All posts in Preservation

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SAVE THE EGG

Historic Oklahoma City "Egg Church" is in danger of being demolished
The Egg Church. The Church of Tomorrow. An “honest architecture” that’s forever contemporary. Since its opening around Christmas in 1956, these are a few phrases that have been used to describe First Christian Church, a historic, organic modernist building in Oklahoma City. Designed by the then-young local firm, Conner & Pojezny, the 32-acre project quickly became a state treasure and was lauded as a major engineering feat by Life Magazine, Newsweek, and Architectural Record. The dramatic, concrete domed church—which has a mid-century Jetsons look—is newly in danger as its current owners aim to sell it to a buyer with plans to demolish the community icon. Oklahoma’s News 4 reported that dozens of demonstrators crowded outside First Christian Church last week in protest. Those in attendance included the executive director of Preservation Oklahoma and members of Okie Mod Squad, a group led by one of the church's architect's granddaughters, Lynne Rostochil. Representatives told News 4 they’re worried the building might be knocked down once it's successfully sold; the property went on the market in 2016 and only recently snagged attention from buyers when the asking price was drastically lowered from $8.2 million to $5.65 million. The broker behind the sale hopes it'll become a mixed-use development.  Many mid-century structures around Oklahoma City have come under threat in recent years. One of those was Founders National Bank, a Bob Bowlby–designed structure that boasted two, 50-foot exterior arches, It was leveled last October. Like R. Duane Conner and Fred Pojezny, who designed First Christian Church, Bowlby came out of an era in which architectural education in Oklahoma was transforming the industry. Bowlby studied at the University of Oklahoma under the direction of famous American architect Bruce Goff who was internationally known for his expressive, organic designs and for creating an innovative program with the school’s architecture department. Because of Goff's widespread influence, as well as the work coming out of Oklahoma A&M where Conner and Pojezny graduated, the city benefited from a slew of forward-thinking pieces of architecture, many of which have just surpassed or are nearing historic-designation age, meaning they’re potentially endangered if not in use. 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.
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Bioscleave Beat

Arakawa and Gins’s Bioscleave House is still on the market and in danger of demolition
It's coming right down to the wire for the group hoping to save Arakawa and Madeline Gins's extraordinary Bioscleave House in East Hampton, New York. According to the deceased designers, the one-of-a-kind residence promises to "reverse the effects of aging and transform the personal well-being and longevity of its inhabitants." Who wouldn't want that from a home? Well, the answer so far seems to be no one. The house's current owners, who can no longer afford to maintain the residence, have had it on the market for seven months. If purchased by a developer, the Bioscleave House, or "Lifespan Extending Villa," could be demolished and replaced by a standard $3 million spec house. The eye-catching structure, which is a work of art in itself, is the only house designed by Arakawa and Gins outside of Japan. The asking price has reduced to a cheap $1,395,000, which is a fair price given its location in the Hamptons, and given the fact that the property and its historically significant structure would be saved from demolition. The Bioscleave House's property is only 50 percent built out as far as its zoning will allow, so more additions can be made on the one-acre site.
JB D'Santos from Brown Harris Stevens of the Hamptons has the listing and is working to locate a buyer who appreciates the groundbreaking work of the late designers, and who is willing to preserve the site's architectural integrity. “There's a lot of activity and one buyer who is extremely excited about the property," said D'Santos.
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Windows Wide Shut

Cincinnati's Terrace Plaza Hotel takes its first step towards landmark status
The first International Style hotel in America may not fall into disrepair or have its iconic exterior transformed after all. After a 5-1 vote in favor of a local landmark designation for the Terrace Plaza Hotel by the Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board on February 25, the designation will advance to the City Planning Commission, and finally the City Council. Completed in 1948, the 20-story redbrick tower was the first hotel project from SOM. Natalie de Blois led the design team, which was responsible for everything from the interiors, to the staff uniforms, down to the ashtrays and matchbooks. The building’s most distinctive features are its windowless seven-story base, which projects an imposing presence on the street, and its circular steel-and-glass Gourmet Restaurant space on the roof. As photographer Phil Armstrong detailed in his historical documentation, much of the building’s interior has fallen into ruins. The building has unfortunately sat vacant for a decade, and plans began floating around from a prospective developer at the beginning of last year to strip the hotel’s monolithic base and replace it with a glass box. It should be noted that the building was included on the National Register of Historic Places on August 21, 2017, according to Docomomo U.S., but that this doesn’t provide the level of protection that a local designation affords. The hotel was sold in August of 2018 to the New York–based real estate investment firm JNY Capital. JNY nearly immediately faced the threat of a lawsuit from the city over its refusal to make necessary repairs to the building after ground-floor tenant complaints—and after a chunk of the building dislodged and smashed a parked car below. JNY has been looking into adding windows to the tower’s first seven floors, which it claims is necessary to attract office tenants following a redevelopment but would destroy the building’s historical significance. Now, that plan may be on hold as a landmark designation may be looming; the final decision should be handed down by the City Council sometime in the next six months. During the Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board’s meeting, the economic feasibility of redeveloping the building while remaining true to its legacy was discussed, but the board’s members ultimately decided that it was beyond the purview of their discussion. JNY remains opposed to the designation and has stated it has no plans to demolish the hotel or its towering facade.
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Preserve the Past

A British preservationist considers: How do you keep a building alive?
Living Buildings: Architectural Conservation, Philosophy, Principles and Practice Donald Insall Images Publishing $60.00 List Price

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.

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Flex or Combust

C.F. Møller's mass-timber vision for Robin Hood Gardens stifled by ban on combustible cladding
C.F. Møller has designed a swath of social housing for an upcoming development called Blackwall Reach atop east London’s famous Robin Hood Gardens, a demolished series of brutalist blocks designed in the 1960s by renowned British architects, Alison and Peter Smithson. Initial plans released in 2017 indicated that the Danish firm would create a 330-unit complex featuring cross-laminated timber (CLT), a resourceful construction method that’s been gaining wide acceptance in the United Kingdom. But a recent government ban on combustible cladding materials has put plans for the engineered product in jeopardy, reported Architects' Journal. The new legislation, which was enacted late last December, was introduced after the Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017 in which one of West London’s tallest residential towers burned down, claiming 72 lives. After a pressure-filled campaign from Grenfell United, a group of survivors and victims’ families, the U.K.’s Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government introduced a new building safety code last summer that would prohibit the use of cladding materials holding a European fire rating of less than A1 or A2. Per the ruling, architects and developers cannot use such products in the external wall construction of schools, high-rise homes, hospitals, and care facilities, reported AJ. The ruling also calls for local municipalities to begin removing unsafe aluminum composite material (ACM) cladding on existing structures taller than 18 meters (about six stories). Though CLT is not an ACM and has been proven to perform well under fire load, it contains wood and is being cited as hazardous to lawmakers. CF Møller’s affordable housing design for Blackwall Reach is phase 3 of a larger, controversial regeneration plan of Robin Hood Gardens, which the London-based practice Metropolitan Workshop is overseeing. Phase 1b and Phase 2 includes the build-out of 268 homes across four buildings designed by Haworth Tompkins and Metropolitan Workshop. These structures, currently under construction, are slated for completion this year and in 2021. Phase 3 construction is expected to start following the move-in of residents to the new buildings. Overall, the 20-acre Blackwall Reach project is set to replace 250 high-rise homes within the area with a total of 1,575 new units. Swan Housing Association, a community development and management organization, is developing the site alongside the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Greater London Authority. While this is only one project suffering a design setback thanks to the new ban on combustible cladding materials, it signals what could become a major issue with the use of CLT products on future tall buildings in the U.K. and across Europe. Already a world leader in mass timber manufacturing and construction, it’s unclear how the U.K. will now move forward in creating large-scale projects using the material. The ban has recently received major criticism from industry leaders like the Timber Trade Federation and architects who worry about the environmental cost of restricting timber in large construction. The Royal British Institute of Architects came out in support of the ban in November but recommends it only apply to specific cladding applications.
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100th Time's the Charm

Snøhetta's revised AT&T Building scheme clears Landmarks Preservation Commission
The protracted battle over the modernization of the Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed AT&T Building may finally be drawing to a close. Last time Snøhetta went before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) with its revised plans for the postmodern tower at 550 Madison Avenue, the commissioners adjourned without coming to a decision over whether proposed changes were appropriate. A month later, it looks like owners Chelsfield America, Olayan America, and minority partner RXR Realty will be able to move ahead with their plans to renovate the 1984 office tower into Class A office space. In a public meeting earlier today, the LPC granted the 550 Madison team a Certificate of Appropriateness, but not without first voicing concerns. Snøhetta’s scheme would only touch approximately six percent of the landmarked tower’s granite facade and would leave retail in the enclosed arcade. The full presentation can be viewed on the LPC’s website, but the biggest changes are as follows: The plan would remove the glass enclosure and accompanying heating and cooling elements that were added in the 1994 Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman renovation. The rear lot, which runs north-south through the block, will be converted into a garden and gain a lightweight, Y-shaped steel canopy. The retail kiosks at the rear will also be removed to expand the square footage allotted to the public plaza, and two stories of new windows will be punched in the back of the building at the base to lighten up the new amenity floors. On the Madison Avenue–facing side, the heavily-mullioned windows added to the flat arches in the 1994 renovation will be updated with much larger panes of glass. Inside the 60-foot-tall lobby, the elevators along the rear wall will be reoriented to provide a clear line of sight from the entrance to the garden. The ownership team also plans on building out a publicly-accessible retail mezzanine and two amenity floors above the lobby. Commissioners at the February 12th hearing once again expressed concern over the lack of an interior landmark designation, which was precluded by the “secret” demolition conducted last year. The proposed replacements to the Philip Johnson–designed pavers and flooring were also analyzed. The scheme was ultimately approved, but the project team will have to work with the LPC to address their issues with the current plan. All-in-all, now that work can begin, Snøhetta claims that the amount of public space will increase by 50 percent, and that the team is “targeting LEED Platinum, Wired, and WELL certifications.” Once the renovations are completed in 2020, it’s expected that the building’s employee capacity will increase from 800 to 3,000.
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Smart Design

Archive of modernist residential architecture thrives in North Carolina
All of the back issues of The Architect’s Newspaper have recently become available online as the publication has joined a digital archive of virtually all of the major U.S. architecture and design magazines of the 20th century: the US Modernist Library. This free, searchable database is the work of George Smart, founder and director of USModernist, a non-profit based in Raleigh, North Carolina, whose mission is to document, preserve, and promote mid-century and modernist residential architecture. Smart refers to himself as an accidental archivist, which turns out to be an accurate description. First: What Smart is not. He’s not an architect, a student of art history, architecture, or architectural history. For most of his life, his primary professional identity has been as a management consultant. But in January 2007, Smart's life changed when he visited Fallingwater. Entirely overcome, he returned home, purchased Styrofoam and model material, designed what eventually became his own modernist home, and started researching local North Carolina modernist architecture. It turns out he had a lot close to home: he found over 2,400 houses in the state. This is largely because of the efforts of Henry Kamphoefner, Dean of the School of Architecture at North Carolina State from 1948 to 1973. But online, there was little to be found beyond the greatest hits of the most famous architects. As Smart spoke with friends and neighbors, he realized that many were interested in modernist architecture, in part because so many had grown up in modernist homes. He started a website, then organized local tours, then dinners, then movie nights, then Modernist House networking happy hours. The launch of a podcast about modernist architecture, US Modernist Radio, took Smart’s work beyond the state. At around the same time, a local realtor dumped off a huge trove of old architecture magazines to Smart’s garage. He started to scan them and to add them to his website. The periodicals date to the late 19th century, including Progressive Architecture, Architectural Record, Architecture, and others including the entirety of The Architect’s Newspaper. The magazines complement a second database of photos and records documenting the residential work of all major mid-century U.S. architects. Volunteers around the country now regularly send in photos of these homes, and a bevy of researchers help to fill in gaps where information is missing. This little project has become possibly the largest online digital archive about residential modernist design in the world. With more than two and a half million pages, the site is enjoyed by up to a million people annually. Obviously, this is more than a casual side gig. Smart speaks to communities all over the United States, teaching them how to start a local organization that will document, preserve, and promote these houses, which are being torn down at an alarming rate. He has found that the enemy of preservation is almost always vacancy, which leads to a domino-effect of neglect and, often, to demolition. As the writer, academic, and architectural historian Alan Hess noted, “When we tear down buildings it’s like we’re committing cultural amnesia; we’re destroying part of our memory. And no person can survive with amnesia.”
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What a Traversty

New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission approves resurfacing of modernist 140 Broadway plaza
The third time’s the charm for engineers NV5 and preservation consultants at Higgins Quasebarth & Partners. On February 5, the team, this time joined by stone conservation expert George Wheeler, successfully argued before New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for permission to swap the stone out at the Manhattan plaza of the landmarked 140 Broadway building. The former Marine Midland Building, an international-style office tower designed by Gordon Bunshaft and SOM in 1967, is distinctive for how its imposing black massing “floats” above a plaza of what was originally travertine surrounding Isamu Noguchi’s distinctive Red Cube. The travertine pavers were replaced with pink granite in a 1999 renovation, and the project team went before the LPC to propose a new shade of granite closer to the original stone. That drew the ire of preservationists and some of the commissioners, who asked why travertine wasn’t being used instead. Much of the presentation (available here) from 140 Broadway’s ownership and project team dealt with that question. The pitch was that granite, with a compressive strength of nearly three times that of travertine, would be a much more durable replacement. Travertine’s pockmarked nature also renders it particularly vulnerable to freeze-thaw cracking and salt blooms because water easily impregnates the porous stone. The team maintained that five-inch-thick travertine pavers would be needed to meet all of their aesthetic and safety concerns, and that because of the voids under the plaza, the pavers can only be two-inches thick. While Bunshaft had chosen travertine to evoke the feeling of a Roman plaza, the presentation made it clear that New York’s climate was much harsher than Rome’s. The comprehensive analysis was done after the ownership team’s prior two LPC presentations in March and November of 2018. Commissioners had previously declined to vote on the proposed granite replacements and suggested that NV5 and Higgins Quasebarth look further into travertine. As preservationist Theodore Grunewald noted, the reason 140 Broadway’s plaza was before the LPC was that the granite installed in 1999 was also failing and that there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again. Travertine plazas are still in use at Manhattan’s W.R. Grace Building and Solow Tower Building, both designed by Bunshaft, but the project team noted that the drainage systems and sloped “skirt” at the base of each tower helped facilitate the quick movement of water off of the vulnerable stone beneath. Ultimately the commissioners voted to approve the use of Tudor Gold Granite, although there were some concerns about the need to choose a color closer to the original travertine. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron, the only nay vote at the hearing, noted that the commission’s role was to preserve moments in time, regardless of viability, and not just upgrade the city’s properties with "space-age materials."
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Revisiting the Rotunda

Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda restoration reaps rewards for University of Virginia
The University of Virginia, established 200 years ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, is taking major physical strides to elevate public awareness of its historic, and also troubled past. One of its most-anticipated architectural projects is Höweler+Yoon’s upcoming memorial dedicated to the slaves who helped build the campus. The circular design references Thomas Jefferson’s nearby Rotunda, a national historic landmark and arguably the most important building on site. Constructed in 1825, the Rotunda has always served as the centerpiece of the university’s Academical Village, a UNESCO World Heritage site where Jefferson’s original structures stand. It recently underwent a multi-year, $51.6 million restoration project by New York firm John G. Waite Associates (JGWA) and is now considered a model of 21st-century preservation. The American Institute of Architects just named the building among the top projects in the country, alongside the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Smart Factory by Barkow Leibinger in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. For the university, the monumental restoration of Jefferson’s Rotunda was long overdue. Most of the buildings within the prominent Academical Village were constructed well over a century ago and designed to mimic Greco-Roman architecture, hence the Rotunda’s resemblance to Andrea Palladio’s drawings of the Pantheon. The building has had a tumultuous existence since opening in the early 19th century. In 1895, it was nearly destroyed in a catastrophic fire, leading McKim, Mead and White to complete a full-scale replica of the structure for the school. According to JGWA, the interior spaces were significantly altered during this construction. Another early-1970s renovation, completed ahead of America’s bicentennial, also compromised the architect’s original intent. JGWA addressed these issues, as well as other long-standing structural problems, throughout the four-year restoration project. The firm fixed the leaking roof, repointed the building’s brick walls, restored the facade’s metal moldings, and replaced the portico’s deteriorating column capitols with Carrara marble ones. They also meticulously restored finishes and details found on all three interior floors according to Jefferson’s initial designs. The architects removed the acoustic plaster ceiling that made up the interior dome and replaced it with perforated aluminum. Additionally, a new mechanical and storage space was built out within an excavated space in an adjacent courtyard. The building reopened in September of 2016 as part of a larger, campus-wide effort to restore the Jefferson-designed grounds, including the university’s historic Lawn.
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Frank Lloyd Wrong

Thieves steal Frank Lloyd Wright and Schindler furniture pieces around Los Angeles
Someone has stolen key works of furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and R.M. Schindler from a University of Southern California (USC) storage facility. The Los Angeles Times reports that a pair of lamps designed by Wright and a cushioned chair by Schindler disappeared from a South Los Angeles warehouse in 2012. The items, likely worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, were brought to the storage facility from the Samuel Freeman House, a textile block–style home designed by Wright in 1923. According to The Times, the theft had gone unreported until recently, when a reader sent an anonymous letter to the newspaper detailing the suspected theft. The Samuel Freeman House is located on a slope in L.A.’s ritzy Hollywood Hills. It is designed to take advantage of the changing grade to make the three-story home appear from the street to be shorter than it actually is, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation website. Like the Ennis, Storer, and Millard homes, the Freeman Residence is built on a modular grid from thousands of 16-inch precast concrete blocks—12,000 in this case—designed by Wright to unify aesthetic expression and structural assembly. The resulting home cascades down its rugged site, revealing a partially-submerged bedroom level and descending terraces. Throughout its life as a private residence, the Freeman home hosted salons and other gatherings. In 1986, the owners donated the home to the USC School of Architecture. Like several other textile block homes, the structure was heavily damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake; it was structurally stabilized by the university in 2005. The home is currently undergoing additional renovations due to the earthquake damage. The textile block homes were built using only the aforementioned blocks and with little in the way of shear walls, lateral structure, or other seismic safeguards. While Wright designed the initial structure, Schindler renovated and added to the residence in the decades after it was completed. See here for a full set of Historic American Building Survey drawings and other information on the Freeman House. Since USC acquired the home, it has been used extensively as an educational tool and venue. In 2000, as USC geared up to renovate the home, the items in question were moved to the storage facility. A few years later, the items had disappeared. According to The Times, the circumstances surrounding the stolen furniture are somewhat strange. First, the items were located in a locked room that could only be accessed by a limited number of people. There are no suspects as of yet, but it appears that whoever stole the pieces likely had previous access, as investigators have not uncovered signs of forced entry into the storage area. Second, despite word of the missing items reaching the upper levels of the USC School of Architecture administration, the theft went unreported to authorities for years. And then there’s the issue of a recently-auctioned textile block believed to belong to the home. According to The Times, one of the home’s original blocks recently fetched $5,000 in an online sale. It is believed that the slightly-damaged block was removed from the home’s garage, perhaps directly after the Northridge quake or during the renovations. To boot, several other furniture works by Schindler were recently stolen from another storage facility in Los Angeles, this one managed by the Friends of the Schindler House, a nonprofit that maintains Schindler’s former residence in West Hollywood, home to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture. It is unclear if the two thefts are connected. According to the report, the Los Angeles Police Department is conducting a preliminary investigation into the missing pieces.
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A Legacy of Labor

N.Y.C. Landmarks Preservation Commission approves Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire memorial
Last week, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to approve a memorial dedicated to the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. Reframing the Sky, designed by architects Uri Wegman and Richard Joon Yoo, will debut next year if supporters can raise $850,000 to cover long-term maintenance costs. The commission’s approval is the latest step in what’s been a six-year-long process to install the project in commemoration of the tragedy. Gina Pollara, a consultant with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, said now is the perfect time to get it done due to heightened awareness on labor rights issues in the United States. “Given the current political climate, I’m hoping this project begins to really open up the conversation about the importance of unions, workplace safety, and how we can address certain social justice issues today,” said Pollara. “For all of their imperfections, unions still perform a vital duty and are an important piece of the American labor force.” The factory’s infamous fire, now 108 years ago, set off a series of historic legislative reforms to protect workers’ safety. The employees who died there, many of which were young immigrant women, were trapped on locked floors of the multi-level facility at 29 Washington Place. Today, the structure, known as the Brown Building, is owned by New York University and though it’s a local and national landmark, many people don’t know its history. The coalition seeks to change that through a public memorial that shines a light on the tragedy and details its significance for blue-collar workers in the 21st century. According to the project statement, the future memorial will mimic the mourning ribbons that were traditionally draped on building facades as outward expressions of a community’s collective sorrow. It will feature horizontal stainless-steel bands that wrap the southeast corner of the building and a textured panel that lines its vertical edge. The names of the victims will be laser cut into the elongated panels where daylight will shine and reflect the letters off a highly-polished, steel surface placed at hip level. Through this, visitors will be able to see the names reflected in the sky. The project has already received widespread support since its announcement in 2013. Three years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a $1.5 million grant for its design and construction, but money is still needed to maintain it. The coalition is organizing a two-day upcoming event in collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology to raise awareness of the project and offer people the chance to contribute to its design. Anyone interested will be able to bring an individual piece of fabric that will be used to create a large ribbon that the designers will cast in metal and mount onto the building for the textured vertical panel. “The public engagement piece of this memorial is the most important part to us,” said Pollara, “because the legislation that came from this tragedy has affected us all personally whether we know it or not. The design features a very subtle thread of stitching the past and present together.” A public event, A Collective Ribbon — Weaving Stories of the Triangle Fire, will take place on March 16 and 17 at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Those who are unable to attend can send in personal pieces of ribbon to the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition at PO Box 1822, New York, New York 10113. Donors of $25,000 or more will have their names inscribed on the memorial.
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Forbidden no Longer

Selldorf Architects to design an Interpretation Center in China's Forbidden City
The World Monuments Fund, the New York–based nonprofit dedicated to preserving historically-significant monuments all over the world, announced that Selldorf Architects will design a new visitor’s center in Beijing’s Forbidden City. The “Interpretation Center” will be housed in an existing building in the Forbidden City’s Qianlong Garden, which has been idle since China’s last emperor, Pu Yi, left the palace in 1924. While the original palace complex was completed in 1420 and includes 980 buildings, Qianlong Garden is a semi-recent addition that was added sometime between 1771 and 1776. The two-acre garden has never been open to the public and has remained unrestored. Under Selldorf's plan, an existing structure in the garden’s second courtyard will be converted into a tripartite visitor’s center that will educate guests on the history of the Forbidden City. The Interpretation Center will be composed of three halls around an open-air pavilion. The west hall will focus on the design and creation of the surrounding garden, which holds 27 buildings; the main hall will be open and present unobstructed views of the cascading rock gardens in the third courtyard, and the east hall will present materials on the Qianlong Garden’s restoration. “Projects like the new Interpretation Center at the Qianlong Garden, that bring people together in a spirit of inquiry and inclusiveness, are at the core of our practice,” said Selldorf Architects founder and principle Annabelle Selldorf. “It has been a great pleasure and honor to work with World Monuments Fund to create an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the Gardens and experience their beauty and wonder first-hand.”