Posts tagged with "Demolitions":

Placeholder Alt Text

French researcher "quarries" on site for a new type of recycling and restoration

“The mass-production of rubble constitutes one of modern architecture’s main legacies,” said the French designer and researcher Anna Saint Pierre. So much of what gets built gets demolished, or decays and needs to be restored or renovated. She explained that “The building sector accounts for 50 percent of natural resource consumption and almost 40 percent of waste production within European territories.” To help combat this waste she’s developed a new technique of in-situ recycling called Granito. The concept is to “quarry” materials on-site, taking stone from surrounding demolished structures and pulverizing it for use in new aggregates—by reusing these materials on location there’s no need for transportation. An architect at the French firm SCAU, Saint Pierre is putting Granito to the test on one of the office’s Paris projects. Saint Pierre’s proposal is to take 182 tons of unwanted granite panels from the extant structure, an office block also designed by the firm and opened in 1997 as the headquarters of Télédiffusion de France, and grind, sort, and reincorporate the material into terrazzo floors for the new building, a co-working space. Saint Pierre says that the granite and terrazzo floors, visible from the street, will act as “a fifth facade.” In addition to working to create terrazzo, she’s also been using in-situ recycling to create gabion walls, including for a future housing project. Since announcing Granito earlier this year, Saint Pierre has worked to tweak the process to become more energy efficient. “This project highlights the impact that the ever-shortening life of tertiary real estate programs has on the life and death cycle of the materials used,” Saint Pierre said. In this manner, Granito is not just a practical solution, but also a commentary on issues of architectural preservation. “Granito investigates new modes of memory transmission through [the] in-situ transformation of rubble,” she explains. “It’s an alternative to both ‘tabula rasa’ approaches or strict restoration.” Granito, “investigates site-specific loops of remembrance,” and understanding just what “in situ” might mean in this context is key to understanding the purpose of Granito. It’s about “the existing site, its memory, and its mutation.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Historic Detroit newspaper building will be razed for 12 parking spots

A curious thing is happening in downtown Detroit. An iconic building that once housed an early-20th-century local newspaper is slated for demolition and set to be replaced by 12 parking spots.  You read that right, just 12 parking spots.  The three-story brick structure at 550 West Fort Street initially served as the headquarters of Detroit Saturday Night from 1914 to 1929. It was designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, one of the oldest architecture firms in the U.S., now known as SmithGroup. Last week, the Detroit City Council voted to deny the building its own historic designation, which in turn allows a proposal by local developer, Emmet Morten, Jr., to move forward. The building will now be razed in order to provide more parking for a luxury condominium nearby. It’s long been part of the developer’s plans to expand its work in the Fort Shelby Hotel historic district, which houses the Fort Shelby Residences on the site of a demolished 18th-century military base. Preservation groups didn’t think the city would actually allow the small news building to go down, but over the last year, the City Council and the Historic District  Commission began showing signs that the structure wasn’t worth saving, as it lies just outside the historic district. Advocacy organization Preservation Detroit stepped in about 10 months ago and mustered over 3,600 signatures for a petition to protect and rehabilitate the building for future use.  This morning, protestors gathered outside the old Detroit Saturday Night building to ask the City Council to reconsider last week’s vote. According to the Detroit Metro Times, the event was organized by Detroiters for Parking Reform, a group calling for a moratorium on building new parking spaces:
“We have more parking spaces downtown than ever before, with nearly 40 percent of land in downtown Detroit devoted to this use," the group wrote to city council. "But somehow, we are convinced we need 12 more spaces where the historic Detroit Saturday Night Building stands today. This is a building that might otherwise be redeveloped for housing, business, and retail space. World-class cities are not defined by how much parking they have."
Detroit Saturday Night was published from 1907 to 1939. The news outlet moved into a bigger location, an Art Deco building also designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, after 15 years on West Fort Street. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Maintaining the footprint of female architects in Philadelphia

Architect Elizabeth Hirsh Fleisher designed a dynamic, midcentury modern pavilion in South Philadelphia that’s now under threat of demolition as the city gets ready to renovate the surrounding park. Inga Saffron, the architecture critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer, called out the building’s potential destruction last week in an article about its importance in the city’s cultural preservation landscape. She noted the pavilion’s likeness to the LOVE Park Welcome Center, the beloved “flying saucer” that’s currently under restoration with plans to become a restaurant this spring. Both circular structures were opened in 1960, Saffron noted, along with a wave of round buildings that shaped the country’s design style of that decade. Though the small pavilion doesn’t sit directly in downtown Philadephia (it’s in Columbus Square) and wasn’t the most iconic building in Hirsh Fleisher’s portfolio, it’s still a symbol of her enduring legacy in a place that’s overwhelmingly built by men.  From Anne Tyng to Harriet Pattison, Georgina Pope Yeatman, Denise Scott Brown, and Minerva Parker Nichols, the list of female architects in Philadelphia isn’t very long, but the projects they backed in the city are memorable. At the helm of some of the city’s most impressive 20th-century projects was Hirsh Fleisher, Philadelphia’s first female licensed architect. She was responsible for the Parkway House, a postwar luxury apartment complex that she designed with her partner, Gabriel Roth, in 1953. Situated alongside Century Park near the Rodin Museum, the 14-story megaproject features a distinct mountain shape. It’s been there so long it’s nearly synonymous with that area of downtown Philadelphia. Though the Columbus Square pavilion is minuscule in comparison to Parkway House, Saffron argued the 35-foot-wide park structure could live a second life as a yoga studio or café. The city plans to remove it and expand the adjacent dog park in its place. What’s just as pressing as the little building’s demolition is the fact it could potentially be the second project by Hirsh Fleisher to see the wrecking ball. In 2014, her Queen Lane Apartments, a post-war public housing project, was demolished by the Philadelphia Housing Authority to make way for a series of low-lying affordable housing units. That building started suffering serious structural problems only decades after its completion, but the Columbus Square pavilion is forcefully sound; it’s largely built from stone. In a time where projects by prominent female architects are more appreciated than ever, there’s much attention being paid to those that are being taken down by redevelopment and in some cases, capitalism. Last month, JP Morgan Chase filed for the demolition of its headquarters in New York, the Natalie Griffin de Blois–designed Union Carbide Building. The site, 270 Park Avenue, will feature a replacement structure by Foster + Partners Bringing down Griffin de Blois’s 52-story Manhattan tower—whether you believe it should live on or not—distinctly diminishes the already-small footprint that female architects made on New York during the 1900s. Getting rid of Hirsh Fleisher’s tiny building would do the same in Philadelphia. Luckily, today there is a slew of women-powered practices that are following in her footsteps, such as OLIN, the landscape studio, as well as KSS Architects, a multidisciplinary firm also based out of Princeton, New Jersey. While many Philadelphia firms have significantly more men in leadership positions compared to women, the women are there. Award-winning practice Interface Studio Architects (ISA), along with DIGSAU, EwingCole, and KieranTimberlake have women in top-ranking positions or more women than men on staff.
Placeholder Alt Text

Johns Hopkins may tear down arts center by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

Another Tod Williams Billie Tsien project appears to be headed for the wrecking ball. After years of planning and fundraising, Johns Hopkins University president Ronald J. Daniels announced this month that a new student center will be built for its Homewood campus at the intersection of Charles and 33rd Streets in Baltimore. The property chosen for the new building includes the current site of the Mattin Center, a 2001 arts complex designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. Administrators indicate it will likely be demolished to make way for the student center. The announcement already has people upset. The Mattin Center would join the former American Folk Art Museum in New York on the list of Williams and Tsien buildings that have been leveled and replaced with even larger projects. Opened in 2001 like the Mattin Center, the Folk Art Museum was razed in 2014 to make way for an expansion of the Museum of Modern Art, currently under construction. The demolition was one of the biggest preservation controversies in the nation that year. Tsien has said she was unable to go by the site while the building was coming down and long afterward. There has been talk in Baltimore for the past several years that Hopkins was eying the Mattin Center as the site for a new student center, but administrators said they didn’t want to confirm anything until they had raised enough money to move ahead with the project. Hopkins is one of the few major universities in the United States that doesn’t have a full-fledged student center or student union on its main campus, and Daniels has wanted to build one to keep Hopkins competitive with other colleges and universities. On March 5, Daniels announced that the project is moving ahead with a target completion date of 2024. Without dwelling on demolition, his announcement was the most definitive statement he has made to date about securing funds and replacing the Mattin Center, which was built by a previous administration as a home for the visual and performing arts on campus. “As the needs of our student body have evolved, so has the desire for a different and dedicated student center taken hold,” he wrote in a message to the Hopkins community. “This will be a new kind of space for us—one that is not academically focused, but entirely social by design…It will be a site to which everyone lays equal claim and from which everyone benefits.” Planning for the student center began in 2013 when Hopkins formed a task force. A year later, it hired Ann Beha Architects of Boston and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol of Seattle to conduct a feasibility study and develop a preliminary design. Hopkins administrators have indicated the student center will cost between $100 million and $150 million. According to university spokesperson Karen Lancaster, an architect has not been selected and a final cost has not been determined, but “we have the funding we need to commit to this project” through a combination of institutional and philanthropic sources, including pledges from anonymous donors. The Mattin Center is the only project in Baltimore by Williams and Tsien. It cost $17 million and consists of three brick-clad structures that frame an open courtyard and together contain 50,000 square feet of arts-related spaces, including dance and visual arts studios, a digital media center, black box theater, music practice rooms, and café. It occupies a prominent site near the gateway to Hopkins’s Homewood campus, between the main academic buildings and the Charles Village neighborhood to the east. That site is largely what seems to have doomed the Mattin Center, because campus planners wanted to put the new student center in a “welcoming” location. At the nexus of town and gown, the Mattin Center site met their requirements more than any other property. According to Johns Hopkins’s news site, Hub, the final location was selected “based on the flow of students on and off campus from the Charles Street corridor and on its proximity to the heart of Homewood activity.” The Mattin Center’s size was also an issue, Lancaster said in an email. “While the building is less than 20 years old, our space requirements have evolved over time and the building, as designed, is not adequate to fulfill many of these specific needs—such as the larger gathering venues our students seek today.” In a further sign that Hopkins intends to demolish the Mattin Center, Lancaster noted that one of the next steps will be to figure out where to move the people and activities now based there. If the Mattin Center were to remain, planning for long-term relocation wouldn’t be necessary. “As part of the design and planning process,” Lancaster said, “we will be determining options for where to locate the groups and programs that are currently housed in the Mattin Center—both in the short-term during construction and permanently once a new center is opened.” Although the building’s design won a 2002 award from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, it has drawn criticism locally for “turning its back” on the city.   “It represents the end of an era when the university faced inward and was moving very gingerly to interact with the community,” said Sandra Sparks, former president of the Charles Village Civic Association, which represents the neighborhood next to the Hopkins campus. Williams and Tsien were selected by Hopkins after participating in a limited competition to design the arts center. The other competitors were Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Pennsylvania and Heikkinen Komonen Architects of Finland. When they learned several years ago that Hopkins was considering razing their building, Tsien and Williams issued a lengthy statement defending its design. In it, they said Hopkins administrators at the time had expressed a desire for a secure setting. “When we won the competition to design the Mattin Center in the late 1990s, the City of Baltimore was a much tougher, more dangerous place,” they wrote. “A student, a musician, had been recently killed in a wooded section of the proposed site. So the university chose our design over the two others in part, because they wanted a protective environment for students to pursue their artistic interests which, at that time, were considered extracurricular. “The administration was concerned about the physical security of the students. The suggested program was not so large and that allowed us to organize spaces…around a large exterior courtyard at the heart of the site.” In their statement, the architects acknowledged that the university’s and the city’s needs have changed. They lamented that they weren’t involved in future planning for the site. “Today there is a desire to create a more direct connection to the city and for more socializing spaces for students,” they said. “The site of the Mattin Center is an important one for the University and campus, and we believe it can accommodate additional density and change. If the administration elects to demolish the Mattin Center, it should not be without very serious debate…because to do so is unimaginative, and unsustainable, and because it does not acknowledge the layers of history that are crucial to an understanding of our culture, our campuses, and our cities.” AN reached out to the firm last week but wasn’t given further information on Williams and Tsien’s thoughts about the recent announcement. In an email, the firm wrote: “We are aware of Johns Hopkins’s plan to build a new student center at the Mattin Center site, however, we do not know of any additional details regarding its development at this time.” The student center is one of several major projects that Hopkins has underway in Baltimore and Washington. Last fall it selected the Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore to design the home for a new interdisciplinary center called the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute. In January, the school announced plans to buy the Newseum in Washington, D. C., and convert it into a new home for its academic programs there. An architect for that project has not been announced. For its medical campus, Hopkins has hired William Rawn Associates of Boston and Hord Coplan Macht of Baltimore to design an addition to its school of nursing.
Placeholder Alt Text

University of Cincinnati plans to demolish the brutalist Crosley Tower

The University of Cincinnati's Crosley Tower, a 16-story concrete brutalist structure designed by local firm A.M. Kinney, is slated for demolition. The tower, which was initially built for chemistry and biology labs in 1969, has fallen into a state of near-disrepair, according to university officials, and its inflexible cruciform design means that it can’t be readily adapted to new uses or renovated. Around 2010, the facade began to spall, with concrete hailing down into the surrounding plaza, forcing major resurfacing as well as the addition of protective barriers. To make matters worse, faculty members report leaking ceilings and faulty elevators. University officials state that the additional protections and changes only bought about another decade for the building before it again could begin to crumble and need further work, and officials have opted for demolition instead. The precise method of tearing down the tower has yet to be decided. There has been a proposal to methodically disassemble the building from the top down with jackhammers, as well as the more dramatic proposal of a controlled implosion. In advance of its destruction, the university is working to make headway on a new building to make up the lost space. https://twitter.com/TowerCrosley/status/1055135663681667072 While often such brutalist structures, so common at U.S. universities, draw the ire of those with aesthetic oppositions, Dale Beeler, the university's director of project management, told the student-run newspaper The News Record that “[It’s] nothing personal about the building—it just doesn’t warrant the physical expenditures that would bring it into the next 30 or 40 years.” Of course, not everyone is taking the demolition lying down—a Twitter account speaking as a personified version of the doomed tower was made this past spring with the hashtag #DefendCrosleyTower.
Placeholder Alt Text

Watch the failed implosion of the Pontiac Silverdome

It took two tries to substantially demolish the Pontiac Silverdome, former home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. On an unseasonably warm, but brisk Sunday morning, fans gathered to watch the spectacle of a controlled blast that was to partially implode the stadium. Once the series of explosions went off, nothing happened. The plan called for charges on major structural steel columns to be blasted, bringing down the upper level of the stadium and the ring which once secured its dome. According to a statement released by the City of Pontiac mayor Deirdre Waterman, eight of the shape charges did not go off. It would take a second try, on Monday afternoon, to bring the upper levels down, and begin the nine to 12-month process of demolishing the whole building. Built in 1975, the Silverdome was home to the Detroit Pistons during the 1980s and the Detroit Lions until 2002.
Placeholder Alt Text

Detroit mayor live-streams 10,000th demolition

Mayor Mike Duggan took to social media to live stream the demolition of the 10,000th abandoned house in Detroit since the city started its current blight removal program. Along with remarks from the Mayor, the District 1 Manager Stephanie Young, and other community leaders, the video shows a house being razed in a matter of minutes by a large backhoe. The wood frame house was located on Marlowe St. in District 1 on Detroit’s far west side. “It’s been an incredible learning process,” Mayor Duggan remarked in the video. “But nobody in America has begun to try to address blight at the rate we have.” As part of the city’s program to rid itself of tens of thousands of empty structures, a new website tracks and maps every demolition planned and carried out. According to the mayor, 5,000 houses are planned to be demolished in 2016, with 7,000 more planned to be by the end of 2017. The final goal of the city is to demolish 40,000 structures in an eight-year period. https://www.facebook.com/MayorMikeDuggan/videos/572386339589052/ The Mayor was also quick to point out that some 2,000 houses are currently being renovated in Detroit, a sign that value is returning to many communities.  Commenting at the event Jason Cole Executive Director Michigan Minority Contractors Association discussed plans to rehab 1,000 more houses, and the possibility of building 10,000 more new units. Much of the discussion also touched on the safety concerns surrounding abandoned properties. With thinly stretched fire and police departments, arson and crime in abandoned houses is a major issue in Detroit. The mayor answered questions about the effect of the demolitions, pointing out a 25% decrease in building fires over the last year. https://www.facebook.com/MayorMikeDuggan/videos/572399202921099/ The City wasted no time and continued onto the 10,001 demolition two doors down. https://www.facebook.com/MayorMikeDuggan/videos/572408446253508/
Placeholder Alt Text

Detroit launches interactive demolition map

The City of Detroit has launched an interactive map of past and future demolitions throughout the city. The site was launched in the interest of transparency as the city plans to demolish 40,000 structures over an eight year period. Specifically, the Detroit Demolition Tracker maps demolitions since 2014 and those buildings that have been contracted to be demolished. Since 2014 9,591 structures have been demolished and 2,047 are planned for 2016. At an average cost of $12,269 for each residential demolition, the city has awarded more than $90 million in contracts to local demolition companies. The tracker is a continuation of an overhaul of the city’s demolition program, which was launched in 2014. The goal of the overhaul was to streamline the demolition process, hold contractors accountable for their work, and protect the public from the environmental hazards involved with demolition. A task force, working with government regulators, introduced regulations for contractors, hired watchdogs to monitor the program, and started a campaign to inform residents about potential hazards produced by building demolition. Now home owners are notified before houses on their block are demolished and they are instructed to stay indoors and close doors and windows if possible. Additionally, an epidemiologist within the city’s Department of Health and Welfare is tracking elevated blood-lead levels in children and respiratory hospitalizations often associated with asbestos and demolition dust. Since the overhaul, the EPA has recognized the city’s environmental standards, stating, “Detroit’s new demolition practices balance speed, cost and environmental performance.” Under the new program the estimated time to demolish a planned 40,000 structures has been shortened from 30 years to just 8 years. Most of the demolition in the city is federally subsidized by the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF). Demolitions using the HHF can only be used within federally-designated areas throughout the city. The interactive map outlines these areas, as well as the Nuisance Abatement Program (NAP) boundaries. The NAP areas are where the city has taken legal action against owners of vacant structures. Owners of distressed properties are given the option to either improve the property within six months or transfer the property to the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). Money from the HHF can only be used on houses owned by the DLBA. Each entry on the interactive map includes the address, demolition contractor, projected demolition date, and price. This transparency is a key part of the city’s attempt to save money through accountability, and ensure the safety of residents
Placeholder Alt Text

Finding Asylum: Tracing the evolution of five Kirkbride Planned hospitals for the insane

The Victorian-era psychologist Thomas Story Kirkbride advocated the use of fresh air and elegant architecture for healing mental illnesses. Under the Kirkbride Plan for asylums, patients resided in extensive, well-landscaped grounds and palace-like structures. Yet inside, unplanned by the architects, patients often were restrained in chains and dark dungeons and suffered ice-water baths. Fortunately, these immoral practices were abandoned, but so were the Victorian buildings that housed them, and these elegant structures deteriorated from neglect. Many Kirkbride Plan facilities have since been demolished, but at least forty remain. Once shameful and secret, these asylums are revamping community pride and local economies, as architects renovate the properties for a variety of uses.
St. Elizabeths Hospital Southeast Washington, D.C. For example, the 182-acre West Campus of the former Government Hospital for the Insane, later known as St. Elizabeths Hospital, will house the new United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters. This Southeast Washington, D.C. asylum housed up to 8,000 patients, including multiple presidential assassins and would-be assassins, such as Richard Lawrence (Andrew Jackson), Charles J. Guiteau (James Garfield), and John Hinckley, Jr. (Ronald Reagan). Working with DHS, Shalom Baranes Associates and Grunley Construction are repairing the 264,300-square-foot Center Building, originally designed by Thomas U. Walter, the primary architect of the 1851 expansion of the U.S. Capitol building. The Center Building’s seven connected structures originally served as administrative offices and treatment rooms for the Government Hospital for the Insane but will now house all DHS operations, saving $64 million per year in rental costs, since DHS operations are currently scattered across dozens of buildings in the District. Read more from AN here.
Hudson River State Hospital Poughkeepsie, New York In 2007, six years after the Hudson River Psychiatric Center closed, the abandoned asylum was struck by lightning, burning its south wing, what used to be the male housing quarters. In April 2010, two more fires occurred, although these reportedly were intentional. Then, in November 2013, the abandoned, burnt, and deteriorated Gothic Revival structure, was purchased for $4 million. Diversified Realty Advisors and EnviroFinance Group (EFG/DRA Heritage) are transforming it into a $200 million, mixed-use development, called Hudson Heritage. The original grounds were designed by Olmsted & Vaux and the buildings were designed by Frederick Clarke Withers. Four of the 59 original buildings will be re-purposed, whereas the other 55 will be demolished. The development calls for a 350,000 square foot shopping center, 750 single and multifamily residences, and an 80 room hotel, which was an original Kirkbride. Read more from AN here.
Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital Morris Plains, New Jersey Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital abandoned a 675,000-square-foot, Second Empire Baroque building by architect Samuel Sloan. After the facility closed in 2008, Preserve Greystone, a volunteer organization, emerged to fight for its adaptive-reuse. However, the original Greystone Park could not be saved and was demolished at taxpayers’ expense of $50 million. John Huebner, president of Preserve Greystone, called the demolition “an irretrievable loss for this generation and countless future ones, and an affront to the generation that built it.” Hueber hopes to make a memorial for the site and preserve 1,000 linear feet of granite building facade, two marble columns, decorative pieces, and as many trees as possible. Read more from AN here.
Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane Buffalo, New York The Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, by architect H.H. Richardson and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, is undergoing a $56 million make-over, funded both publicly and privately. The current design team is made up of Flynn Battaglia Architects (executive architect), Deborah Berke Partners (design architect), Goody Clancy (historic preservation architect), and Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger (structural engineer). The three main buildings will house a hotel and conference center along with the Buffalo Architecture Center (BAC). Deborah Berke Partners redesigned the north-side entry as a beacon, with a glass entryway, highlighting the coexistence of historic and modern. Construction is underway and is expected to open in fall 2016 as Hotel Henry, Urban Resort Conference Center. Read more from AN here.
Northern Michigan Asylum Traverse City, Michigan Dr. James Decker Munson, the first superintendent of Northern Michigan Asylum, was a firm believer of “beauty is therapy.” He exposed patients to beautiful flowers, provided year round through the greenhouses and trees on the hospital property. The Victorian-Italianate facilities were designed by architect Gordon W. Lloyd and at their peek housed around 3,000 patients. The 63-acre complex closed in 1989, and was vacant until 2002 when Raymond Minervini purchased the entirety for only one dollar. The rehabilitation, called the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, cost $60 million, and by 2005, housed residences, offices, shops, and eateries. The firehouse is now a bakery, and the laundry room is a wine bar and fair-trade coffee shop. The rehabilitation is expected to house 1,000 people–ranging from 300 square foot studio apartments to 3,800 square foot condos– provide 800 jobs, and host farmers markets, easter egg hunts, and beer and dairy festivals. Despite their negative associations, asylums exhibit excellent design and craftsmanship, and are adaptable to an endless variety of uses. Photographer Christopher Payne is an authority on these old facilities, photographing dozens of them for his book, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals. "Payne, who trained as an architect before turning to photography, is attuned to the incongruously fine detail or trace of order among landscapes of decay," AN's Jeff Byles wrote in a review of an exhibit of the book's photos. "Perhaps the most affecting images in Asylum are those that confront head-on the human experience of asylum life: dozens of toothbrushes hung neatly in a cabinet, each labeled with the name of its owner; patient suitcases piled sadly in an attic; bowling shoes at the ready for a night at the lanes in Rockland" For more photos of abandoned asylums, visit Payne's website here.
Placeholder Alt Text

ISIS militants demolish ancient heritage sites in Syria after vowing to leave them unharmed

World heritage sites in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria are being bombed by the militant group ISIS. The 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin and Temple of Bel in Palmyra, designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, have allegedly been destroyed by the terrorist group. Images featuring the explosion posted through social-media accounts in affiliation with ISIS depict the bombings. The destruction of these ancient temples follows the public execution of Khaled al-Assad, age 82, a scholar and keeper of Palmyra and Syrian antiquities at the hands of ISIS militants on Tuesday, August 18. According to an Associated Press report in the Los Angeles Times, a UNESCO official said the removal of these monuments is the "most brutal, systematic" destruction of historic sites since World War II. ISIS has also targeted other ancient sites including St. Elian Monastery and its 5th century tomb, the report added. UNESCO has called these demolitions war crimes. In late August, the group struck again at the Temple of Bel. The Guardian reported on August 30 that the group made the claim over social media. The structure was built in 32 AD. After gaining control of the city early March 2015, ISIS' commander in Palmyra, Abu Laith al-Saoudy, was reported stating that it was the group's intention to preserve and leave unharmed the historic city of Palmyra. "What we will do is break the idols that the infidels used to worship. The historic buildings will not be touched and we will not bring bulldozers to destroy them like some people think.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Next up in a series of demolitions in the historic Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital campus: the Kirkbride

The New Jersey Treasury Department has levied the wrecking ball on the iconic Kirkbride building of the historic Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital. Demolition began on April 6, with heavy-equipment operators from Northstar Contracting targeting 26 structures on the campus as part of a $34.4 million contract from the state of New Jersey. The latest to go is the 673,000-square-foot, 19th-century landmark which, like most of the buildings in the complex, had dangerously deteriorated. Greystone was built in 1876 as part of a national initiative to improve medical treatment for the mentally ill. At its peak, the hospital housed over 5000 patients. However, the neglected facility deteriorated over the last 50 years and was replaced with a new Greystone Hospital next door in 2007. USA Today reported that Randolph resident and drone pilot Jody Johnson has been documenting the demolition on her DJI Phantom 3 Pro drone. She posts the videos to YouTube, Instagram and Facebook to keep residents abreast of the otherwise fenced-in takedown. “Of course, it’s upsetting to see the footprint of the building slowly fading away,” she said. “[People] say it’s terrible to see it coming down. They are concerned about the environmental impact.” Nonprofit group Preserve Greystone has rallied doggedly for conservation of the 26 buildings and their connecting tunnels, the removal of which requires thorough extraction of toxic substances such as lead paint, asbestos, and mold. Once the demolition is over, the remaining 165 acres of Greystone will be bequeathed to Morris County in order to be preserved as open space. Although all tangible traces of the Kirkbride will be gone, the New Jersey Treasury Department is planning to document and preserve the history through a dedicated website, documentation and on-site interpretive signage. “All the markers and websites in the world won’t undo what they’ve done,” retorted John Huebner, president of Preserve Greystone. The Treasury is also working with the Morris County Park Commission to save physical mementos of Kirkbride, including two marble columns from the front of the building and two cast-iron light poles, according to USA Today.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Wrecking Keck & Keck? Chicago preservationists target North Shore landmark ordinance

One of the Chicago area's last remaining homes by brothers and modernist architects George Frederick and William Keck faces likely demolition later this year, despite a long-running preservation campaign to save it. The 1955 Blair House at 925 Sheridan Road in Lake Bluff, Illinois could earn designation as a local landmark, but that distinction may do little more than delay the inevitable, preservationists said, since the Chicago suburb's landmark ordinance lacks legal teeth. In 1957 Architectural Record named the Blair House "A Residence of Exceptional Distinction.” Landmarks Illinois named it one of their most endangered places in 2012, citing the home's forward-thinking design and pristinely preserved interiors. The Keck's custom-designed many of their homes down to the furniture, experimenting in the Blair House with sustainable technologies that are now commonplace, such as double-glazing, abundant natural light and radiant heat. A travertine fireplace and elegant stairway are among the home's celebrated features. Ed McCormick Blair, the original owner, died in 2010. He left the house to his estate, representatives of which plan to demolish the structure and sell the land for redevelopment. The value of the property, which is part of a 19th century farm on the shores of Lake Michigan, has been assessed at $4.9 million. For four years the estate has sought $9,995,000 for the five-bedroom house and 27 acres of land, a price which has not been met by the market. The property's realtor did not return requests for comment. Owner Ed Blair Jr. submitted an application to demolish the building in December. Under Lake Bluff's rules, that permit was subject to a 90-day review because the building is more than 50 years old. If the building receives landmark designation, Blair will have to submit an additional request, but he is not prohibited from knocking down the historic structure after a 120-day period that Lake Bluff officials say provides for public dialogue. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, Blair said the proceeds of the house's sale will go to charity. "The land is worth more without the house than with it," he told Genevieve Bookwalter. "The purpose is not to honor my father by keeping the house; it's to honor my father by following his wishes." But preservationists say demolishing the home would mar the region's architectural legacy. “The concept of this jewel of a house being demolished has just got us beside ourselves,” said Jack Schuler, a neighbor whose property shares history with the Blairs'. Along with John H. Bryan, Schuler and Blair Sr. purchased portions of the 250-acre Crab Tree Farm in 1985. The farm, currently in conservancy, is among the last working farms bordering Lake Michigan. Brandon Stanick, Assistant to Village Administrator of Lake Bluff, said the village's requirement for public dialogue balances property rights with preservation. “There's a strong property rights feeling in the village," he said. "The advisory review process in place is meant to be a compromise between the two extremes.” Schuler said the controversy lays bare the problems with the landmark provisions of Lake Bluff. The Blair House is one of several historic homes in the leafy, upscale suburb. Preservationists worry more will be demolished if the landmark ordinance remains merely honorific. “If this was Lake Forest this house would be preserved,” said Schuler.