All posts in Preservation
A French startup is using drones and AI to save the world's architectural heritage
Sell a Story
The entire town of Story, Indiana, is up for sale
Prouvé gas station to be auctioned
Sporty spring sweaters, floral prints, nautical belt buckles, and more are juxtaposed against homes designed by Ralph Twitchell, a founding member of the Sarasota School of Architecture, and Paul Rudolph. The 1953 Paul Rudolph-designed Umbrella House, a blocky building shaded by a perforated canopy, and the swooping Cocoon House, a collaboration between Twitchell and Rudolph from 1950 with a unique U-shaped roof, features alongside other local landmarks.
Both buildings are important landmarks for the Sarasota School, which sought to blend Modernism with breezy beach vibes (and were appropriate for the temperate, humid climate). The Sarasota Architectural Foundation has been educating visitors on both during their annual Sarasota Modernism Weekend, which the group has run since 2013.
The J. McLaughlin–Sarasota confluence seemed like a natural one to the clothing brand’s co-founder and creative director Kevin McLaughlin. The company already has two stores in the area, one in Sarasota and one in Longboat Key, and McLaughlin is a frequent visitor to the small city. Additionally, local Sarasota artist John Pirman had previously been tapped to design prints for the brand.
"We're honored to have collaborated with J. McLaughlin to produce the new spring catalog," wrote SAF board chair Christopher Wilson. "By creating vital awareness of SAF, this fine American brand is helping further our mission to protect and preserve these iconic examples of the Sarasota School of Architecture."
It's the Pitts
Pittsburgh's City Council votes against saving historic Venturi Scott Brown–designed home
Fly Like an Eagle
Tunisia's high-flying Brutalist hotel is safe after demolition scare
In order to protect First Christian Church, a Change.org petition started by Okie Mod Squad has been circulating that urges city council members to officially landmark the building, a designation that would require future development on the site to go through a public approvals process. Rostochil noted in a February post that thought the building was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, this “in no way protects it from being demolished.” The move only now qualifies it for tax credits to repurpose or restore the structure. The efforts of the “Save the Egg” protestors have resulted in a city council meeting happening on Tuesday, according to News 4, where local lawmakers will discuss whether or not the church can potentially be declared a landmark. If identified as such by the Historic Preservation Commission, then the new buyer would not be able to make significant changes to its original design without prior approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission. The protections would include the entirety of the Edgemere Park property, not just the iconic, egg-shaped main sanctuary. Conner and Pojezny designed three additional structures on the church’s campus, including a four-story education building and a small fine arts complex known as the Jewel Box Theatre, the city’s oldest, continuously-operating community playhouse. It took the architects three separate tries over several years to come up with the current design for the $2.1 million development, which the church’s renowned minister, Bill Alexander, wanted to be a “Church for Tomorrow.” In an old newspaper clipping cited on Okcmod.com, the design team said they aimed to take a “decided departure from conventional church construction” by building an “honest architecture” that would make it forever contemporary. For residents in Oklahoma City, not only does First Christian Church reflect the history and character of the region’s modern architectural landscape, but it also serves as a place of spiritual solace and refuge in tough times. In October of 1995, families gathered there after a terrorist struck a downtown federal building, killing 168 people and injuring over 600 others. The bombing remains one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history and to many locals, First Christian Church stands as a memorial to community healing.
As a reminder... we’d love to have your support at the next City Council meeting where Councilman Ed Shadid will make the motion to begin the process of declaring First Christian Church a landmark! It's at 8:30 a.m. on March 12th at City Hall, 200 N. Walker #FirstChristianChurch pic.twitter.com/wyCbkK64PF— AIA Central Oklahoma (@AIACOC) March 7, 2019
Arakawa and Gins’s Bioscleave House is still on the market and in danger of demolition
Preserve the Past
A British preservationist considers: How do you keep a building alive?
Conservation architecture has never been glamorous. It is simply a reflection of contemporary society that the careful continuation of what already exists is always going to be overshadowed by the creation of wholly something new. Yet from Berlin’s Neues Museum to London’s St Pancras Station, if we look across a range of globally significant architecture projects from recent decades we see that a conservation approach has been instrumental in many of them.
While there is a tendency to lump conservation architects in with their traditionalist cousins—and this book by leading conservation architect, Donald Insall, actually contains a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales—it is wrong to see the conservation movement as necessarily conservative, or even reactionary. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) was founded in 1877 by, among others, William Morris and Philip Webb—figures to whom certain aspects of modernism can also be traced—and the histories of modernism and traditionalism have run in parallel. Both, in a sense, were cultural responses to the conditions of industrial modernity.
Even in the 1960s, when conservation became the clear counter to modernism’s excesses, particularly in town planning, the relationship between the two remained more complex than one of straightforward opposition. One could even argue that the conservation movement actually played an enabling role; its very existence freed modernism of the past so that it could focus wholly on how architecture might bring about a better future.
Postmodernism, of course, fundamentally challenged these frameworks and distinctions. One of its most pervasive and important legacies has arguably been the gradual infiltration of a conservation approach into the mainstream. Every architect today when approaching a project considers questions of context, place, and history. For that reason this book should be of interest not just to those concerned with conservation, but to all architects and, indeed, everyone with an appreciation of architecture and its past, present, and futures.
For over 60 years, Insall has led one of Britain’s most respected practices of conservation architects, working on a range of highly significant conservation projects. Part manual, part theory of conservation, this book’s chief proposition is that buildings are not fixed or static entities but are “living” things—and that this idea should inform approaches to their care and upkeep.
Early in the book, Insall states that “every building is a product not only of its original generator…but of the continuing effects upon its materials of time and weather, and of generations of successive occupants, each with his own set of values and requirements.” The starting point for every project should therefore be to look for “each project’s unique identity and character.”
Such is the passion with which Insall proclaims that “buildings are alive;” one might infer that to his mind it’s more than mere metaphor. Yet as a metaphor it proves a useful way of organizing the various aspects of his approach, whether it’s assessing the role of “locality and materials” (“materials have their own story, and in old buildings speak eloquently of their local origin”), the role of “weather and the elements” as “a continuous force in shaping a living building” or the way “cyclical renewal is part of every building’s life and history.”
One of the striking things about this book is how it ranges from the micro to the macro. It is rare, for example, to read in the same book a reminder to close the door to a library if building work is going on outside and reflections on the philosophy of conservation. But it’s this broad scope that allows it to be both a primer and of interest to the expert. Aimed at both experts and general readers is Insall’s core argument that the approach to “old buildings” should be open and led not by preconceptions but the innate qualities of the buildings themselves. One only wishes that the same principal might be applied to the very notion of heritage and what is deemed “significant,” which so often claims objectivity but is in fact reflective of ideology. But that is not Insall’s subject.
There are moments of the book that jar, notably the relentless “he” and “his” in relation to the architect, and as a distillation of half-a-century’s work, there are inevitably some aspects that feel dated. But the underlying message remains fresh—and important not just for conservation, but for architecture as a whole. The challenge for architecture today is not necessarily about building more or even better, but adapting and making more equitable use of what already exists. Of course, this is far from simply being an architectural issue. But architects can show how it can be done, perhaps even with conservation architects leading the way.