Posts tagged with "Historic Preservation":

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Five Pritzker-winning architects join "Save Prentice" campaign

Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital has become the cause célèbre for architectural preservationists from across Chicago and beyond, now garnering five more Pritzker-toting allies amid mounting pressure for demolition. Robert Venturi, Tadao Ando, Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, and Eduardo Souto de Moura added their names to a letter sent to Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month from more than 60 architects, including Frank Gehry. Dan Coffey and Jack Hartray of Chicago, George Miller of New York City, Denise Scott Brown of Philadelphia, and Bjarke Ingels of Copenhagen also joined the chorus of designers calling on Chicago city officials to grant the iconic cloverleaf structure landmark status. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently completed a landmark recommendation report, but Chicago’s Commission on Landmarks, the City Council, and the mayor will ultimately determine whether its owner can proceed with its plans to demolish. AIA Chicago and Landmarks Illinois have long supported landmark designation for the building, which Northwestern University wants to demolish so it can construct a medical research tower. Preservationists counter Northwestern owns vacant land nearby that should be considered for new construction. Reuse options for Prentice, vacant since 2007, abound—a reuse study by Landmarks Illinois found rehabilitation as a lab, office or residential tower would take less time and cost less than new construction on the site. Goldberg designed the hospital to actualize his vision for community-building through architecture. The four bays in the building’s unique quatrefoil floorplan were meant to preserve sightlines and encourage interaction between and among patients and staff. Its concrete shell, designed uncharacteristically for the time with the aid of computers, is a unique feat of engineering permitting column-free floors. It was hailed as a structural engineering milestone upon its completion in 1975. “The legacy of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital is unmistakable,” the letter reads. “Chicago’s global reputation as a nurturer of bold and innovative architecture will wither if the city cannot preserve its most important achievements.” There is a Commission on Chicago Landmarks meeting this Thursday, and Prentice supporters are trying to put the issue on the agenda, but the Commission has not responded. They have not weighed in on the issue in more than a year, even ruling a coalition representative who tried to broach the topic out of order during the last meeting. UPDATE: The Commission's agenda does not include Prentice.
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Legislative Update> Transit, Biking, Walkability, Preservation & the Environment at Risk

It's becoming clear how Congress' approval ratings keep dropping to new historic lows—the latest Gallup Poll released yesterday puts it at a squat ten percent—when the legislative body continues to threaten policies not just architects but also the general public hold near and dear. Now, as key transportation bills that set funding for all national infrastructure--including roads, transit, shipping, pipelines, and even sidewalks--prepare for a votes in the House of Representatives and Senate as soon as the coming week, we're seeing transit, biking, walkability, the environment, and historic preservation all at risk. Here's a roundup of the latest: Among the chief concerns of the House's HR7 bill, otherwise known as the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act, is that dedicated funding for transit, biking, and walkability is eliminated. That includes funding requirements for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) programs that promote alternative transportation, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, and the Safe Routes to School program.  But that's not the end of it; Yonah Freemark at The Transport Politic has a great write-up of all the bill's problems. For instance, on why funding is being eliminated for transit, bikes, and pedestrians in the first place:
The members of the committee determined that to remedy the fact that gas taxes have not been increased since 1993, the most appropriate course was not to raise the tax (as would make sense considering inflation, more efficient vehicles, and the negative environmental and congestion-related effects of gas consumption) but rather to transfer all of its revenues to the construction of highways. Public transit, on the other hand, would have to fight for an appropriation from the general fund, losing its traditional guarantee of funding and forcing any spending on it to be offset by reductions in other government programs.
Highway cost overruns not covered by the gas tax could be paid for by up to $2 billion from drilling for oil in coastal waters, including areas in the Gulf hit by the massive BP oil spill,and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The New York Times recently blasted the GOP bill that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman himself, called "the worst transportation bill I've ever seen during 35 years of public service." He also told Politico, "It also is the most anti-safety bill I have ever seen...It hollows out the guts of the transportation efforts that we've been about for the last three years." With a vote imminent, groups from Transportation for America to the National Resources Defense Council declared today a national day of action to get in touch with your elected officials and voice your opinion about the bills. AIA President Jeff Potter is among those concerned that current transportation bills are flawed. “While we are gratified that both the House and the Senate are moving ahead on transportation bills, there are some provisions that would take our communities in the wrong direction,” said Potter. “We urge Congress to continue working on a truly bipartisan bill that helps meet the design and construction industry goals: hold funding levels steady, support multiple modes of transportation, and account for the many enhancements that well-planned transportation projects can bring to communities throughout this great nation.” While the AIA praised the Senate for including provisions that assist in planning mixed-use communities around transit, it worries that by removing dedicated transit funding, those planning capabilities are jeopardized. From the AIA's official statement:
The AIA is concerned that provisions in bills that have passed House committees would hurt a community’s ability to plan. This is especially true for provisions in the Ways and Means bill that remove transit from the trust fund and provisions in the Transportation and Infrastructure committee’s bill that prevent communities from using funds for preservation and re-use of historic facilities.
Historic preservation is at risk in the Senate's S. 1813: MAP-21. Here's the gist of the problem from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:
Transportation Enhancements (TE), the single largest source of federal funding for historic preservation, is still under siege. ... MAP-21 (S. 1813) eliminates dedicated funding for TE, forcing the program to compete with other types of road projects that do not possess the same job creation or cultural heritage benefits as preservation-oriented TE projects. In addition, we anticipate harmful amendments that would further weaken the program. To make matters worse, the outlook for TE is even bleaker in the House. Current proposals not only eliminate the funding set aside but also eliminate the preservation-related categories of the TE program entirely. This is why it is critical to get favorable TE language into the Senate bill.
The National Trust has also called for concerned citizens to contact their legislators about the proposal. You can read more about the connection between preservation and transportation at the Trusts's Preservation Nation blog.
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Potential Pyramid Scheme in DUMBO

Is NYC's next architectural adventure shaped like a pyramid? Maybe, if one of the groups competing for usage space in Brooklyn's historic Tobacco Warehouse has its way. The recently stabilized structure  is currently under the purview of the powers-that-be at the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, which sees the Warehouse as "most compelling public spaces" in the city's quest to spruce up the Brooklyn waterfront. Our friends at Curbed have some renderings of what dance and theater troupe LAVA would like to do if they win the great space race for this (currently) roofless brick structure that seems to sidle up next to the Brooklyn Bridge. This blogger has to wonder if it's less a pyramid and more a volcano (LAVA... volcano... get it?) Meanwhile, contestant #2, the DUMBO-based theater group St. Ann's Warehouse, has more a conventional, but potentially more contextually palatable, idea of what they'd like a revamped Tobacco Warehouse to look like.

Despite an appeal by former Partridge Family star and 1970s teen idol Susan Dey to send the contract out for re-bidding at Monday's tempestuous public meeting, the folks at Curbed are putting their money on St. Ann's to win the conditional designation sometime soon. (Leave us your predictions in the comments section below.)

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Preservationists Mob Austin for Density, Community, and Tacos

The National Preservation Conference landed in Austin, Texas, last week under the banner "Next American City, Next American Landscape." Exploring preservation's role in the future of the country's urban, suburban, and rural landscapes, the 2010 conference showed that preservationists aren't all stuck in the past. (In fact, they're pretty savvy when it comes to new media. Check out the NTHP's Austin Unscripted on their website, Twitter, and YouTube to see how preservation can appeal to a new generation.) The opening plenary was held at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, which is sited to take advantage of the unobstructed views of downtown Austin. After a warm welcome from Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and a performance by local musicians Phoebe Hunt, Seth Walker, Susan Torres, and Ryan Harkrider (check out the rehearsal video here - skip to 7:25 for a sample of some of Austin's famous live music), the packed house of preservationists heard remarks from the new NTHP President Stephanie Meeks, former First Lady Laura Bush, and New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger. Some attendees seemed surprised by the choice of Mrs. Bush, but she's been involved in preservation for some time. On Tuesday evening, she spoke about her passion for the preservation of the historic courthouses of Texas, including the one where she and former President Bush got their marriage license many years ago in Midland.

In her speech, Meeks mentioned that since taking over leadership of the NTHP and meeting with preservationists and architects all over the country, three themes kept coming up: 1) The need to make preservation more accessible, 2) The need to make preservation more visible, and 3) The need to ensure that preservation is fully funded. By addressing those three things, she said, historic preservation can be a "visible, dynamic, broadly inclusive movement." However, I thought the most salient point she made was that places are powerful: Whether a landscape like the Hudson Valley or a historic site like the Alamo, every place has a story to tell and, as Meeks said, "they help us tell our stories, as individuals and as Americans."

For his part, the New Yorker's Goldberger spoke about how Austin embodied the Next American City, making it a fitting location for the conference. Unlike Detroit and St. Louis, which represent the Old American City, Austin is both connected to history and “energetically forward-thinking” thanks to the presence of the University of Texas as well as the corporate headquarters of Dell and Whole Foods. He pointed out that it’s not a city dependent on the so-called "meds and eds" solutions -- healthcare and education -- that many cities rely on in postindustrial America, and that Austin does not have the “new pseudo-urban landscape" of Tyson’s Corner or the Buckhead section of Atlanta, or the Galleria area of Houston, which he cited as "new places that aspire to urbanity but don’t really possess much of it and which show us that a certain amount of density and tall buildings alone do not a city make.” Goldberger also pointed out that “poverty is a great friend” of historic preservation, simply because there’s less money and therefore less of an impetus for building big and tossing aside historic buildings because they aren’t shiny and new. In light of that, he felt that Austin was yet again a good role model for the Next American City, since it has prosperity but also pays heed to its architectural past: Its “solid economy has not led to a complete indifference to preservation.” Hopefully, as the city goes forward with developing a denser downtown, especially in the residential sector, the powers that be will remember that historic buildings or streetscapes are of significant value to the community.
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Slideshow: Zonnestraal Sanatorium Saved From Ruin

Abandoned and nearly lost, the Zonnestraal Sanatorium in Hilversum, Netherlands has been meticulously restored to its former glory by Bierman Henket architecten and Wessel de Jonge architecten.  In honor of their efforts, the two firms were awarded the 2010 World Monuments Fund / Knoll Modernism Prize.  Alan Brake penned an article for the print edition of The Architect's Newspaper:
Designed in 1926–1928 by Johannes Duiker and Bernard Bijvoet and completed in 1931, the sanatorium is considered a seminal work of early modernism. Though it was well known when it was built, the structure was eventually abandoned, and since then nearly subsumed by the surrounding landscape. Portions of the three-building complex were almost completely lost, so many parts of the sanatorium had to be meticulously reconstructed, including formerly mass-produced elements that had to be recreated by hand.
Read the entire article from The Architect's Newspaper.
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Historic District Struts Its Stuff on Manhattan's West End Avenue

As we reported a few weeks ago, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is gearing up to create a huge new historic district on the Upper West Side. Last night, the commission held a meet-and-greet with the neighbors, at which the tentative boundaries for the new district—technically five contiguous extensions to five existing districts—were unveiled. As the map shows, it's quite a lot of real estate, and though smaller than the extant Upper West Side historic district (2,000+ versus 745) it will become, should it be approved, one of the largest in the city. What's most interesting, though, is how much of the Upper West Side will now be under the commission's purview. It will be interesting to see how the development community reacts.
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Mainstreaming Modernist Landmarks

On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission named the former Spring Mills headquarters at 104 West 40th Street the newest New York City landmark—arguably the most important designation of the year so far. What makes Spring Mills so special is, well, that it's not exactly special. Unlike notable predecessors—Lever House, the Guggenheim, the Ford Foundation—Spring Mills was preserved less for its architectural pedigree than its historical significance. Designed by skyscraper savants Harrison & Abramowitz, and completed in 1963, it is less the 21 stories of green glass on a slender facade that sets this building apart—though that is important, too—than its serving as a marker for the 1960s arrival of the Garment District in Midtown from its former Tribeca home. This makes Spring Mills more in line with, say, West-Park Presbyterian Church, a cultural and community icon, than Chase Manhattan Plaza, an architectural standout for being the first of its kind downtown. In other words, modernist landmarks have reached a point where they are akin to their brick-and-mortar predecessors, becoming simply another architectural style or era to be grappled with on its own merits. Last year, the commission nominated more than 1,000 landmarks. A vast majority of those were in the newly created Prospect Heights Historic District, as well as smaller districts created across the city plus 32 individual landmarks. None of them, however, were modernist structures, showing a continued deference for pre-modernist design. This is not a knock against the commission. Often times these buildings can be hard to love, and many of the good ones have already been given protection—buildings like Lincoln Center and 2 Columbus Circle, which have yet to be designated, demonstrate the risks and rewards of such non-preservation. Still, there is progress being made. Eight modernist buildings have been given landmarks protection since 2003, part of the commission's renewed efforts to recognize this important architectural era in the city's development. While such buildings account for only a few dozen of the 26,000 spread out across the city, Spring Mills is a sign of the continued mainstreaming of such structures. “This is very important to us—it’s a continuation of our interest in and action on modernism,” commission chair Robert Tierney told us last fall, when the commission had a hearing on Spring Mills, once the largest sheet and pillow-case maker in the country. That same day, it also considered the Look Building, famous as much for the magazine it once housed as its layer cake facade that transformed Madison Avenue. Paul Rudolph's former home on Beekman Place was also vetted, a building that would horrify many traditionalists. As the commission continues to grapple with such skyline-shaping buildings (Johnson's Sony and Lipstick buildings, Stubbin's Citigroup Center, Stone's GM Building all seem prime candidates) it is refreshing to know they will increasingly be considered like any other, and as such, maybe many more of them will be getting the landmarks treatment soon.
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Neutra Dodges Gettysburg Bullet

Preservationists have won a small victory in the long-running battle over Richard Neutra’s modernist Cyclorama building at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan told the National Park Service that it must fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act before tearing down Neutra’s 1961 landmark. Preservationists filed a lawsuit in December 2006 arguing that the park service did not follow the law in its 1999 General Management Plan, where it was decided to raze the building. Hogan’s ruling upholds a year-old recommendation from a federal magistrate that chided the park for not evaluating any alternatives besides demolition. According to an article in the Gettysburg Times, the government is reviewing the ruling before deciding its next step. The Cyclorama Center, completed under the National Park Service’s ambitious Mission 66 program, has had many supporters, including Neutra’s son, Dion. The building has been closed since 2008, after the large mural inside depicting Pickett’s Charge was moved to a new visitor facility on another part of the battlefield grounds. The park service wants to demolish the building in order to restore the landscape to its state during the famous 1863 battle. AN offered some possible alternatives for the structure earlier this year.
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The Return of Cousin St. Vinny

Back in March, Protect the Village Historic District sued the Landmarks Preservation Commission over its granting of a hardship to St. Vincent's Hospital, so that it might demolish Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Union Headquarters, now known as the O'Toole building, and replace it with a new hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb and Freed. The focus of PVHD's suit is that the hospital did not explore suitable alternatives, nor did the commission require them, but now, the state Supreme Court appears to be questioning the very nature of the hardship finding—that retaining the O'Toole buildings prevented the hospital from carrying out its charitable mission—or at least that is the finding of a brief filed today by the Municipal Art Society and half-a-dozen preservation groups that directly challenges the LPC on the matter. Filed on behalf of neither the petitioners nor the defendants but at the behest of the court, which is trying to better understand the mechanics of the hardship finding, the MAS' attorneys argue that the LPC erred in finding that a hardship was created by the O'Toole building when in fact it was the neighboring buildings that created the problems for the hospital. The LPC then falsely created a campus that included both the historic buildings east of Seventh Avenue and the Ledner building west of it, and with this campus, extended the hardship from the buildings responsible for it to the one that was not. MAS and company—Historic Districts Council, Greenwich Village Society, the National Trust, the Preservation League, Brooklyn Heights Association, and Friends of the UESHD—argue that in part because the Ledner building remains quite usable, and is not directly infringing on the functioning of the neighboring hospital, it can not be held accountable. And this does not even get into the issues of whether sufficient off-site alternatives were explored and the fact that St. Vincent's knowingly bought a landmark it could not alter, which are at the heart of the original suit. MAS does note that the standards for determining hardship are complex, and it should also be pointed out that, while ostensibly neutral, all seven amici have lobbied on behalf of preserving the Ledner buildings and indeed hold quite a vested interest in the LPC's defeat. Simply consider the conclusion of the brief [PDF], which states, in part, that the commission "has created a dangerous precedent that may have a devastating effect on the preservation of landmark buildings and historic districts throughout New York City." This is personal. We're still waiting to hear back from some real estate attorneys as to the exact role this brief might play in the case, whether or not it will actually sway the judges, but as soon as we know, you'll know.