The original floor plates have determined the number and ceiling heights of the floor plates, meaning the majority of the office spaces will likely be over 12 feet tall and supported by the building's existing structural columns. A significant amount of the retrofit will include the preservation of the building's original detailing and material palette of brick, steel, and dark wood flooring. Satila Studios is particularly invested in the preservation of its iconic grand stairway, including its large-scale archways and wooden columns, located in the center of the ground floor. The Barker is just one of many early-20th-century buildings in the L.A.'s Historic Core that are undergoing renovation. The adaptive reuse of the Lane Mortgage Building, a 12-story structure designed in 1923 by local architect Lester Loy Smith, is already underway half a block from The Barker. Satila Studios expects the building will open by 2021.
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Forever Mikyoung

Mikyoung Kim and DiMella Shaffer will design Boston's first LGBTQ-friendly senior housing facility
  Boston will get its first LGBTQ-friendly senior housing facility, designed by Boston-based architecture firm DiMella Shaffer and landscape architecture by Mikyoung Kim Design. On November 13, the Public Facilities Commission voted to convert Hyde Park’s former William Barton Rogers Middle School, a 120-year-old building, into a 74-unit complex for mixed-income people age 62 and up, including units for homeless seniors.  The facility, which is the city's first of its kind, will provide staff and residents with training to ensure an LGBTQ-friendly environment. However, the complex will be open to all seniors with none set aside specifically for LGBTQ people, as anti-discrimination laws require. The news coincides with the opening of the Marvel Architects-designed, first LGBTQ-friendly affordable senior housing facility–the largest in the country–in New York City, and represents a growing recognition of the need for housing among this demographic.   The $32 million renovation will be developed by Pennrose Holding LLC in partnership with the nonprofit LGBTQ Senior Housing organization, with funding coming from a combination of public money and private loans. According to The Boston Globe, the 98,000-square-foot former school building will be mostly preserved. Additions and updates will include an outdoor courtyard as well as a community space, and an art gallery showcasing the Civil War-era 54th Infantry Regiment of Hyde Park, which was made up of volunteer African-American soldiers fighting for the Union. Pre-existing amenities such as the school gymnasium will be renovated to hold indoor physical activities.  “With the housing boom Boston has been witnessing, we need to ensure housing for our seniors, especially for the underserved LGBTQ community,” said Philippe Saad, Associate Principal at DiMella Shaffer. “Innovative partnerships like this one will serve as a model for opportunity. It paves the way towards integrating older adults in their community by  providing spaces that are inclusive and multigenerational by design. This project will also further the city’s age-friendly initiative and Imagine Boston 2030 as we head into 2020.” The development is significant for addressing the needs of a twice-vulnerable population. According to the City of Boston’s Commission on Affairs of the Elderly's 2014 “Aging in Boston” report, four-in-ten senior Bostonians live on household incomes of less than $25,000, and half experience a high-cost burden of housing. For LGBTQ seniors, this is compounded by the issue of finding safe and accepting housing situations.  “The number one issue for LGBT seniors is housing. There’s a huge panic about where we’re going to go when we can’t take care of ourselves,” Bob Linscott, assistant director of the LGBT Aging Project at Fenway Health told The Boston Globe. "There’s a big fear of going to a place where people will be bullied and harassed by the same people who bullied and harassed them decades ago.”
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Window Wars

Marcel Breuer's iconic Atlanta Central Library denied historic designation
Any hope left to landmark the Marcel Breuer-designed Atlanta Central Library may have been diminished this fall when the National Parks Service declared the Brutalist building ineligible thanks to the ongoing $50 million renovation.  The library has been a source of strain in the preservation world for years. At one point in 2016, its future hung in the balance as the city of Atlanta sought to potentially demolish the building. Since then, advocates have tried, and failed, to get the city to pass legislation that would save the building’s iconic exterior. Instead, construction crews began drilling into the concrete facade this summer, creating holes for what would be a set of windows across the minimal facade. Atlanta-based design firm Cooper Carry is leading the revamp. Below, the yellow construction paper is where the new window glass will be:  The renovations were mandated by Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, which has been sprinting to update its structures and build new libraries throughout the city. For too long, the Central Library itself hasn’t been full of activity; the building isn't considered user-friendly largely because its interior lacks enough access to natural light. The library was opened in 1980 at the height of Brutalism's popularity, which has sharply fallen in recent years as more and more such structures across the U.S. face similar tough fates Curbed Atlanta reported that an attempt by Docomomo Georgia to designate the library on the National Register of Historic Places was declined this fall “since the property is currently undergoing rehabilitation and alterations.” As Curbed noted, Docomomo can resubmit the bid once the project is complete, but even if it had secured a historic designation prior to the window work, it’s likely the changes would have still been made due to public demand. 
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Put a Cork in it

One of Los Angeles's last Googie-style buildings to close, signaling unknown future
On December 8, the Facebook page for Corky's, a diner completed in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks in 1958, announced that it will be closing its doors by the middle of the month following a lease dispute. The post lamented the treatment historic architecture receives in the city, stating that "Landlords just don’t appreciate these unique-style buildings and design.” Designed by Armet & Davis, one of the most prominent firms designing Googie architecture during the post-war period throughout Los Angeles, Corky's iconic roofline, playful neon signage, and stony facade make it an exemplary building of the popular, yet short-lived, style. Since the building first opened as Stanley Burke’s in 1958, the structure has survived the changing of hands and the decades of extensive remodeling that came with it. Corky's interior is notable for its extensive use of wood-paneling, overstuffed green booths, and speckled drop ceiling. Only a small handful of the Armet & Davis's buildings still survive that exemplify the same exuberant Googie style, including Johnie's Coffee Shop across from LACMA, and the iconic Norm's on La Cienega. The building's current owners are urging fans of the building to encourage city leaders to make Corky's a Los Angeles landmark before its next owner potentially decides to demolish it, while Alan Hess, a local architectural historian and preservationist, has personally submitted a Historic-Cultural Monument application to the City of Los Angeles. "Unlike the prevailing examples of high Modernism," Hess wrote in Googie Redux in 1986, "Googie was rarely boring. Its key features—futuristic details, expressive use of new materials, metal-frame structures that allowed seemingly weightless canopies and free-flowing spaces—elicited the fluidity of the Modern era." As of yet, there are no demolition permits have been filed with the city, potentially indicating that the exuberant structure could be here to stay, regardless of its tentative landmark status.
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Demerits for Demolition

Preservationists fight to save Midtown Manhattan's 19th-century Demarest Building
Another prominent Midtown Manhattan building could be demolished and replaced with a 26-story mid-rise tower.  The Demarest Building, a 19th-century, iron-framed structure on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, has long been loved for its three-story-high arched windows and unique history as a high-end horse carriage showroom and later as the home of the world’s first electric elevator. Its owners, Pi Capital Partners, filed an application for the new building this summer but have yet to begin the paperwork for a demolition permit, according to amNewYork Over the past few years, preservation groups have tried without success to stop the project. They worry that, if destroyed, the Demarest Building would be a major loss for the city, given its architectural and technological legacy. It was designed in 1890 by local firm Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell, the practice of St. Patrick’s Cathedral architect James Renwick Jr., and built by Aaron T. Demarest, a prominent carriage and automobile manufacturer. The then-upcoming Carnegie Hall was thought to be the design inspiration for the light-orange Beaux Arts building, though it’s unlikely since they were built around the same time.  Preservationists are set to gather today at 10:30 a.m. at a rally on-site (339 Fifth Ave.) to protest the Demarest's potential demolition. The event is co-organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has repeatedly appealed to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate the building as a local landmark and has launched a petition (here) to save the building. The LPC claims its exterior has been altered too much since opening nearly 140 years ago.  Andrew Berman, the organization’s executive director, told amNewYork that despite any changes, the Demarest Building is particularly significant given its age and because it’s a “great link to New York’s commercial past and its development as the commercial capital of the world.”  Situated blocks away from Penn Station and near Herald Square as well as the Empire State Building, the structure is and has always been a cornerstone of activity. While now the ground floor contains a Wendy’s, a souvenir shop, and a money exchange, the upper portion of its tan brick facade—with its terra-cotta panels and detailing—has remained architecturally iconic, preservationists argue ,and should be saved. 
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Fire Sale

L.A.’s historic Streamline Moderne Firestone Tire Building will be adaptively reused
Firestone Tire and Service Center, an anonymously designed Streamline Moderne building servicing a countless number of Los Angeles’ cars under its sleek roofline since first opening in 1938, shut its garage doors to the public in 2016. The disused building can currently be seen partially boarded up on the corner of 8th and La Brea in Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile, eagerly awaiting a new function. On December 6, it was announced that two companies have come together to transform the Firestone Tire building into a unique eating and drinking destination. Pouring With Heart, a local nightlife and hospitality company that operates several bars in the area, has plans to open up a brewery using 13,000 square feet of the original building’s interior, and will likely name it All Season Brewing Company. And, after demonstrating success with their restaurant sited in Downtown Los Angeles, Chicas Tacos has agreed to take over the remaining floor area of the building. The decision to adaptively reuse a building from the city’s early days of automobile servicing has become a common one throughout Los Angeles in the last decade. The 1972 oil crisis led to the closure and/or demolition of hundreds of gas stations and service centers throughout the city, and only a small handful of them have gained new life while holding onto their old-world charm. Gilmore Gas Station, for example, a Streamline Moderne building designed by engineer R.J. Kadow in 1935, became a drive-through Starbucks in 2015. The Firestone Tire building project is being overseen by local interior design studio M. Winter Design and is set to be completed by early 2020. From the renderings, it appears as though the renovation will include the building’s original rooftop lettering, fluorescent lighting, baked porcelain cladding and, of course, its iconic roofline while maintaining industrial interior flourishes.
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Restoring the Ruins?

Russia and Syria announce joint project to restore ancient city of Palmyra
Earlier last week, Russian and Syrian officials announced that they would team up to restore the National Museum of Palmyra. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, oversaw the signing in Damascus between the Hermitage, Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM).  Located in the northeast of Damascus, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of what was once a great oasis city in the Syrian desert nest known for being one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the architecture of this civilization often combined Greco-Roman and Persian influences with local traditions. However, the site had been targeted for deliberate destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and in 2014, much of the city and nearby historic religious buildings were damaged. Over the course of 2015, ISIL (also referred to as ISIS) destroyed the ancient Lion of Al-lāt statue, The Temple of Baalshamin, The Monumental Arch, and the Tower of Elahbel, among many other historic sites. A statement posted on the Hermitage’s website states: “Both agreements are a tangible step in the significant development of museum and research ties between Russia and Syria,” according to The Art Newspaper. The goals of the agreement include a collaborative effort between the Hermitage and the National Museum of Oman to restore 20 Syrian antiquities from Palmyra, followed by the later restoration of the city as a whole, which is still suffering from the damage created by ISIL. Representatives from UNESCO, DGAM, and the Aga Kahn Foundation will also form an advisory group for the campaign and work with the Hermitage to restore the selection of artifacts.  Piotrovsky said that restoring the museum is the first step and is “of particular value for the entire complex,” but reiterated that the ultimate goal of preserving the ancient city will be quite a process and, “we are preparing for the day after tomorrow, it’s not yet possible to do anything tomorrow.” However, this is far from the first attempt at preserving Palmyra's history; numerous attempts have been made to scan and recreate the structures and artwork found there, including creating a digital archive.