Search results for "docomomo"

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Visit Neutra's "Drive-In Church" Tomorrow
Tomorrow, Saturday, January 31, Docomomo is hosting a unique tour, lecture, and reception at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove. The focus will be  Richard Neutra's "Drive In Church" for the complex, and its recently-restored 1961 Arboretum and 1968 Tower of Hope. Christ Cathedral founder Robert H. Schuller selected Neutra to design the facility, with an indoor/outdoor flexibility that allowed him to preach from a cantilevered pulpit to a congregation sitting in their cars. Later Neutra designed the adjacent Tower of Hope, which provided classrooms, office space and the New Hope Ministries. Visitors will also find out about renovation plans for Philip Johnson's Crystal Cathedral, which Schuller commissioned in 1977. That renovation is being led by Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale. Speakers at the event will include architectural historians Barbara Lamprecht and Daniel Paul, and Docomomo US Executive Director Liz Waytkus.
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Deadline approaching for Docomomo's 2015 Modernism in America Awards
  Docomomo is one of our most valuable national architecture organizations. It fights to preserve modern architecture, sites, and neighborhoods even when it is not publicly popular (think of the Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center) in all parts of the country. Now the organization known for its advocacy and preservation of contemporary built culture is sponsoring its second Modernism in America Awards to celebrate the people and projects working to preserve and rehabilitate mid-century modern buildings. Awards will be presented in the following categories: Design, Inventory/Survey, and Advocacy. Early nominations are due by January 9, 2015, and all nominations must be submitted by February 20, 2015. Winners will be announced in April 2015 and will be recognized at an awards ceremony held on Friday June 5, 2015 during the Docomomo US National Symposium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Click here for more information.
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Sarasota architects hope to preserve Mid-Century Modernism in Florida
The style of architecture known as "mid-century modern" is a cousin to the "International style." A popular combination of European stylistic tendencies and domestic American influences, including furniture design, it has become an influential catch all term for distinguished post-World War II structures and commercial tract homes (like the Eichler Homes). While the style has become widely popular in lifestyle magazines like Dwell and even replicated in new suburban developments, the original homes are being regularly torn down and being replaced with bloated McMansions that have shoe closets the size of the former mid-century living rooms. But the style has a huge following and a number of organizations to highlight and preserve is monuments. Docomomo has been in the lead highlighting these structures and Palm Springs was one of the first city to host a "modernism week." The latest city to create a week of activities devoted to the style is Sarasota, Florida, which along with Palm Springs and New Canaan, Connecticut, were experimental centers of the style. The Florida city also had a gifted number of architects working in the style: Paul Rudolph and his early mentor Ralph Twitchell, Gene Leedy, Victor Lundy, Tim Seibert, and Carl Abbott. The four day event of lectures, city and house tours that took place this fall was a model of how a community can highlight its unique but disappearing history. The week was created the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (founded by Martie Lieberman, a realtor who specializes in the style of homes) which is trying to promote the city's modern architecture. It hopes to raise awareness of the style so its buildings can be preserved, updated, and even become a model of a future architecture that is more responsive to needs and demands than the typical McMansion. Sarasota prides itself on its modern history and was a unique crossroads of culture, commerce, and environment after World War II that helped birth this style. The week also highlighted the fascinating figure of Philip Hiss III who moved to the beach community in 1948 and became a major figure in the community. He was chair of its education department (which commissioned Paul Rudolph to design two high schools) and a developer of the modernist community Lido Shores. The Foundation is hoping to make their week an annual affair and the area has the modern assets to make it work.
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Docomomo considers the future of mid-century architecture in tour series
October has become the month of architecture tours in cities all across the country. The largest and most ambitious of these tour programs is Docomomo's Tour Day that takes place throughout the month but primarily on October 11. Docomomo will sponsor or organize architecture tours in nearly half the states in the country, and in 37 different cities. This years theme is "The Future of Mid-Century" and it looks into current issues facing modern architecture today and highlights the innovative and progressive work of architects, designers, and typologies not usually recognized within the scope of mid-century design. This year, for example, tour attendees will have exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to “The Egg,” designed by Wallace Harrison in Albany, New York, as part of Historic Albany’s guided walking tour. Detroit Area Art Deco Society’s tour of select Detroit area Lustron Homes will provide a rare look into the world of post-war prefab homes. In Las Vegas, guests can hop on Paradise Palms’ double-decker bus and learn which homes belonged to local and national celebrities such as Johnny Carson, Phyliss Diller, Sonny Liston, Juliet Prowse, and Rip Taylor. And in Maryland, attendees should bring their bike for a tour of modern residential architecture hosted by Montgomery Modern in partnership with the AIA Potomac chapter. Tour Day 2014 is also partnering with organizations such as Palm Springs Modernism and Tucson Modernism Weeks who are offering multiple day celebrations of modernism in their area. "However, one of the most exciting Tour Day 2014 events is the debut of SarasotaMOD,” stated Docomomo US’ Executive Director Liz Waytkus and The Architects Newspaper will be there to send daily updates on the proceedings in the coastal Florida city. But if we were not in Florida we would most want to be in Southern California or Minnesota. The Southern California Docomomo chapter will celebrate the work of Organicists Bruce Goff and Bart Prince in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the opening of Goff's and Prince's Pavilion for Japanese Art (top). In a lecture at LACMA on Sunday, October 12, 2014, Bart Prince will discuss his own work, his collaboration with Bruce Goff, and the design of the Pavilion for Japanese Art. On Saturday, October 18, 2014, Docomomo SoCal will host a reception at the architects Al Struckus House, where the current owners will share their experience living in one of Los Angeles’ most idiosyncratic architectural masterpieces. The tour offered by Docomomo US’ chapter in Minnesota will allow attendees to explore modern residential design in two Saint Paul neighborhoods: University Grove and the hidden gem Stonebridge Boulevard. Finally, a complete listing of Docomomo partners and events for Tour Day 2014 is now available here.
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Fading Within Memory
Kresge Auditorium by Eero Sarinen at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Courtesy J Paul Getty Trust

Twentieth-Century Building Materials:
History and Conservation

Jester, Thomas C. Jester, editor
J. Paul Getty Trust, $55

Twentieth-Century Building Materials: History and Conservation is a compilation of papers sorted into seven parts: metals, concrete, wood and plastics, masonry, glass, linoleum, and roofing, siding, and walls. When first published by the National Park Service in 1995, it was one of the only references on the topic. That same year, the Historic Preservation Education Foundation in collaboration with the National Park Service organized the first national conference on the topic, Preserving the Recent Past, from which a series of papers emerged. This was followed in 2000 with Preserving the Recent Past 2 and its associated papers.

Clearly, as mid-century Modernist buildings age, there is a need to better understand the significance of the 20th century in terms of its impact on our built heritage, but also as regards the conservation of its construction materials. These were often experimental in nature, and have now also proven to be less durable. With the acknowledgement of specific 20th-century structures as heritage, there also arise questions of ethics and philosophy of treatment, given the fact that there is typically a wealth of archival material, and the buildings were well photographed. In addition, the original designers are more likely to still be alive or recently deceased, so there tends to be a lot more information about 20th-century heritage than other periods.

Polychromatic lobby ceiling (1934, John J. Early) of the Department of Justice building, Washington, D. C. (left). Sheetrock: The Fireproof Wallboard, United States Gypsum Company, 1937 (right).

Since the mid-1990s, when this book was first published, several factors have resulted in an increased interest in the built environment of the 20th century. First is age. Most of these buildings are approaching 50 years or older, enough time and distance to create a new appreciation for the aesthetic and technical achievements of 20th-century architecture. Second is the failure of the materials used in modern architecture, requiring maintenance or replacement. Third is the rise of organizations and initiatives focused on 20th-century heritage. Docomomo (Documentation of the Modern Movement) was founded in 1988 in the Netherlands, and has chapters around the world, as well as annual international conferences and a journal. The International Committee on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) formed its International Scientific Committee on 20th-Century Heritage (ISC20C) in 2005, which has held annual symposia and published papers ever since. The Association for Preservation Technology International (APTI) has had for some time a Technical Committee on Modern Heritage, and published a special issue of APT Bulletin devoted to the conservation of modernism (Vol. 41, 2010). The World Heritage Committee has highlighted the gap in designation of 20th-century heritage, and as a result several important sites have been recently included on the World Heritage list. And since 2011, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has become involved through their Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI), which organized an expert colloquium in March 2014. The GCI has long had a counterpart program focused on modern materials conservation in artwork.

Prefabriaction Lustron house (1950, Morris Beckman) in Chesterton, Indiana.

This book, however, remains an important resource, because little research has been accomplished in the nearly 20 years since it was first issued other than the publication of case studies. The book was out of print and has been re-issued by the J. Paul Getty Trust as part of its program to promote activities related to the conservation of the recent past. Although the papers remain the same as the earlier edition, and are not confined to materials of the Modernist Movement, the historical research is still valid, as are the approaches recommended to individual materials and their conservation. The papers’ authors are mostly still very active in the field and some are now considered authorities on the topic.

Beginning with Metals, the papers cover aluminum, monel, nickel silver, stainless steel, and weathering steel. Under Concrete, concrete block, cast stone, reinforced concrete, shotcrete, architectural precast concrete, and pre-stressed concrete are discussed. Wood and Plastics includes fiberboard, decorative plastic laminates, plywood, glued-laminated timber, and fiber-reinforced plastic. The section on Masonry covers structural-clay tile, terra cotta, gypsum block, and tile, thin-stone veneer, and simulated masonry. For Glass, there are papers on plate glass, prismatic glass, glass block, structural glass, and spandrel glass. The Flooring section contains articles on linoleum, rubber tile, cork tile, terrazzo, and vinyl tile. Lastly, Roofing, Siding, and Walls covers asphalt shingles, porcelain enamel, acoustical materials, gypsum board, and building sealants. In addition, there is an extensive bibliography and sources for research. The book is well illustrated and indexed.

The Modern Diner (1940) in Pawktucket, Rhode Island.

Twentieth-Century Building Materials: History and Conservation continues to be extremely useful for architectural historians and researchers, technical professionals involved with the care of the 20th-century built environment, as well as owners and managers of such buildings. It is well written and organized in such a way that it is easy to find information on specific materials. Where it falls short is in the fact that it mainly covers individual components, whereas many of the products used in 20th-century construction are systems—think of glazed curtain walls as an example. Here, those of us who work in this field must rely on our own experience or review of similar case studies. But the problem with case studies is that they tend to be published soon after they are implemented, and if over time the interventions fail, the authors almost never re-evaluate and publish the failure. The book’s other shortcoming is the lack of discussion on philosophy and ethics of intervention, although, as the title claims, the book is focused on history and conservation. Still it is important to acknowledge that technical solutions should be based on programmatic strategies that involve some thought about the philosophy of preservation for a given site.


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Pamela Jerome
300, 320, and 350 Park Avenue.
Courtesy WASA / Studio A

By the mid 20th century, modernism was expected to respond to the demands of the post-World War II world, resolving commercial and housing needs. Instead, over time, it became synonymous with urban renewal and the loss of the historic urban fabric. Thus, from its earlier celebrated representation of transparency and newness, modernism eventually became berated as visually exhausting, and was ultimately followed by a postmodernist reactionary response. However, with over 50 years separating the present from mid-century modernism, the style is experiencing a renewed appreciation and reevaluation.

As an architect leading a preservation practice in New York at WASA/Studio A, I have increasingly become involved in the conservation of 20th-century heritage, including investigation and design of repairs for buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, Harrison & Abramovitz, Mies van der Rohe, I.M. Pei, Emery Roth & Sons, and Eero Saarinen. What we have found is that the material most susceptible to change is the single-glazed curtain wall. Although Henry Russell-Hitchock and Philip Johnson coined the term “International Style” with the seminal eponymous exhibit and accompanying publication at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932, the “glass box” did not become ubiquitous in our cityscapes until the 1960s. Perhaps the greatest concentrations of mid-century International Style in the world exists in Midtown East, recently spared by the New York City Council from a proposal to up-zone the neighborhood, which would have surely spelt the eventual demolition of these early glass boxes.

350 Park Avenue / Manufacturers Hanover Trust.

The single-glazed curtain wall was cutting edge in the 1950s and early 1960s, but still very much experimental in nature. Frequent failures include lack of sufficient anchorage (based on compliance with inadequate wind-pressure design requirements per the 1938 NYC Building Code), and air and water leaks. All too often the effort to upgrade thermal performance and resolve leaks has resulted in the complete alteration of the mid-century modernist aesthetic, which only recently has begun to capture the public’s appreciation through popular shows like Mad Men. Witness the case of a series of glass-box buildings along Park Avenue designed by Emery Roth & Sons, described below.

The firm of Emery Roth & Sons produced many of the fine Beaux Arts and art deco apartment buildings so visible along Central Park West. However, by the 1950s and 60s, their prolific glass-box output had literally changed the image of Midtown and the Wall Street District. No matter what their place in the history of architecture—many decry the firm as copycat architects—they are responsible for over 60 buildings in Midtown alone, according to the 2004 results of a Docomomo survey of 200 mid-century modernist buildings in Midtown. And as far as copycats are concerned, the Look Building at 488 Madison Avenue, a modernist design the firm completed in 1949 (albeit, not a glass box), predates the Lever House (1952) and Seagram Building (1958), as well as the UN Secretariat Building (1952). Another criticism has been that their glazed skyscrapers all look very similar. Yet, is anyone complaining that Mies van der Rohe spent years replicating his details—practice, after all, makes perfect, and “less is more”? Should we hold it against Emery Roth & Sons that their buildings from this period are instantly recognizable?

Let me draw your attention to the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Building at 350 Park Avenue. Completed in 1954, the building, with its green reflective glass, compliments the Lever House, located on the adjacent block to the north. Unlike the Lever House, however, it emphasizes verticality with its exposed vertical muntins. The next two blocks to the south along the same side of Park Avenue are occupied by the Mutual of America Building (320 Park Avenue) and the Colgate Palmolive Building (300 Park Avenue). Emery Roth & Sons designed both buildings, the former executed in 1960 and the latter in 1956. These three buildings in a row have very similar massing, with stepped setbacks leading to a central tower. All three buildings were remarkably alike—glass boxes that express their verticality. The Colgate Palmolive Building could even be considered contextual in its respect for the Waldorf Astoria directly across the street, its cream colored spandrels an homage to the limestone art deco masterpiece. Along with the Bankers Trust Building (280 Park Avenue, 1962), and 400 and 410 Park Avenue (1958 and 1959), Emery Roth & Sons helped change the landscape of Park Avenue giving it a consistent appearance, condemned by Lewis Mumford at the time, yet praised by Ada Louise Huxtable.

300 Park Avenue / Colgate Palmolive.

With the exception of the Lever House and the Seagram Building, none of these buildings are protected. In the name of energy efficiency and the desire for a contemporary look, two of them have been altered beyond recognition. In 1995, the Mutual of America Building was re-clad with a design by Swanke Hayden Connell that is a glazed version of postmodernism, roughly ten years after the style fell out of favor. Although continuing to present a vertical expression, the building is so changed as to bear no resemblance to its original design. In the re-cladding of the Colgate Palmolive building, executed in 2000, an equally dramatic departure from the original aesthetic was achieved. The resulting facade has reversed Emery Roth & Sons’ intention. Horizontality has been emphasized with continuous opaque aluminum spandrels interrupted by strips of horizontal window wall.

Why should we care about one or two less Emery Roth & Sons’ facades considering their relentless output during the same period? The issue becomes one of preservation theory. Is it time for the early glass box to be recognized for what it actually represents—not just a radical change in aesthetics from the historic masonry building, but also a moment in time when the future appeared to be full of innovation and optimism, manifested in the lightness, transparency, and openness of these structures? Does the experimental nature of these buildings, since proven prone to failure, mean that we should abandon our tried-and-true principles as preservationists?

Preservation theory is guided by international and national doctrine, most notably the Venice Charter (1964), Secretary of Interior’s Standards (1977), Burra Charter (1979), Nara Document on Authenticity (1994), and the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (2011). Whereas the Venice Charter focused on the care by experts of monumental masonry structures in the European tradition, the Burra Charter systematized the use of a values-based approach to cultural heritage, wherein stakeholders are consulted to elicit significance, not just academics. This was followed by the Nara Document, which emphasized that authenticity is not automatically about saving original fabric, but should be viewed and interpreted differently by each culture in its context. Based on the Venice Charter, the Secretary of Interior’s Standards apply many of these considerations to the American reality. Although relatively recent, the Historic Urban Landscape document, adopted by UNESCO during the 36th session of their general conference, is extremely applicable to the case of Park Avenue.

Alfredo Conti, one of the five current international vice presidents of ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites, one of the three statutory advisory bodies to the World Heritage Convention), eloquently defines the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) as follows:

…the sensory perception of the urban system and its setting. A system of material components (urban layouts, plot systems, buildings, open spaces, trees and vegetation, urban furniture, etc.) and the relationship among them, which are the result of a process, conditioned by social, economical, political and cultural constraints over time. The [HUL] concept contributes to link tangible and intangible heritage components and to assess and understand the town or urban area as a process, rather than as an object.

Even if we consider Emery Roth & Sons’ mid-century glass boxes as a vernacular backdrop, we must still acknowledge that these buildings embody the politics, events, and social changes that happened during the 20th century. Although not considered iconic, what are the limits of change that we should impose on Emery Roth & Sons’ buildings from this period? Should we be alarmed by potential alterations to their aesthetics, as their non-designated and aging glazed curtain walls come under scrutiny for upgrading?

The 1995 restoration of the Lever House involved the dismantling and reconstruction of its failed single-glazed curtain wall; however, because of the jurisdiction of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), its aesthetic was replicated, albeit in double-glazing. The adjacent buildings of Emery Roth & Sons have been afforded no such protection. While the NY Landmarks Conservancy and Municipal Arts Society, in response to the recent threat posed by the subsequently defeated East Midtown up-zoning proposal, have brought more than a dozen early masonry high-rise structures in the area to the attention of the LPC in the hopes that they will be individually designated, I would argue that we should also consider designating a historic district of the early examples of the International Style along Park Avenue and its vicinity. Only through this type of regulatory framework can we insure that these structures are properly evaluated for their cultural significance prior to proposals for re-cladding, sure to multiply in the near future as their leaky and energy-inefficient facades come under consideration for replacement.

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Hopkins Architects to Transform Harvard's Holyoke Center into New Campus Hub
Harvard’s Holyoke Center, designed by renowned Catalan architect and former Dean on the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Josep Lluís Sert, will soon be undergoing major renovations, university President Drew Faust announced last Thursday. London-based Hopkins Architects, the designers of Princeton’s Frick Chemistry Laboratory and Yale’s Kroon Hall, have signed on to transform the 50-year-old, cast-in-place administrative building into multifaceted campus center by 2018. The 360,000-square-foot, H-shaped structure, completed in 1966, represents both the first high-rise building in the area as well as the beginning of Harvard’s adoption of Modern architecture. Behind its complex, Corbusian facade of concrete fins, colored bands, and seemingly randomly placed windows, Holyoke Center has housed the university’s health services, infirmary, and the majority of its administrative offices, as well as ground-floor retail. As part of Harvard's ongoing efforts to improve common spaces across its campus, the building will undergo extensive interior remodeling and exterior renovations in order to provide students, faculty, and staff with an expansive cultural and social center. Once complete, the rechristened Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center will contain a flexible indoor gathering space, lounges, and study areas, as well as exhibition, performance and event spaces. The building’s ground floor, renovated over a decade ago to enclose Sert’s original open-air arcade with glass walls, will remain open to the public with a variety of retail and food service outlets. “The Smith Campus Center will draw members of the University community together and serve as an important common space for everyone to enjoy and use,” said Harvard President Drew Faust last Thursday during the unveiling of the building’s new identity. “We are very pleased to be moving forward with planning, and we are eager to engage students, faculty, and staff in the important work of creating a flexible and welcoming campus hub.” Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 following an extensive planning process that will include considerable student and community participation.
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Beans Sprouting
Boston City Hall.
Ezra Stoller / ESTO

As Beantown’s race for mayor heats up before the November election, the future of the controversial Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles–designed Boston City Hall hangs in the balance, yet again. The Brutalist-style structure was lauded by critics when it was first completed in the 1960s, but has received mixed feedback over the years. In 2006, Mayor Menino pushed for the relocation of City Hall to the Seaport District—an area in which he has been integral in ushering in a wave of new development. The plan, however, never materialized. And now one mayoral candidate, Representative Martin J. Walsh, is focusing his efforts on the revitalization of downtown Boston, and the demolition of City Hall is emerging as the linchpin of his plan.

Walsh has argued that the city sell City Hall Plaza to a private developer for roughly $150 million to construct a new mixed-use complex on the 4.5-acre site, likely consisting of residential, hotels, retail, and office space. Municipal Center would then be moved to a location in or around Downtown Crossing, Government Center, or the Financial District, to be owned and operated by another private developer for a 20 to 40 year period.


“A 21st century economy has emerged, and the new mayor must refocus the development to the core economic engine of the city, the downtown. This area must evolve from a 9-to-5 weekday, government-dependent culture, to a culture economically driven to add value 24/7 to surrounding businesses and neighborhoods,” said Walsh in a statement.

This proposal, Walsh has said, would generate significant revenue from both the sale of City Hall and new annual taxes, and would also provide a direct link to the Quincy Marketplace, which the candidate said has struggled since the Seaport became a popular destination.

But some of Walsh’s rivals have been quick to express opposition to his plan. Mayoral candidate and Councilman Mike Ross called the idea “stale,” and said that the priority needs to shift to creating affordable housing along transit nodes in neighborhoods throughout Boston.


“The citizens of Boston are hungry for bold new ideas, not just another conversation about moving City Hall. The next mayor can’t just be focused on building big buildings and downtown development,” said Ross in a speech outside the Leon Electric Building, an expansive structure for which he is proposing a mixed-use development.

The threat of demolition has also struck a chord with members of the architecture community. Several years ago, preservationists and local residents came together and formed the “Friends of Boston City Hall,” an advocacy group seeking to preserve and update the massive concrete building.

“It stands more than any other building for the renaissance of Boston in the 20th century architecture,” said David Fixler, president of Docomomo US/New England and partner at EYP Architecture & Engineering. “It was the catalyst of creating the Boston we know today, which is a world class city, which it wasn’t in the 1950s.”

A new 58-story tower by Pei Cobb Freed.
Courtesy Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and Cambridge Seven Associates

Fixler points out that the building has its flaws, but believes that the city should conduct a comprehensive feasibility study to explore the options for renewing it.

“The building is not perfect, the plaza is not perfect. There are things we need to address and make more humane and friendly to the users. But the potential is there,” said Fixler.

Several recommendations have been floated to revamp the building and make it more useable, including implementing energy efficient strategies to lower the heating costs as well as transforming the plaza into a more lush, pedestrian-friendly space.

“Why not work with what you have, which is the sustainable thing to do and the culturally referential thing to do, and let Boston be an example of adaptive reuse,” said Fixler. “It is a building that more than merits that for the architectural community and the city of Boston as well.”

Whether or not the next mayor decides to relocate City Hall, change has already taken hold of downtown Boston. The area, which has been primarily a hub for business and government, is experiencing a surge of new residential development.

Handel Architects' new tower connects to a Daniel Burnham Building.
Courtesy Steelblue

Developer Millennium Partners just broke ground this month on a new 625-foot residential tower next to the former Filene’s building in Downtown Crossing. Handel Architects has been hired by the developer to design the 450-unit tower as well as renovate the adjacent early 20th century landmark, designed by Daniel Burnham, and transform it into a multi-use complex with an upscale food market, retail space, and creative businesses.

“We are getting this landmark building back to its original concept—this palace of commerce—will now be a palace of creativity,” said Handel partner Blake Middleton.

As of now, the apartment tower will stand as the tallest residential building in Boston, and will include retail on the first three levels. The design took its cue from the “wonderful rectangular linearity to the facade” of Burnham’s terra cotta and steel frame building. Middleton said they also looked to the “simplicity that Cobb was able to conceive with the John Hancock building,” while “clearly establishing our own identity.”

Only a short distance from Downtown Crossing, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners along with Cambridge Seven Associates, just received the green light from the Boston Redevelopment Authority to build a set of towers in Back Bay. Once built, the 58-story hotel and condominium high-rise will top the Millennium Partners tower and rise to 691 feet to be the tallest residential tower in the city.

“The idea of the 24-hour city has really become a successful model. It really does take a particular mix of uses. The synergy of these uses has to be carefully calibrated,” said Blake Middleton.

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Preservationists Warn Russia's Melnikov House at Risk
One of Moscow's most iconic pieces of architecture, the cylindrical home of avant-garde architect Konstantin Melnikov built in the 1920s, is reportedly showing signs of structural damage caused by rumbling from neighboring construction projects and is in danger of being demolished. The New York Times reports that preservationists including Docomomo have sounded the alarm that cracks have been forming in the structure and its foundation. Russian preservation group Archnadzor has filed an appeal to President Vladimir Putin in an effort to save the structure from potential collapse. Currently occupied by Melnikov's granddaughter, Ekatrina Karinskaya, the house has not been officially declared a landmark while an ongoing dispute over ownership plays out. According to the Times, Karinskaya said "the construction is part of a willful plan 'to simply destroy the house.'" Preservationists believe the biggest threat to the house is the underground parking garage at the nearby mixed-use construction project, that could, according to a report posted on Docomomo, cause flooding at the house as the garage structure acts as a dam, blocking the flow of groundwater. Other preservations efforts call for the house to be preserved as a public museum storing all of Melnikov's archival material that is largely inaccessible today. More interior views of the house can be viewed here.
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Plaque of the New
The Gores Pavilion in New Canaan.
Courtesy Philip Johnson Glass House

Twenty-three mid-century modern houses in New Canaan, Connecticut, appear on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, an honor normally given to more traditional houses. The New Canaan Historical Society, a long-time champion of modern architecture, wanted to recognize the achievement with a plaque, but the charming old antique-style ovals usually attached to such structures just didn’t seem to work with rectilinear planes and wide expanses of glass. The solution: a modern design by Alan Goldberg, a former principal in the office of Eliot Noyes.

The new plaque designed by Alan Goldberg.
Courtesy New Canaan Historical Society

Noyes was the first of the Harvard Five to move to New Canaan—even before Marcel Breuer and Philip Johnson. “I wanted the sign to be recognizable, yet clean and simple, compatible with modern architecture’s minimalist philosophy,” said Goldberg. “I chose a simple rectangular shape and a visually interesting format.”

“It’s really an extension of what we’ve been doing for years,” said Janet Lindstrom, executive director of the New Canaan Historical Society, of the modern plaques. The society began to lay the groundwork for a survey of New Canaan’s moderns in 2001, when it began to document the homes in collaboration with modern architecture advocacy group DOCOMOMO. The idea for the current program also grew out of a need for a plaque for the Gores Pavilion (a modern pool house turned exhibition space), which the society recently opened to the public in New Canaan’s Irwin Park.

The criteria for earning a plaque include publication in an architecture journal and/or a spot on one of New Canaan’s modern house tours. Eligible homes also have to have been built before 1980. Seventeen houses now have plaques, and more will follow. The architects include Richard Bergmann, Marcel Breuer, Victor Christ-Janer, Frederick Taylor Gates, Alan Goldberg, Landis Gores, John Johansen, John Black Lee, Gary Lindstrom, Eliot Noyes, Laszlo Papp, Hugh Smallen, Edward Durrell Stone, Ed Winter, and Evan Woolen III.

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Pending Sale of Philadelphia's Roundhouse Police Headquarters Spurs Campaign for Landmark Status
It has been a rough few months for modernist civic buildings. First, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks denied Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital landmark status, and then came the demolition of Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama, and now the future of The Roundhouse, Philadelphia’s Police Headquarters, hangs in the balance. Last week, during his budget address, Mayor Nutter brought to light the city’s plan to renovate the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Building at 4601 Market Street and turn it into the new police headquarters (to be shared with the City Morgue and the Health Center). Nutter said that the move would mean selling the Roundhouse, along with several other municipal buildings. PlanPhilly reported that the city would pay for the renovation of 4601 Market Street with long-term borrowing, but the costs of the project “would be offset by the sale of the three would-be surplus municipal properties.” The Roundhouse—designed by architectural firm, Geddes, Brecher, Qualls, and Cunningham (GBQC)—is constructed of structural pre-cast panels and was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal Award for Best Philadelphia Architecture in 1963. Right now, graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Historic Preservation Graduate Program have teamed up with Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture to come up with different reuse strategies for the Roundhouse. Two graduate students at UPenn, Kimber VanSant and Allee Berger, have launched a campaign, Save the Roundhouse, on Facebook. VanSant and Berger point out that in the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s “In Progress” Philadelphia 2035 plan for the Franklin Square Neighborhood, the Roundhouse is labeled as “Likely for Redevelopment” or referred to as “Police HQ lot,” which indicates that the Roundhouse building might not factor into the overall redevelopment of the area. Berger and VanSant plan on pursuing landmark status for the building, but fear that with a backlog of nominations waiting for approval at the Philadelphia Historical Commission, time might run out before the city’s development gets underway. The two preservationists are also concerned that city officials have misrepresented the condition of the building. “Through the campaign, we’re trying to make it clear that the building is in excellent shape and a great candidate for reuse,” said VanSant. VanSant and Berger said that the next steps will be centered around public engagement, speaking with developers, and eventually forming a coalition with local preservation and modernism  groups. “This building is a physical vestige of when Philly was really going through some transformative changes in the late 1960s. There were a lot of urban renewal campaigns going on at the time. It was a very pivotal time for the city,” said Berger. “The building is a tour de force of architectural engineering.”
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A Battle Lost for Neutra's Gettsyburg Cyclorama Building
After years of litigation, preservationists have lost the battle to save Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg cyclorama building, an iconic example of modern architecture from the 1960s. The bulldozers could raze this circular visitor center as early as February, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The National Park Service commissioned the glass and concrete building as part of its Mission 66 initiative—a billion-dollar program to update park services across the country—at the Gettysburg Battlefield site.  The rotunda was designed specifically to house the 1883 panoramic painting of the Battle of Gettysburg by Paul Philippoteaux. Modern architecture preservationists and Civil War buffs clashed over the future of the building, which resulted in legal action that required the National Park Service to conduct a review of the demolition and explore alternative solutions. But when Paul Philippoteaux’s painting was relocated to a new visitor center, the fate of Neutra’s building seemed sealed. The National Park Services released its report this past September and determined that there was no other alternative but to tear the building down. The Gettysburg Foundation will pay for the $3.8 million demolition.