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Architectural Advocacy

AIA urges Trump Administration not to withdraw from UNESCO
On October 12, the Trump administration announced that the United States would withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations agency responsible for the designation of World Heritage Sites. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has issued a public statement that decries this decision. In the statement, AIA president Thomas Vonier advocated for the World Heritage Sites program, which is important to architects because it "seeks to identify and preserve buildings and places of exceptional importance to humankind." He also noted that UNESCO had recently partnered with the International Union of Architects on a new project to select an annual World Capital of Architecture. This project, he argued, makes UNESCO's mission to support architectural heritage all the more critical. "The AIA urges the Administration to lends its support to this initiative," he concluded. UNESCO–short for the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization–protects over 1,000 sites of architectural, natural, and cultural importance. Once selected, World Heritage Sites are demarcated and protected as landmarks. The United States is home to 23 of these sites, including the Statue of Liberty, the San Antonio Missions, Independence Hall, and Yellowstone National Park. The Trump Administration chose to withdraw from the global initiative citing "the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias" as its reasoning. The bias mentioned is likely in reference to UNESCO's recognition of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site earlier this summer. With Hebron's addition, Palestine now hosts three World Heritage Sites (all of which are considered endangered by UNESCO), as compared to the nine in Israel (none of which are). The United States has not been able to vote in UNESCO procedures since 2013, when the Obama Administration cut funding for the organization. This cut was in direct reaction to UNESCO's recognition of the first World Heritage Sites in Palestine. The U.S. government hasn't entirely separated themselves from the organization. Instead, they plan to adopt the role of a "non-member observer state" in continued engagement with UNESCO. In this capacity, they will remain involved only to offer American perspectives on the organization's undertakings. The withdrawal takes full effect on December 31, 2018.
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BOD #13

Archtober Building of the Day #13: iHeartMedia
This story is part of a monthlong series of guests posts by AIA New York that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours. See the full 2017 schedule here. In today’s Building of the Day tour, Archtober viewed the new offices of iHeart Media in Midtown. Designed by Architecture + Information (A+I) in association with creative consultants Beneville Studios, the space houses the corporate headquarters of iHeart Media over three floors. From A+I, Todd Stodolski, Senior Associate; Tony Moon, Architect; and Jara Mira, Project Manager, joined Michael Beneville, Founder and Principal, and Kyle Hoy, Design Manager at Beneville Studios, to lead the tour. First, Beneville and the A+I team gave an overview of iHeart Media’s history and the context for the new office. iHeart Media is the largest radio station owner in the United States. iHeart’s predecessor, Clear Channel Communications, was founded in San Antonio in 1972 and expanded over the next 30 years to include not only radio stations but other forms of mass media assets, notably billboards and live concerts. Beneville described CEO Bob Pittman’s deep faith in radio as a medium, and his belief that, were radio invented today, it would be seen as a groundbreaking technology. It was this belief that led Pittman to rebrand Clear Channel as iHeartMedia in 2014. A+I and Beneville Studios were tasked with creating a flexible, open office space that would convey the excitement of working for and with iHeartMedia. Moreover, the design themes used in the headquarters would be copied at iHeart corporate and broadcasting offices throughout the country, meaning elements had to feel as natural in Peoria or Phoenix as in New York. And the most important directive for the 75,000-square-foot space came from Pittman: “I want visitors to walk through the door and say, ‘Who the #*%! are these people?’ and I want them to get it within five seconds.'” The main entrance, on the middle floor of three, amply fulfills his vision. In the corridor leading from the elevator to the offices, motion sensors trigger lights in iHeart’s colors of red and white, and speakers play randomly chosen live content from iHeart’s stations across the country. An average office entrance it is not. The barrage of audio-visual information continues inside. The heart of the space is a cut connecting all three levels around a massive screen which plays footage from iHeart events and seating steps. This space is used to present office-wide policies to all New York employees, but has also host mini-concerts from the likes of Alicia Keys. Behind this light, airy space is the dark, intense Promotional Porthole, a conference room with screens and other fixtures that play video and sound as well as emit fragrances. The three floors of the office all house different parts of the iHeart staff. The top floor is for employees of the audio-visual groups, the middle floor is for Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, one of the country’s largest owners of billboards and hoardings, and the bottom floor contains boardrooms and executive offices. The offices are bright and airy, primarily white with flashes of red and blue. The previous offices were very traditional, and there was some concern about the transition to a new space. The main feedback the designers have received is that they could have gone even further in replacing individual glassed-in and cubicle offices with open plan meeting spaces and “phone booth” meeting pods. Many initiatives at iHeartMedia involve multiple teams, and having a common space to meet is essential. Additionally, market managers from across the country meet with executives in New York once a month, so there is a strong ebb and flow in the office population, requiring spaces that can grow or shrink as needed. Within this complex context, A+I and Beneville Studios have conveyed in spatial terms the excitement iHeartMedia generates across its many media platforms. Join us tomorrow at 56 Leonard Street.
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Revitalizing Ruins

Abandoned NYC hospital to be redeveloped as affordable housing
Hoping to bolster its stock of affordable housing, New York City last week issued an RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) to redevelop the long-abandoned Greenpoint Hospital in Brooklyn into 500 supportive and affordable apartments. The 146,100-square-foot complex includes three buildings and open land that have been sitting empty since 1983. “It makes no sense in a community desperate for affordable housing that that prime site has been sitting here all this time," Mayor Bill de Blasio told a local town hall, according to DNAinfo. Brick structures on the site were built between 1915 and 1930. One is being used as a homeless shelter and the other was recently taken over by squatters. According to the RFEI, plans for the site need to consider its historic character, repurposing materials and the historic facades. However developers will be able to demolish one or more of the buildings “based upon highest level of feasibility.” A previous plan for redevelopment was halted in 2012 when the developer was indicted on bribery charges. De Blasio, who released his Housing New York plan shortly after taking office, has promised to add or preserve more than 200,000 affordable housing units in the city within ten years. “When more than 50,000 New Yorkers sleep in homeless shelters and hundreds of thousands more struggle to pay high rents with meager earnings, the City fails to live up to its promise of opportunity,” noted the report. The city recently reported that it has financed 77,651 affordable homes since January, 2014, putting it “ahead of schedule” to reach its goal.
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"Verbal" Approval

Elon Musk says N.Y.-D.C. Hyperloop has government approval
Elon Musk tweeted earlier this morning that he received government approval to start building a New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-D.C Hyperloop, as reported by engadget. His series of tweets indicate that while The Boring Company, the infrastructure and tunneling company that Musk founded, received “verbal” government approval, there are still steps to be made before getting formal approval. If the project is actually approved, construction will begin in conjunction with the company’s other talked-about project: underground tunnels in L.A. that aim to relieve vehicular congestion.

Musk is already plotting future connections elsewhere, too. One of his follow-up tweets reveals that the next Hyperloop would likely be an L.A-San Francisco track, and maybe even a Texas loop (Dallas-Houston-San Antonio-Austin).

A Hyperloop in the Northeast Corridor could do wonders for the deteriorating rail infrastructure at New York’s Pennsylvania Station, which has resulted in a “summer of hell.” Right now, a regular Amtrak train between New York and Washington D.C takes approximately three and a half hours; the same trip is two-and-a-half on the Acela Express. With a Hyperloop, however, it will only take 29 minutes.

Apparently, local officials in charge of the cities involved were not looped into the conversation; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary tweeted that “this is news to City Hall.”

It’s unclear who Musk received this verbal approval from, though it is likely someone from the Trump administration (where he briefly served as one of President Trump’s advisors), according to CNBC. It will take numerous hurdles before Musk can even begin drilling a hole; he would need approval from the federal Department of Transportation, not to mention the various states, counties, cities, and elected officials.
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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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Texas Holl 'Em

Ground breaks on Steven Holl's design for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Steven Holl's design for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) has started construction. In 2015, Holl described the commission as "the most important" of his career.

Steven Holl Architects was awarded the job back in 2012, seeing off competition from Morphosis and Snøhetta, but working out the design has been a drawn-out experience. “What you see here is the culmination of a 36-month design process,” Holl said at a design unveiling two years ago. In addition to the 165,000-square-foot Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, and the Glassell School of Art, the architect also worked on the museum's master plan.

The 14-acre campus will also include the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, designed by Lake|Flato Architects of San Antonio. The two-storey facility will sit above MFAH's existing parking garage and provide conservation labs and studios, and a street-level cafe. Holl's translucent Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, meanwhile, will see two floors of galleries circling a top-lit three-level atrium added along with a restaurant, theater, reflecting pools, vertical gardens, meeting rooms, and underground parking.

The building will have etched glass tubular cladding that will allow daylight to filter through and also give the building a soft glow come sunset. At ground level, six reflecting pools of water will amplify the luminous qualities of the structure's skin, which will also include seven vertical gardens. These will be cut into segments of vision glass instead of the translucent tubing. Inside, the two galleries will total 54,000 square feet. The upper level is to be shielded by a luminous canopy roof, which has concave curves inspired by Texas' billowing clouds. All of the gallery spaces feature natural light. Holl is working with New York–based lighting design firm L’Observatoire International on the project.

Furthermore, Holl's new Glassell School of Art will connect with the water pools and connect the campus to The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza. All in all, MFAH's additions will come to $450 million. Construction is touted for completion in 2019.
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Virtual Arcade

AN's architectural highlights from this year's Tribeca Film Festival, including V.R. experiences
At Tribeca’s “immersive” Virtual Arcade, the virtual reality (VR) film The People’s House offered a tour of the public and private rooms of the White House with tour guides Barack and Michelle Obama. Highlighting artifacts and artworks as the embodiment of the philosophies and policies of their administration (Michelle cites Alma Thomas’s painting Resurrection, 1966, in the Old Family Dining Room), it is a stark reminder of how quickly life has changed. It was comforting to think that The People’s House is a vessel that will continue to change as administrations come and go. The following is a rundown of films and VR installations that use architecture and art that appeared at the recent festival, and that you should look out for. A few referred to the dilemma of finding or keeping housing in New York City. The Boy Downstairs finds Zosia Mamet’s character locating the perfect Brooklyn apartment when she returns to New York from a few years in London; her character is granted approval by the resident bohemian landlady who takes her under her wing, only to find that her ex-boyfriend is in the basement apartment. Will real estate triumph over emotional health? Black Magic for White Boys is an independently produced TV pilot where New York real estate plays a key role: a landlord is frustrated that he cannot raise his tenants’ rent, a magician hatches a devilish plan to save his small theater, and gentrification is causing an older version of New York to fade away. Permission finds woodworker Will (Dan Stevens) fixing up a brownstone for his long-time girlfriend Anna (Rebecca Hall), to whom he can’t quite propose. As they begin to experiment with other people, Will’s handmade furniture and house are no longer creating a home. I LIVED: Brooklyn investigates the borough’s distinct neighborhoods. If you missed Manifesto at the Park Avenue Armory, its segments have been woven into a film featuring Cate Blanchett playing different characters (newscaster, homeless man, puppeteer, punk rocker) who deliver architecture manifestos by Bruno Taut (1920/21), Antonio Sant’Elia (1914), Coop Himmelb(l)au (1980), Robert Venturi (1993), as well artists’ manifestos including Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, Lars von Trier’s Dogma 95, and others on Dadaism, Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop Art, Situationism, Merz, Spatilaism, and The Blau Rider written by Tristan Tzara, Kazimir Malevich, André Breton, Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Sturtevant, Sol LeWitt, Jim Jarmusch, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and others. Artist Laurie Simmons stars in her directorial debut, My Art. Although her character has been able to sustain her life as an artist by teaching, she has not broken out, while her students (real life daughter Lena Dunham’s character, for example) and friends have. She accepts the summer loan of a gracious summer house, complete with gardens and pool, and spends the summer making films that recreate Hollywood films. These finally give her both the satisfaction and attention she craves. Scenes take place at the Whitney Museum and Salon 94 Bowery. Shadowman is Richard Hambleton, a street artist who was part of a trio that included Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in the 1980s whose work appeared all around New York City streets. The other two became art stars, their work came inside to galleries and was widely collected, and both died young (drug overdose and AIDS). Although Hambleton at first attained commercial and critical success—featured in LIFE magazine, and with works displayed at the Venice Biennale—he spun out with homelessness and an addiction to heroin. The film chronicles his rediscovery and a planned comeback, sponsored by Giorgio Armani, with Hambleton still painting his mesmerizing shadow-like figures. Movingly, he says that although he is still alive while his fellow artists are not, he is the waking dead. What a contrast to Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, which chronicles this confident, gregarious artist and filmmaker from his childhood in Brooklyn and Brownsville, Texas, through his rise as a Neo-Expressionist painter (remember his plate paintings?). Schnabel came to be acknowledged for his extroverted, excessive approach to his work and life (frequently seen in silk pajamas, he lives and works in Montauk, Long Island, and in a 170-foot-tall pink Venetian-styled house in the West Village called Palazzo Chupi) as he moved into filmmaking (Basquiat, 1995, Before Night Falls, 2000, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 2007). We have access to Schnabel and to friends and colleagues Al Pacino, Mary Boone, Jeff Koons, Bono, and Laurie Anderson. Schnabel is one of many art luminaries who appear in Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World which lifts the curtain on the art world economy, or the glamorous and cutthroat game of genius versus commerce where art is created, exhibited, and sold. Museum directors (Glenn Lowry, Michael Govan), collectors (Michael Ovitz), auctioneers (Simon de Pury, Amy Cappelazzo, Lisa Dennison), gallerists (Iwan Wirth, Andrea Rosen), artists (Rashid Johnson, Marina Abramowitz), and many more, appear. Another crash and burn, but with a comeback, is Zac Posen in House of Z, the name of his fashion house. Son of an artist father, he attended St. Ann’s in Brooklyn with Stella Schnabel, Paz de la Huerta, Claire Danes, and Jemima Kirk, for whom he created outfits. He rose quickly at age 21, then his brand fell out of favor and his challenge was to rebuild his company and his reputation in a tenuous dance between art and commerce. More consistent is Hilda, a short about octogenarian Hilda O’Connell who has been making art since the 1950s. She started in a studio on 10th St. alongside Willem de Kooning, Milton Resnick, and Esteban Vicente, and showed at the Aegis Gallery. She continues to make paintings that use language and alphabets in colorful, gestural work. At Tribeca Immersive, in Apex we see a city withstand a violent windstorm created by a looming sun. The viewer is surrounded by buildings being whipped by the elements. Island of the Colorblind is inspired by Pingelap, a tropical island in Micronesia with an extraordinarily high percentage of achromatopsia (complete colorblindness), a highly hereditary condition. The filmmaker says, “Color is just a word to those who cannot see it. If the colorblind people paint with their mind, how would they color the world, the trees, themselves?” The Island of the Colorblind consists of three kinds of images; ‘normal’ digital black and white photos, infrared images, and photo-paintings. Together they are symbolic attempts to visualize how the colorblind people see the world. A highlight is Hallelujah, which reimagines Leonard Cohen’s song. The experience is centered around a five-part a cappella arrangement sung by one singer with a wide vocal range in-the-round. As you rotate your head to view each rendition, the directional sound moves with you. Hallelujah employs Lytro Immerge, which enables live action VR content to behave as it does in the real world. The opening night film was Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, which profiles the music impresario behind the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Alicia Keys, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and more. Best Documentary Feature, Cinematography and Editing prizes went to Bobbi Jene, which follows dancer Bobbi Jene Smith’s return to the U.S. after starring for the Israeli dance company Batsheva. Also of note are: Blues Planet: Triptych, which explores music written in response to the Gulf Oil spill and performed by Taj Mahal; Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story is about the screen siren who was also an inventor; actors John Turturro and Bobby Cannavale dialogue on the vital subject of hair in the aptly-named Hair; Letter to the Free is about jazz behind bars; New York is Dead depicts artists who become hitmen to ear money; Nobody’s Watching is about a successful actor in Argentina who can’t get noticed in New York; Tom of Finland is about cult artist Touko Laaksonen who comes to Los Angeles; King of Peking is about a pirate movie company run by a 1990s projectionist in Beijing; When God Sleeps is about exiled Iranian musician Shahin Najafi living under a fatwa after terrorist attacks in Europe; and two films are about war photographers, Hondros and Shooting War. And I was charmed by Auto, which takes on self-driving cars: an Ethiopian immigrant driver with 40 years experience is forced to “drive” one and picks up a couple more accustomed to the service with amusing consequences. The People’s House, project creators Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël (Felix & Paul Studios) The Boy Downstairs, directed and written by Sophie Brooks Black Magic for White Boys, director Onur Tukel Permission, director and writer by Brian Crano I LIVED: Brooklyn, project creators Jonathan Nelson and Danielle Andersen Manifsto, director and writer Julian Rosefeldt My Art, director and writer Laurie Simmons Shadowman, director and cinematographer Oren Jacoby Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, director and writer Pappi Corsicato Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World, director and writer Barry Avrich House of Z, director and writer Sandy Chronopoulos Hilda, director and writer Kiira Benzing Apex, project creator Arjan van Meerten Island of the Colorblind, project creator Sanne De Wilde Hallelujah, project creators Zach Richter, Bobby Halvorson, Eames Kolar, Within, Lytro Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, director Chris Perkel Bobbi Jene, director and writer by Elvira Lind Blues Planet: Triptych, director and writer Wyland Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, director and writer Alexandra Dean Hair, director John Turturro Letter to the Free, director and cinematographer Bradford Young Nobody’s Watching, director and writer Julia Solomonoff Tom of Finland, director Dome Karukoski King of Peking, director and writer Sam Voutas When God Sleeps, director and writer Till Schauder Hondros, director and writer Greg Campbell Shooting War, director Aeyliya Husain Auto, project creator Steven Schardt
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R.I.P.

New York architect and professor Diane Lewis passes away
[UPDATE 5/5/2107, 5:40 pm EST] A mid-June memorial is being planned to celebrate Diane Lewis's life in architecture, art, and literature. Additional details will be released at www.dianelewisarchitect.com as plans are finalized. [UPDATE 5/2/2107, 12:25 pm EST] This article has been updated to include a statement from Nader Tehrani, dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of the Cooper Union. Diane Lewis, recipient of the 1976 Rome Architecture Prize in Architecture and the 2008 Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award, passed away this morning. She was a prominent figure in the contemporary New York architecture scene and distinguished tenured professor at the Cooper Union. Lewis founded her eponymous firm in her native New York City in 1983 after working in the offices of Richard Meier, I.M. Pei and Partners, and Jim Freed, leading projects such as the Jacob Javits Convention Center, MIT Center for Arts and Media, and 499 Park Avenue. Her firm’s projects include the 2006 residence for the dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, the Perlman Conservatory and campus for Paul Rudolph’s Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida, the Gauchos Basketball Foundation in Harlem, New York, and the HCK Charter School in San Antonio, Texas, as well as art galleries such as Kent Fine Art, Paul Kasmin, Claude Bernard, American Fine Art, and SPOT. She received a Knoll International Modern Main Street award in conjunction with World Monuments fund for the master plan for Riverview High School. In 1982 she was the first woman architect appointed to the full-time faculty at the Cooper Union and also served on many university faculties including Yale, Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Technical University of Berlin, the Architectural Association in London, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She co-edited the Education of an Architect, a book on the work of Cooper Union from 1975 to 1982; in 1989 she received a Graham Foundation grant for her lectures and essays on architecture and surrealism. She was also the task force director of the Urban Institute at the Cooper Union. In addition to this, Lewis also taught at the Pratt Institute in New York. There she taught undergraduate architecture students, working as a visiting professor. After 25 years of independent architecture practice, a monograph was published of her work, entitled DIANE LEWIS: INSIDE-OUT: Architecture New York City in 2007. Her drawings of plans for the Astor Place parking site and others can be found in the Museum of Modern Art permanent collection. Nader Tehrani, dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of the Cooper Union, released the following statement early this afternoon:
Diane H. Lewis, 2017 It is with profound grief and a heavy heart that I share this communication with my students, colleagues, and alumni of The Cooper Union. Today, we lost one of the most beloved and influential voices of our community, architect and professor Diane H. Lewis. Diane Lewis came to The Cooper Union as a student in the Art School in 1968, transferring to Architecture in 1970, and completing her studies in 1976. Immediately upon graduation, she was awarded the Rome Prize in Architecture, making her one of the youngest members to be honored by the American Academy in Rome. Upon her return to the United States, Lewis joined the offices of Richard Meier and Partners and later, I. M. Pei and Partners where she received her early training—this, while also launching her teaching career. Initially a professor at the University of Virginia, Lewis went on to teach as a visitor in many respected programs including Yale University, the Technical University of Berlin, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and the University of Toronto, where she held the Frank Gehry Visiting Chair in 2006. But it was here at The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture that she planted her foundations as a radical and committed educator; Lewis was the first woman architect to be appointed to the full-time faculty, and later tenured in 1993. In an age when few dedicate themselves to teaching as a craft, her focus on creating a transformative space of learning will be a central part of her lasting legacy. Indeed, as much as Lewis was a product of Cooper Union, today we can look back at more than thirty years of her contributions and come to realize that we are, in fact, defined by the culture of her teaching. As a practicing architect, Lewis set up her own office in 1983 under the banner of Diane Lewis Architects PC, and she has since led a focused and critical practice concentrating on competitions, urbanism, and built projects known for their exquisite refinement in both plan and detailing. Of those projects, the Studiolo for Colomina and Wigley, the Mews project for Professor Dworkin, and the Kent Gallery all demonstrate the nuance and skill that Lewis brought to her sense of materiality, figuration, and occasion. With a protean intellectual profile, Lewis’s work spoke to the panoramic range she held within her scope; a writer, designer, film-maker, and urbanist, Lewis brought passion to her many activities, often synthesizing her investigations into the many publications she edited and authored. Her most recent book, including the work of several generations of students, Open City: Existential Urbanity is one such example, featuring not only her written work, but also her research on Neo-realist cinema, the role of the civic institution on the making of urbanity, and even book design as a central part of its argument. The practice of Diane Lewis served as a conduit for her inter-disciplinary interests, and she seamlessly navigated between professional practice, scholarly work, and her teaching projects as part of a larger commitment to the discipline. Naturally, as co-editor of the Education of an Architect, Lewis shared a vision about how the commitment to teaching was also part of a social contract to give back to society in productive ways. Exhibited widely, including at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Van Alen Institute, and the Galerie Aedes in Berlin, Lewis also gained many accolades such as the John Q. Hejduk Award and nominations for the National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt and the Daimler Chrysler Award. Diane Lewis was widely recognized as a consummate architect and professor. Loved by students, respected by professional colleagues and debated by academic peers, Lewis defined architecture with equal parts passion and erudition. In recent years, her Design IV urbanism studio was known for its often twelve-hour long final reviews—each one of them a marathon discussion of critical precision and clarified architectural thought. On a more intimate note, I can only say that I will personally miss Diane dearly, most especially the tenacity with which she engaged in fierce architectural debate. Diane’s persevering intellect and commitment to leadership were so ever-present in the School, I can only imagine that both John Hejduk and Anthony Vidler felt her almighty strength in the administration of the school. She led the school symbolically, and when things did not go her way, she led a parallel school of thought alongside the very deans that gave rise to her platform. Her agency represents the very ethos of the key protagonists that a school would want inside its walls. She had a voice, she used it, and she led with it. In the past days and weeks, I have been touched by the many students, alumni, and academic associates who have reached out to me inquiring about her well-being. Diane was loved by many and respected by all. She was fiercely loyal to her students, and she made no secret of her advocacy of the many friends she held dear in both personal and intellectual complicity. To that end, I can only see that this loss is shared far and wide by many. As the Dean of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, I have the honor of bringing words to the collective sentiments that I believe everyone has voiced to me, and yet, I know that these words do not suffice in face of a deep, collective grief. The presence of our beloved family and friends is real and profound, but in their absence, we also discover that their every lesson, their words of wisdom, humor, and sensibility is something that takes on even more vivid presence precisely because they are no longer here in body. Diane may have left us in person, but her presence will be very much part of the education of many architects to come, and she will continue to speak with strength and clarity in the halls of this institution. As we miss her deeply, we will also have the benefit of her ongoing guidance, the fulfillment of over thirty years of generous giving.
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$450 Million

A controversial master plan for The Alamo causes debate among architects and the public alike
A $450 million plan for the treasured historic site of The Alamo in downtown San Antonio is causing a stir. Architects, planners, professors, patriotic preservationists, and the public are in disagreement over a rejuvenation scheme that looks to open up the plaza but relocate a historic cenotaph in the process. The Alamo Mission (commonly known as just "The Alamo") is home to the 18th Century chapel, Shrine of Texas Liberty, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 1930s cenotaph erected in tribute to the Texian and Tejano defenders who were killed in an 1836 Mexican onslaught is at the center of the debate. The plan devised by nonprofit Alamo Endowment, the Alamo Commission, the city of San Antonio, and the Texas Land Office, looks to move the cenotaph to declutter the plaza and allow it to become a space for events. To improve access, perimeter walls that enclose the state-owned Alamo Gardens would be removed. These, unlike the cenotaph, are not historic and their removal, according to officials, would add approximately five acres to the site. The walls would also be partially replaced by glass walls too. Of the $450 million, $110 million will be used to renovate and repurpose three buildings (owned by the state) as a museum. The historic battlefield site is a top destination for Texans and tourists alike, attracting around 1.6 million every year. Plans to modernize the site aim to triple these figures over a decade and add 2,000 jobs to the area. "A lot of the children that will be going to this museum and to the compound are not even born today," Gene Powell, an Alamo Endowment board member told the City Council. "Technology is going to change. Children are going to want things that are more exciting and more fun. They want to be able to see things." Some, though, are not impressed: "This proposal represents a failure to address the real concerns and needs of visitors and heritage tourists who are asking to see more of the Alamo—not aesthetic landscaping," wrote Glenn Effler in the San Antonio Express-News. "The re-created acequia and the trees are little more than window dressing, a cosmetic treatment to a historic battlefield that is in dire need of inspiring interpretation." Effler is a senior member of the Alamo Plaza Project and board member of the Alamo Society. His letter in full can be read here. Local resident Susan Green, speaking to the San Antonio Express-News, was also skeptical of the proposed master plan. She was worried that the glass walls would be "a stark, modern looking contrast to the architecture in all of downtown." In light of the scheme's criticism, though, a number of architects and others in the architecture discipline penned a letter of support for what they described as a "great beginning to a plan that should lead to a transformative place."
As architects, we believe that the Alamo Master Plan in its final form can restore both the Alamo and the integrity of this historic place in our city. We applaud this incredible effort. All the residents in our city and our state want this plan to succeed. To be a vital destination for everyone, it is equally important to have the plaza be a dynamic and welcoming civic space as it has been for the past 200 years—perhaps the most memorable place in the state. Like all good master plans, the first plan is the beginning of the conversation. We should honor the Alamo and Alamo Plaza by having a thoughtful “listening” period to allow the plan to get better (building upon the successes of the River North, Broadway, Hemisfair and South Town Master Plans). Alamo Plaza should be a memorable place for residents and visitors to return to again and again. A place that strengthens our city. On May 11, we hoped the City Council will approve the master plan conditional on the need for a continuing process that keeps the plaza as a connected civic space rather than a controlled-access outdoor museum. The plaza must be a welcoming and integral part of our city, balancing the historic aspects of the Alamo with the civic needs of the plaza.
Thirty-one architects signed the letter, including David Lake and Ted Flato from Lake/Flato Architects and Lawrence Speck, professor, School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. The letter can be read in full here. The day after this letter was posted online, however, David Lake published a critique of the master plan in The Rivard Report. He responded to elements in the master plan that in his view, were not addressed in an appropriate manner, notably the proposed glass walls. Here are a few of the key faults he noted:
The master plan creates new walls to the north and a west acequia which are not in historic locations and confuse the integrity of the battlefield. The arbitrary location of the north wall and the west acequia disrupt the plaza’s original character implying a much smaller space, which is not historically accurate. The walls exclude the community and disrupt connectivity, creating a place for visitors but inflexible to events that occur today. In this plan, it is no longer a community gathering place.
Lake also argued that the plan only honored the Alamo Plaza of 1836 and "not the history of commerce in the plaza post-1836." His critique in full can be found here. If the master plan is approved, half of the sum required will come from San Antonio and the state, while the rest would be privately funded. A decision is due to be made on May 11. [UPDATE, 5/2/2017] This text has been updated from a previous version, published yesterday that did not include architect David Lake's critique of the master plan, which was also published that day. Further text from the signed architects' letter has been added to clarify their support for the "master plan process" rather than the master plan in its current form. 
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Don't Call it a Comeback

Checking in on the Fort Moore Memorial restoration in L.A.
In the two years since restoration work on the largely-forgotten Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial restoration in Downtown Los Angeles began, the areas around the isolated military memorial fountain have begun to see signs of change. To the north, the LA Plaza Village project, a new mixed-use development by architects Johnson Fain and landscape architects SWA Group, will likely transform the area when its 355 housing units and 46,000 square feet of commercial spaces come online in 2018. That project will take over several Los Angeles County–owned parking lots occupying the relatively isolated blocks east of the memorial. These formerly-neglected hillside lands are populated mostly by encampments, parking lots, and planted slopes and are relatively difficult to access on foot. The LA Plaza project will feature, however, a central, stepped paseo connecting across several blocks, linking the memorial with the pedestrian life of the Olvera Street area to the east. The Civic Center area to the south of the memorial, meanwhile, is working toward implementing the initial phases of a new, transformative master plan that seeks to convert the bureaucratic enclave into a mixed-use residential neighborhood in its own right. If there’s anything in the air around these parts, it’s change. Work on the Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial continues in pursuit of these changes, as the fountain—its waters shut off since the 1977 drought—is meticulously restored by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works under the guidance of Conservator Donna Williams and Civic Art Collections Manager Clare Haggarty. The memorial is located atop the stubborn slope that gives Downtown Los Angeles’s Hill Street its name and is dedicated to the Mormon Battalion and the New York Volunteer American military forces that first raised the American flag over the recently-conquered California territory on July 4th, 1847. The memorial is situated in a sunken plaza that features a large, running-bond brick expanse on its northernmost end. Next follows the 80-foot-wide waterfall backed by small, colorful tiles. The southernmost portion of the memorial contains a 78-foot by 45-foot terra cotta bas relief installation designed by renowned German sculptor Henry Kreis depicting the flag raising ceremony mentioned above. The bas relief installation also features a trio of symbolic narrative compositions celebrating the area’s conquest via Manifest Destiny. The uppermost panel celebrates the post-indigenous Spanish ranchos and agricultural pioneers of the area. The central panel depicts a “prairie schooner,” a type of stagecoach used by the early American settlers “who made Los Angeles a city,” while the lowest panel celebrates the might of industrial “water and power” that allowed for the region to be inhabited on a mass scale. The overall memorial was designed by Southern California architects Kazumi Adachi and Dike Nagano between 1947 and 1957 and officially dedicated in 1958. The memorial also features a 68-foot-tall triumphal pylon designed by American sculptor Albert Stewart. The pylon is itself embossed by a 16-foot by 11-foot sculpted eagle bas relief and an inscription dedicated to the “brave men and women” who played a role in “extending the frontiers” of the United States westward. Haggarty spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) via email, explaining that work on the memorial restoration is well underway, with the restoration of the waterfall’s tile backing proceeding toward completion. Craftspeople are recreating replacement tiles for the wall by hand in an effort to match the original installation. Haggarty explained that when the waterfall was turned off during the 1977 drought, the monument began to fall into disrepair, but that many of the artistic components are in decent shape, otherwise. She explained, “The materials [like] grout, tiles, etc. started to get brittle and began to delaminate” when the water was originally shut off and that after over 40 years of neglect, “the plumbing for the waterfall needs to be entirely replaced.” A goal of the restoration is to return the monument to its original function as a fountain, assuming there is enough water to go around. Haggarty explained, “It is supposed to be a fountain and turning it off caused most of the issues. Another big issue is graffiti and prior methods of removal that have done more harm than good.” A broad, sandblasted patch along the brick wall portion of the project is a testament to that fact. Haggarty and Williams will both be presenting at the Los Angeles Visionary Association salon on Sunday, April 30th. The event, organized by preservation advocates Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, will include lectures from the women behind the restoration project as well as a tour of the restoration site. Schave told AN via email, “The Fort Moore Memorial is a huge part of the downtown landscape, poorly understood, and neglected, and now, thanks to the LA County Arts Commission, it is coming back into focus.” Schave added that the restoration “allows us to reassert the lost history of [Fort Moore] Hill—the demolished layers from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the people who lived there—and the monument itself.”
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Cuba Libre

A new book explores Bacardi's use of architecture going back to the 1800s

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.

From its 1862 origins in Santiago, Cuba, Bacardi has grounded its identity through architecture—whether in utilitarian distilleries and factories or in more aesthetic offices and showrooms. Allan Shulman’s Building Bacardi: Architecture, Art & Identity traces the beverage empire’s affair with design beginning in 1800s Cuba, its migrations to the United States and throughout Latin America, and into new facilities in Europe after the turn of the century. Throughout these moves, Shulman contends that the company’s image and brand determinedly combined contemporary and vernacular elements.

Shulman lays the foundations for Bacardi’s architectural ambitions in the competition for the Bacardi Building in Havana. Located in the colonial heart of the capital, the building took a turn for the modern in 1930 when the winning architects, Esteban Rodríguez-Castells and Rafael Fernández Ruenes, changed the facade during construction from Renaissance Revival to a more contemporary art deco. Yet distinctly Cuban elements were incorporated, such as leaded glass, louvered windows, and local colors and patterns, to provide the building with a local identity. A visual landmark, the tower’s predominant function was the tasting room, a cocktail bar that catered to the largely American Prohibition-era clientele.

In post-Prohibition New York in 1933, this modern vernacular mix imbibed a Cuban flavor. Morris Sanders designed the new Bacardi Bar, which would take up space in the historic New York Club. The bar featured white leather focal points in an otherwise dark space, with a backdrop of a somewhat satirical mural by William Gropper to drive home the Cuban sensibility. A similar tactic was employed in 1938 for the Bacardi Room in the Empire State Building. Designed by Franklin Hughes, the space on the 35th floor was inwardly focused, with wooden screens blocking outside views; in their place, a mural by Antonio Gattorno, Waiting for Coffee, depicted a pastoral scene of sugar cane fields.

While Bacardi’s architectural style vacillates from utilitarian to expressive, it was never left to chance. Bacardi created its facilities by interpreting the local style through modern design and construction, a hybrid that often resulted from mixing local and international architects. Much of this mix appears in the wonder years of 1944 to 1977 when Bacardi was led by Jose Mario “Pepin” Bosch, who thought of himself more as a patron than a client. The breadth of architects and designers included under his reign certainly attests to this.

Native Cubans led the early work. Enrique Luis Varela designed the Modelo brewery near Havana and laboratories in Santiago in 1948. Ermina Odoardo-Ricardo Eguilior Arquitectos designed an addition to a plant in Santiago in the 1950s, as well as the Bacardi International Limited Building in Bermuda in 1972. In 1954 Sáenz, Cancio & Martín (SACMAG), appearing as both design engineer-architect and architect of record throughout Bosch’s tenure, developed a master plan for the new headquarters near Santiago along the central highway for its “modernity, mobility, and connectedness,” themes that pervaded Bacardi’s ethos. In 1956–57, Bosch commissioned Philip Johnson for a private residence and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for an administrative building. Both went unbuilt under Cuba’s growing political tensions. Shulman argues that the Mies van der Rohe’s design reappeared somewhat modified as the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

Though aligned with the Cuban Revolution, by 1960 the company’s assets in Cuba had been nationalized, and Bacardi exiled. But, in 1936, Bacardi had expanded to Puerto Rico to capitalize on being in a U.S. territory as Prohibition ended. A new campus with the main plant designed by Toro y Ferrer Arquitectos was constructed there in 1954. Construction increased after exile, including an expressive canopy-structure pavilion by SACMAG in 1962, and the Foyer Museum and Bottling Plant in 1965 by Miguel Rosich and Ignacio Carrera-Justiz. Félix Candela was tapped for an unbuilt warehouse design. Instead, he completed multiple commissions in Mexico. In Tulatitán, Mexico, Mies van der Rohe, with SACMAG as the architect of record, designed the company’s administrative building in 1958.

One of Bacardi’s more dynamic duos appears in Miami. In 1963, SACMAG’s seven-story Bacardi Imports Tower rose as a small service core to support a large truss from which the rest of the building hangs. An antithesis of the modern corporate office building, the lobby was moved to the second floor and the plaza level was a gallery. Shulman points out a striking similarity in the urban plan of the tower set back in a public plaza to Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building completed in 1958. A decade later, a smaller “mushroom” building—an administration annex—designed by Carrera-Justiz appeared. The tower was faced with dark glass on the longer sides, while the short sides featured blue and white stone and tile murals. The annex took this a step further and faced the entire building with hammered colored glass set in epoxy. The design by Johannes Dietz gives the mural a magical lantern effect.

Following Bosch’s retirement in 1976, Bacardi focused on its individual brands and new acquisitions. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that attention to facility design reemerged. Bacardi began renovating historical structures as it had done in the past, with a hospital in Puerto Rico in 1939 and a Spanish monastery in 1975. With new renovations in Juillac-le-Coq, France, and Aberfeldy, Scotland, the most spectacular of the new era is Heatherwick Studio’s renovation and glasshouse enclosures for the Bombay Sapphire distillery on the site of former mills in Laverstoke, England. Here, the modern and vernacular complement more than mix.

The portfolio-sized book shows what it tells. Full-color photos, drawings, historical documents and Bacardi paraphernalia follow the text. However, calling it a coffee or cocktail table book would do little service to Shulman’s research, which is thorough without being too technical for non-architects. The design coverage is comprehensive, yet succinct. The large images make it easy to flip across the book’s geographic organization, and a timeline is included. While the history of Bacardi is shown broadly, those wanting more are directed by an extensive set of endnotes and bibliography.

Building Bacardi: Architecture, Art & Identity Allan Shulman, Rizzoli, $60.00

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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.”