Posts tagged with "Historic Preservation":

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A crowdfunding campaign seeks $100,000 to restore the Miami Marine Stadium

The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) and Heineken have teamed up for a crowdfunding campaign to save the historic Miami Marine Stadium in Virginia Key. Heineken is offering up to $20,000 in matching funds towards the campaign's total $100,000 flexible fundraising goal. Funding from the campaign will go towards re-opening the venue and restoring it to its former glory, starting with replacing its 6,566 seats. The project will also require repairs the structure necessitated by to environmental damage and vandalism. Since its closure, the concrete stadium has been a popular site for skateboarders and graffiti artists, and it has been covered nearly top to bottom in spray paint. The campaign is offering photo prints of the best graffiti art as incentives for a $10 donation. Miami Marine Stadium was built in 1963 on Biscayne Bay as a venue for powerboat racing events. Later the stadium was also used for concerts from performers like the Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys and spectator sports like boxing. It was closed in 1992 in the wake of Hurricane Andrew when the structure was declared unsafe under Miami-Dade County building code. The unique design of the stadium came from a 28-year-old architect named Hilario Candela, a recent immigrant from Cuba. It includes a span of cantilevered concrete as long as a football field that, which at the time of its building, was the longest in the world. The massive roof is anchored by concrete columns set as far back as possible so as to offer unobstructed views of the bay. The NTHP has been working toward saving the stadium since 2009, when they added it to their 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list. In early 2016 it was the location of the Miami International Boat Show, marking the first official use of the stadium in over 20 year and bringing new awareness to the site. The organization does not have an estimated date for the project to be finished, but according to the crowdfunding campaign, the removal of the seats is almost finished. They have also received $4 million from the City of Miami towards further improvements. More details on the campaign are available here.
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Hodgetts+Fung redesign project to save gay culture landmark in West Hollywood

A recently-revamped proposal for new retail and hotel project in West Hollywood by Los Angeles-based architects Hodgetts+Fung and West Hollywood-based developer Faring Capital has taken a turn toward preservation. The proposal originally intended to demolish a historic gay culture monument occupying the site of the Robertson Lane project, replacing the structure with a pedestrian-oriented, 250-room hotel and retail complex. That monument, known as “The Factory,” is a formerly-industrial brick structure built in 1929 to house manufacturing facilities for the Mitchell Camera Corporation. After the camera film manufacturer relocated their operations in the 1946, it underwent a series of transformations, eventually being converted in 1974 into a gay nightclub called Studio One. The discotheque become a safe space for the gay community during an era which inclusive, open environments were scarce. It also was seen as a beacon for rising consciousness, when it hosted the country’s first major AIDS research fundraiser in 1984. The Factory was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” list in 2015 alongside New York City’s South Street Seaport and the Grand Canyon. The designation, a powerful tool for moving public opinion toward preservation, no doubt helped the developer’s position toward the structure evolve to incorporate reuse. Hodgetts+Fung’s revised plans involve moving and rotating the structure 90 degrees so that it’s longest facade is aligned with the streetfront. Under this arrangement, The Factory will become the entry point for a paseo bisecting the site, instead of being demolished by it. A timeline for the project has not been released.
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A proposed cut to historic preservation tax credits in Oklahoma raises concerns

In October 2014, photos surfaced of John Johansen’s Mummers Theater, or rather, the theater reduced to a pile of scrap metal and rubble—the humbled remains of bold architecture traded in for corporate towers courtesy Robert A.M. Stern.

In 2010, before its demolition, the 1970 theater was vacant and severely damaged by flooding. Finding funding for historic preservation, especially for structurally compromised buildings, can be challenging.

And, if two Oklahoma state senators, Mike Mazzei and Rob Standridge, had their way—luckily the bill died on the Senate floor—more buildings could have lost funding sources for preservation and go the way of Mummers Theater.

This past February, the two Republican lawmakers introduced Senate bill 977, a sweeping proposal to close the state’s budget deficit by nixing a slew of tax credits for two years, including those intended for historic preservation.

Oklahoma’s Own News on 6 reported that the bill could affect Tulsa buildings like 400 South Boston, a planned hotel conversion; the TransOK building at Sixth and Main, a 30-unit residential building; and the Palace Theater, a residential conversion in process. The largest project to be affected is in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City: The $30 million renovation of the city-owned First National Center, a 33-story, almost one-million-square-foot 1931 art deco building at Broadway and Park Avenue.

On January 7, 2016, Oklahoma City awarded Lewisville, Texas–based NE Development the contract to preserve First National and convert it to the mixed-use trifecta of residential, retail, and hotel. Senate bill 977 was introduced the following day, complicating the project’s timeline and casting momentary doubt on its financial feasibility.

The issue with rehabbing big buildings like First National Center, said Luke Harry, president of asset management at NE Development, is that “you have to figure out ways to normalize the costs, not to make it cheap, but to make it regular. I could build a 30-story tower for half the price of rehabbing First National.”

The aim of federal, state, and new market tax credits, tax increment financing, and similar incentive programs, said Harry, is to mitigate the risk of investing in often-costly rehabs. “Nobody’s making money off of the tax credit, they’re making money off what you can do five, seven years down the road, once everything starts to stabilize.”

To many developers and preservationists, the cuts seem like a cheap shot. Harry explained that in order to receive a tax credit, his work—plans, rehabilitation, and completed construction—is checked at those three key points before the state issues any tax credits. “Everyone assumes the developers gets these credits. They don’t really understand that the money never gets close to [the developers]. We actually take a small loan out on the money. It’s not like when we have $20 million in tax credits, we’re walking around with $20 million in our pockets.”

NE Development will not close on the building until after May 27, 2016, the day the legislative session concludes for the year. Right now, the bill is in legislative purgatory. It’s been stripped of its title, and a title-less bill cannot be made into law. Roxanne Blystone, Senator Mazzei’s executive assistant, said that the bill was amended to reinstate historic preservation tax credits. The sponsors of the bill could resuscitate the bill during the next session, although this is not likely to happen.

While the near-certain death of the bill is good news for the historic preservation tax program, its mere presence has delayed the timeline of large projects like First National and all but killed smaller projects, especially in rural Oklahoma, observed Harry. Anticipating a delay like this, NE Development had two extensions related to preservation credits in its contract, “Mostly because it’s a longer process. We’re comfortable with our ability to get the credits, we’re just uncomfortable with whether they’re going to be there,” Harry noted, ruefully. Melvena Heisch, deputy state historic preservation officer at the Oklahoma Historical Society, said that she doesn’t know if the bill has affected any projects yet, but the agency was “quite concerned” about that possibility early on.

If the threat of cuts to historic preservation has real-world ramifications in Oklahoma, the bill also raises questions around civic priorities and the future of preservation in the state. Harry suggested an intervention as simple as a lunch-and-learn for legislators to address misperceptions about the tax credits and give a clear explanation of how they work. “I think everybody would understand [the credits] because they’re just not tricky, they’re very transparent. Historic tax credits work really well. Without that money, beautiful historic buildings rot in place.”

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OMA unveils their refurbishment of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice

International practice OMA has completed a refurbishment of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice. Originally constructed in 1228, rebuilt in 1508 after a fire, then given a concrete structure in the 1930s, the Italian Renaissance-styled building is an emblem of Venetian Republic. Having served many purposes throughout its lifetime—used by German trade merchants, then as a customs house for Napoleon and a post office for Mussolini—the Fondaco dei Tedeschi was granted "Monument" status in 1987. In 2008, the building was purchased by Italian fashion brand Benetton, who commissioned Rem Koolhaas to transform the space with its primary use being for retail. However, conservationists from Italia Nostra objected dubbing the Palazzo's proposal as a "megastore." In 2012, during the midst of the debacle, Benetton's spokesman Federico Sartor said: "A city with just museums will die. There is lots of culture in Venice but you cannot find a sandwich." Four years later, Benetton and OMA's plans have been scaled back to incorporate an artistic element, thus maintaining Venice's cultural pedigree. Opening the courtyard piazza and rooftop to pedestrians facilitates views down into the building and, more impressively, over Venice along the city's canals.
The most drastic intervention comes in the form of the structure's circulation. Timber-clad escalators rise up through the volumes, punctuating the space with their dark red coloration, seemingly an amplified reference to the pink hues found in the worn bricks of the interior. In order to encourage circulation to the building, new entrances from the Campo San Bartolomeo and the Rialto have been created, while the existing entrances into the courtyard have been retained for the locals. OMA created a new rooftop through the renovation of the existing 19th Century pavilion at the top and the addition of a large wooden terrace, which now offers spectacular views over the city. Both the rooftop and the central courtyard below will remain open to the public. "The transformation of the Fondaco is based on a finite number of local interventions and vertical distribution devices that support the new program structure a sequence of public spaces and paths, from the central courtyard to a new roof terrace overlooking the Canal Grande," said OMA. "Each intervention is conceived as a brutal excavation through the existing mass, liberating new perspectives and unveiling the real substance of the building to its visitors," they continued. "With an almost forensic attitude, each new component serves as a way to show the stratification of materials and construction techniques." As for the retail space itself, Jamie Fobert Architects from London will lead the design. The renovated building is due to open in October this year.
 
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Paul Rudolph’s Buffalo Shoreline Apartments to be demolished

172 families currently reside in American architect Paul Rudolph's brutalist Shoreline Apartments housing complex in Buffalo, New York. Now, however, owners Norstar Development U.S.A., LLC have told tenants that they must leave by November 1 so demolition can continue. This is despite past promises that demolition would be phased over several years. Plans for the demolition and the site's redevelopment are still to be approved by the Buffalo Planning Board, which could give the go ahead as early as June at the next Planning Board's meeting. Completed in 1974, the complex was bought by Norstar Development who planned a $14 million overhaul of the site, replacing the former 426 units with eight new buildings, accommodating 48 apartments. According to news agency WIVB, current tenants are now panicking as they scramble to find low-cost housing alternatives. “I think we are being scammed,” said one, “I think we are being railroaded.” Roy Gilbert, who resides in the complex on Niagara Street with his two daughters said, “They are trying to bring the higher people from the outskirts of the City of Buffalo down here, and take the lower income people and move them out.” “I think they are trying to get the fixed income people out—the minorities, the disabled—out of here, and get the people that have those jobs in here,” another tenant added. Meanwhile, Linda Goodman, Vice President of Norstar Development replied saying that “Although we could not give them anything definitive, we are working on a plan to help with assistance financially.” Rudolph's buildings are no stranger to being the subject of scorn. Last year, his Orange County Government Center was in line to be demolished, dubbed an "eyesore and financial drain." That same year however, the late Zaha Hadid came to Rudolph's rescue penning a letter in the New York Times. "Rudolph’s work is pure, but the beauty is in its austerity. There are no additions to make it polite or cute. It is what it is," she said. On the subject of social housing, the Robin Hood Gardens Estate in East London by the Smithson's is currently enduring a similar fate to Rudolph's Shoreline Apartments. Likewise, support for its conservation has come from another esteemed British architect, in this case Richard Rogers who, incidentally was a student of Rudolph's at Yale University. Back in Buffalo, Goodman told WIVB that Norstar will be sending out updates plans to residents.
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The challenge of preserving architectural heritage in Philadelphia

As architects descend for the 2016 AIA National Convention, the City of Brotherly Love will be in the spotlight. Philadelphia was just named a World Heritage City, the first in the United States. Denise Scott Brown (see our interview with her here) and Robert Venturi will be awarded the AIA Gold Medal during the convention and a new mayor is fighting to preserve the city’s landmarks, which include the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Philadelphia City Hall, and a host of modern and postmodern relics—not to mention the urban fabric that composes the neighborhoods. In light of all that is happening, AN dove head first into Philadelphian architecture, both past and present. (Also, our "reader" of past articles can help you get up to speed on Philly, the AIA, and this year's speakers.)

This year Philadelphia—home of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Rittenhouse Square—can boast of another historic attribute: It is the first and only city in the United States to be named a World Heritage City, one of 266 around the globe.

Civic leaders, who received word of the recognition last fall, note with pride that it gives Philadelphia a distinction that big-city rivals such as New York and Boston can’t claim. They hope it will make residents more aware of the city’s historic assets and help draw more tourists .

However, a letdown is that the World Heritage City designation doesn’t offer Philadelphia any money to protect or promote historic buildings. It comes from a Canadian group, the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC), not the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and it provides no funds for preservation.

Some fear the designation could lull people into a false sense of security about local preservation activity. “There’s been a tremendous amount of confusion,” said architect Kathy Dowdell, principal of Farragut Street Architects. “It’s essentially a marketing campaign. It doesn’t actually protect anything. But if it gets people to think about the need to protect [historic buildings], I don’t care if it is a marketing campaign.”

Despite its recent designation as a World Heritage City, Philadelphia has had a decidedly uneven record and reputation for historic preservation. Architects who come to the AIA convention will find Center City relatively intact. But other areas of the city are losing historically and architecturally significant buildings at a steady rate, largely due to development pressures and lack of landmark protection.

This spring, many residents are smarting from the recent loss of the main auditorium of the Boyd Theater, the city’s last movie palace, and the former Union Baptist Church, where Marian Anderson learned to sing. Compared to its peers, local preservationists say, Philadelphia is doing a poor job of safeguarding its historic assets. More than a few describe the preservation scene as being in a state of crisis.

“There is a real culture of despair, or resignation, when it comes to preservation in this town,” said Aaron Wunsch, assistant professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate program of historic preservation, in an interview with PlanPhilly, a website that monitors preservation activity in Philadelphia. “It’s not that people don’t care; it’s either that they assume that the system is working, or have given up on it ever doing so.”

Lack of imagination is one of the city’s problems, Wunsch said.

“Philadelphia has become a real can’t-do kind of place, unwilling or unable to think creatively about preservation and adaptive reuse. We have the architectural resources of a Colonial Williamsburg for the 18th century, and far better than Manhattan for the 19th. But we continue to think like Detroit, treating every development proposal, no matter how shoddy, as our city’s last hope.”

“My feeling is that there are two different stories here,” said Nathaniel Popkin, writer, critic, and editorial director for Hidden City Philadelphia, another organization that pays close attention to preservation in Philadelphia.

“Some people will tell you that there is a crisis. There is certainly a feeling that the regulatory process is not working…On the other hand, there is an enormous amount of preservation work happening —high quality preservation work and high quality adaptive reuse work—and there is opportunity for much more.“

Philadelphia seems to regard preservation differently than other cities do, observes Inga Saffron, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic.

“In most cities, historic designation means a building is protected—forever,” she wrote after the city’s historic commission approved a proposal to tear down the Boyd auditorium. “In Philadelphia, designation is increasingly seen as a temporary state, good until a developer offers a compelling alternative.”

Despite the recent losses and threats to the city’s historic fabric, no one has given up hope. New Mayor James Kenney took office in January, and preservationists are optimistic that he and his administration will put preservation on a better course. They note that Kenney once worked for a local architectural firm that specializes in preservation, Vitetta, and that as a city council member he introduced legislation that would have added landmarks to the Philadelphia register and doubled funding for the historic commission. The legislation never passed, in part because Kenney left the council before it could advance. But it underscored his passion for preservation.

As the new mayor settles in, Philadelphia’s preservation scene is a study in contrasts. On the plus side, Philadelphia has one of the richest collections of historic buildings in the country and a sophisticated citizenry that understands the importance of preservation. The Philadelphia Historical Commission was formed in 1955, making it one of the country’s preservation pioneers. Philadelphia has excellent architecture and preservation schools, first-rate architects and builders; strong philanthropic organizations, and a longtime preservation advocacy group, the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.

But the city faces an uphill battle in protecting its assets for a variety of reasons. The historic commission has one of the lowest budgets of any big city preservation agency in the country—less than $500,000 a year. With the limited budget, commission staffers devote much of their time to processing building permit applications rather than preparing reports recommending new landmark designations. Only about two percent of the city’s buildings have any sort of local landmark protection.

Designated landmarks aren’t necessarily safe from the wrecking ball either. Over the years, the historic commission has approved a number of requests to demolish buildings after owners argued it would be a financial hardship to maintain them. The city has few tax incentives for preservation.

Much of the problem, said Popkin, can be traced to the city’s loss of manufacturing jobs in recent decades and its subsequent budget woes. In addition, Popkin said, Philadelphia never had the sort of overheated real estate market New York City has. As a result, he said, the historic commission has been perennially understaffed, underfunded, and ill equipped to cope with the sort of development pressures it’s facing now.

In awakening from its real estate doldrums and embracing urban revitalization, the city sometimes acts as if it never learned the lessons of the past 50 years about preservation and urbanism, Wunsch said. “It’s almost as if Jane Jacobs never existed.”

The city’s lead public official in charge of preservation efforts, Historical Commission executive director Jonathan Farnham, offered no comment for this article. In other interviews, Farnham has defended his commission, saying he thinks it does well given its budget and staff size. He disagrees with those who complain that the commission isn’t recommending enough buildings for landmark status. He denies that it sides with developers too frequently.

How can the situation be improved? In an op-ed for the Inquirer, Wunsch and Preservation Alliance executive director Caroline Boyce urged the city to increase funding for the historic commission; undertake a comprehensive survey of Philadelphia’s historic resources, and provide tax incentives for preservation, among other suggestions.

Another key to any turnaround would be for elected officials to demonstrate the political will to make preservation a higher civic priority, and that’s where Mayor Kenney comes in.

Carl Dress, principal of Heritage Design Collaborative of Media and chairman of AIA Philadelphia’s Historical Preservation Committee, said he’s encouraged that Kenney wants to rehab and reopen older libraries and recreation centers. In addition, he said, the city is moving its police headquarters from one older building, the Roundhouse by GBQC, to the former Provident Mutual Life Insurance building in West Philadelphia. It also hired Kieran Timberlake to refurbish the “Saucer” welcome center at LOVE Park.

“There are great hopes that he will help take preservation in the right direction,” Dress said of Kenney. During last year’s campaign for mayor, “Kenney was the first person to talk positively about preservation in as long as anyone can remember,” Popkin said. “He understands it. He gets it…Hopes are very high.” 

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Herzog & de Meuron renovates the Armory’s Veterans Room to its original 19th century aplomb

On March 7, the Veterans Room at the Park Avenue Armory reopened after an extensive renovation by Herzog & de Meuron. The reopening was the latest in the firm’s multiyear restoration of the building, which began in 2007 and has no set completion date. The Veterans Room was originally commissioned in 1879 to Associated Artists—Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, and Candace Wheeler—who later went on to design Mark Twain’s house, five rooms in the White House, and Cornelius Vanderbilt’s house. The Veterans Room’s Gilded-Era style is a rich, riotous mash up of Islamic, Chinese, Greek, and Celtic influences: scrolling ironwork hangs from the ceiling while twisting columns frame Tiffany’s dramatic blue-glass mosaic behind the fireplace, and ornate paneling with wooden bas reliefs and colorful embedded glass evokes an intricately carved jewel box.

The $8 million renovation of the Veterans Room took approximately one year. Herzog & de Meuron focused on two core features in particular: the wallpaper, which had been removed in the mid-20th century, and the lighting.

Fortuitously, a piece of the original wallpaper was found behind a painting and, while the new version is not an exact replica, great pains were taken to honor the original color balance and effect of the design. “How can you recreate an artistic process?” Ascan Mergenthaler, a Herzog & de Meuron senior partner, told the New York Times. “You can’t read their minds, so you can’t just try to do what they did. You have to think beyond that.”

The firm created LED lighting with illuminated glass lenses to replace the original gas fixtures. The resulting refracted light achieves a warm, glowing atmosphere for which the Veterans Room was once so famous.

To further transform the room into a modern venue, it was soundproofed and engineered to concert-level acoustic standards. The now in-demand space is expected to host musical performances, exhibitions, educational workshops, and lectures,

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Restoration of the Main Hall at Washington Union Station is finally complete

Frequent visitors to Washington’s Union Station may notice on their next trip that something is missing. For the first time in half a century, managers say, the Main Hall of Daniel Burnham’s Beaux Arts train station is free of all construction-related scaffolding and other obstructions and can be viewed as the architect intended. For once, in other words, there is no major repair work underway, no blocked-off construction zones to walk around to get to the train. Also missing are the Center Café and two indoor planters that were added in previous renovations and took up much of the space under the barrel-vaulted ceiling. “Today, Washington Union Station reveals a restored, historic Main Hall,” said leaders of the Union Station Redevelopment Corp. (USRC), steward of the building at 50 Massachusetts Avenue N. E., in a statement dated May 9. “Covered for the past four years in scaffolding as rehabilitation work was underway, the historic space is now unobstructed, as originally designed, for the first time in almost 50 years.” Scaffolding went up after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the region in 2011, damaging the train station and other historic structures. Besides replastering the coffered ceiling, contractors introduced a new “seismically sound” support structure for the ceiling and improved the heating and air conditioning systems in the attic. Before that was a series of modifications designed to make the station more of a destination for residents and travelers, including a National Visitor Center timed with the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976 and subsequent plans to make it a festival marketplace. Part of the just-completed restoration involved removal of a large café and round planters in the center of the Main Hall, a move that represented the culmination of several years of discussions between the Federal Railroad Administration and the State Historic Preservation Office. The Center Café closed on March 1, and removal of the restaurant enclosure and planters began soon afterwards, opening up the Main Hall. “We are very excited to reveal a fully-restored Main Hall for the public to enjoy that is also consistent with the original design envisioned by the world-famous station architect, Daniel Burnham,” said USRC President and CEO Beverley Swaim-Staley. “This is the first time in many of our lives where we can fully appreciate this space as it was historically designed.” The Main Hall opened in 1907 as the General Waiting Room for the station and was known for its impressive scale. It measures 219 feet by 120 feet, and its gold-coffered ceiling is 96 feet high. Lined with mahogany benches, the Main Hall functioned as a large open space until the 1940s, when World War II brought an increase in passenger traffic and ticket counters were expanded from the West Hall into the Main Hall to meet demand. In the 1970s, as train travel declined and air travel became more popular, managers considered new ideas to keep the station active. They designated the train station a National Visitor Center in honor of the nation’s Bicentennial. The Main Hall was reconfigured to contain an elaborate slide show that featured scenes of Washington and other tourist attractions. The slide show proved unpopular and was closed in 1985. That same year, the entire station was shut down for a renovation that included the Center Café prominently positioned in the center of the Main Hall, and other stores and restaurants nearby to make more of a hub for shopping and entertainment. The August 2011 earthquake provided an opportunity to rethink the station again. Besides causing damage that required immediate attention, it triggered a larger discussion about the best way to preserve and restore the Main Hall. In 2012, contractors began restoration of the damaged ceiling. As part of the work, they installed an elaborate system of steel framing to provide a new support structure for the ceiling, designed to help protect it in case of future earthquakes. The entire ceiling bay was also repainted and new gold leafing was applied, with help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a $350,000 corporate donation from the American Express Foundation. The grant helped repair the ceiling by aiding in the replacement of more than the 120,000 sheets of 23-karat gold leaf. Besides the repair work on the ceiling itself, the heating and air-conditioning systems in the attic, behind the ceiling, were improved by realigning ductwork and creating new connections to the ceiling diffusers that will allow them to be cleaned and serviced more regularly. In April, once the ceiling restoration was completed, deconstruction began on the Center Café and the two circular planters, which once served as fountains. Swaim-Staley said the last four years’ worth of repairs were a team effort, involving the Federal Railroad Administration; Union Station Investco, an entity of Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, (manager of the station’s retail spaces); the State Historic Preservation Office, and other historic agencies. London-based Hayles and Howe led the plaster ceiling restoration. Preservationists say they’re glad to know the work is done. “Over the last 30 years both Union Station and the adjacent Capitol Hill neighborhood have been transformed by restoring the historic urban and architectural fabric,” said Lisa Dale Jones, president of Capitol Hill Restoration Society.  “The restoration of the Main Hall’s open floor plan, together with repairs to the coffered and gilt barrel vault ceiling, are important milestones in this recovery.”
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In latest push to clear backlog, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designates nine new landmarks

Tasked with clearing its 95-item backlog, New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is moving swiftly to shape the future of historic structures in the Big Apple by clearing its docket. On Tuesday, the LPC voted to designate nine items—eight individual structures and one historic district—as New York City Landmarks.
Perhaps the most recognizable item on the list was the Pepsi Cola Sign, which has graced the shores of Long Island City, Queens, since 1936. The sign is not a typical landmark. It's an ad for a beverage conglomerate, albeit a charming, retro ad. A debate arose around the nuances of the designation at a meeting in February to present evidence in favor of preservation. Supporters' eyes ping-ponged anxiously as LPC members brought up possible obstacles objections: Would designation cover the metal scaffolding that the bottle and logo are attached to, or would designation encompass just the signs' iconic appendages, leaving a loophole to alter the sign's arrangement?
The LPC decided to landmark the Pepsi sign, noting in its recommendation that the sign was preserved once before, as the factory it flanked was sold in 1999. The LPC's decision recognizes the city's manufacturing heritage, and preserves the spirit of place that's otherwise the face of bland waterfront luxury condo development. The grassroots Historic Districts Council (HDC) recommends that the LPC "investigate additional preservation protections, such as an easement or some other form of legal contract to help ensure this landmark’s continued presence."
In all, there were ten items recommended for designation, including two whose eclecticism and allure rival the Pepsi sign (the commission delayed a vote on Immaculate Conception Church in the South Bronx.). One residence is a Gravesend landmark: The Lady Moody-Van Sicklen House, a stone, 18th-century Dutch-American-style farmhouse, is a rare survivor from Brooklyn's agrarian past. Local lore holds that the house belonged to Lady Deborah Moody, one of the area's first European women landowners.
New Yorkers thrilled by the Neoclassical flourishes of the Fifth Avenue facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be delighted by the LPC's recognition of the Vanderbilt Mausoleum, a diminutive-by-comparison and little-known work by the same architect. École des Beaux Arts–trained Richard Morris Hunt designed the Romanesque Revival final resting place for the titans of industry, located in Staten Island's Frederick Law Olmsted–designed Moravian Cemetery. The Vanderbilts were so impressed by the meeting of minds that they hired Hunt and Olmstead to collaborate on the clan's low-key country house in North Carolina.
With that memento mori, the LPC voted to designate a few 19th-century structures within Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. Although the entire cemetery, a National Historic Landmark, was up for local designation, even ardent preservationists advocated against the designation, noting that landmark status could place onerous restrictions on the 478-acre cemetery's operations: The plots, headstones, and mausoleums are owned by individuals, with 1,200 new "permanent residents" added annually, potentially complicating the regulation process.
The largest rural cemetery in the U.S., Green-Wood was designed by David Bates Douglass under the guiding landscape principles of Andrew Jackson Downing. The Gothic Revival entrance on Fifth Avenue, designed by Richard Upjohn and home to a vigorous parakeet colony, was declared an Individual Landmark in 1966. A chapel in the same style by Warren & Wetmore (the same firm behind Grand Central Terminal) received designation this time around, as did the Gatehouse and Gatehouse Cottage at the Fort Hamilton Parkway entrance.
For more information and updates on the extension of a Park Slope historic district, St. Augustine’s Church and Rectory, New England on City Island, and other newly-landmarked items, check out the LPC's website.
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A new future for Old City: Vision2026 puts Philadelphians, not tourists, first

At first pass, Philadelphia's Elfreth's Alley looks like any other quaint, well-preserved historic street in a typical northeastern U.S. city. Look closer, though, and it'd apparent that the rowhouses are much older than the 19th-century homes found in New York's West Village or Boston's Beacon Hill. That's because Elfreth's Alley welcomed its first residents in 1702: the block-long lane is the oldest continually occupied residential street in the United States. Although the street is afforded protection by its National Historic Landmark status, escalatingultra-bland development in Philly's historic core means that it, and the surrounding urban fabric, must protect their assets by conceiving of a future that balances site-sensitive private development with public amenities that cater to Philadelphians.
Old City District, a city-sponsored historic preservation group, commissioned planning consultants RBA Group and Philly–based Atkin Olshin Schade Architects to stake out a future for Old City. Vision2026 is intended to complement the City Planning Commission's Philadelphia2035 plan and, in a nod to local heritage, will coincide with the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
To some, Old City is thought to be bound by the Delaware River to the east, 4th Street to the west, Vine Street to the north, and Walnut Street to the south. The Old City District's definition is narrower, encompassing a 22-block area bounded by Front Street to the east, 6th Street to the west, Florist Street to the north, and Walnut and Dock streets to the south. The genesis of Vision2026 was a community discussion on development goals that began in January 2015. Traffic studies and user surveys evinced a desire for standard-issue urban features: Quality public space, public transportation access, better bike infrastructure, stores that serve the community's needs (especially a grocery store), and a development vision that encourages new investment without overriding the neighborhood's charm. The suggestions take a deep dive into specifics. To reduce car traffic, Vision2026 suggests improving bike infrastructure (addressing a lack of bike lanes and inconsistent linkage to the waterfront, for example) concurrently with initiatives to consolidate commercial package delivery, privilege commercial loading access over private parking, and promote the use of car shares. The population of Old City has grown 16 percent since 2000, and the area needs Complete Streets (streets designed for safe use by pedestrians, cars, and bicycles alike) to enhance the neighborhood's vitality. A proposal for a 2nd Street Station plaza (the 200 block of Market Street) envisions 14-foot sidewalks flanked by an allée-meets-bike lane. The proposal suggests eliminating street lights—a counterintuitive but effective traffic-calming measure—on the 10-foot-wide stretch of road set aside for private cars.
Although the vacancy rate hovers at around ten percent, studies show that, if current trends continue, the area could support an additional 122,000 square feet of retail. More than 1,000 new residential buildings in the district are proposed or currently under construction. Vision2026 echoes Robert Venturi's 1976 master plan for Old City, calling for redevelopment of the area's Victorian commercial and industrial buildings erected between 1840 and 1890. Eight parks, including the Venturi–designed Welcome Park, are highlighted as spaces to improve and capitalize upon. Activating underused areas around the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is a priority: Proposals include an under-the-overpass market (like New York's Queensboro Bridge, but hopefully more successful) with restaurants and vendors, as well as wayfinding improvements, especially at night, to enhance connectivity between neighborhoods rent by the interstate. Next steps include beta-testing the ideas via tactical urbanism, temporary bike lanes, and legislative action, through zoning and permitting amendments, to pave the way for concrete improvements.
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University of Washington in legal battle over brutalist building

In Seattle,  the University of Washington (UW) is battling the city and three local nonprofits—Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation—was discussed last Friday at a hearing at the King County Superior Court though a decision is still pending. The issue: whether the city can declare More Hall Annex, the 1961 Brutalist building on UW’s campus, a historic city landmark, and effectively stop future development plans on the site. The building is already on the national and state registers of historic places. Designed by The Architect Artist Group (TAAG) that included Wendell Lovett, Daniel Streissguth, and Gene Zema, the building was once home to a nuclear reactor for training nuclear engineering students. The lawsuit embodies the age old case between developers and preservationists, a “freedom to” vs. “freedom from” debate: the university wants to exercise their control, or freedom to develop, and for the city and three involved non-profits, it’s a case of protection, or freedom from demolition of historically significant buildings. “If the university wins it could set a precedent for exempting the UW and other state universities from local land-use laws,” writes Crosscut, an online nonprofit newspaper based in Seattle. "If the city prevails, Seattle’s landmarks ordinance could apply to buildings on campus, including the historic More Hall Annex, aka the Nuclear Reactor Building, which the UW wants to tear down but preservationists want to save.” UW is arguing this is a constitutional issue, while the city believes the UW Board of Regents must adhere to land-use regulations. The clash between the university and the city over More Hall Annex is not new. In 2008, The Seattle Times wrote a piece on the controversy, "UW building is hot, but is it historic?", that profiled a UW architecture graduate student’s plan to help save the building. After learning UW wanted to demolish More Hall Annex, she nominated it to the National Register of Historic Places. The university did not move forward on demolishing the building because of the recession. The student's application was successful. In 2009, More Hall Annex was added to the National Register of Historic Places, an unusual move as the building was less than 50 years old at the time and architects involved in the project were still alive. Yet the university re-examined its plans. In early 2015, according to GeekWire, UW hired Seattle firm LMN Architects to develop plans for a second computer science building. A draft environmental impact statement featured options exploring the More Hall Annex site. Microsoft pledged $10 million to UW to help fund the project. More Hall Annex has stood empty for more than two decades. The nuclear reactor was decommissioned in 1988 and fully decontaminated just under a decade ago.
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Architects Campaign to Rebuild a Pre-WWII Mies House In Germany

If a group of architects, designers, and planners get their way—and successfully raise $2.25 million—then an early Mies van der Rohe designed house could be rebuilt. The lost structure would be reborn as the first Mies museum in Europe. Built long before his famous American works like the Farnsworth House and IBM Plaza, the Wolf House stood for nearly two decades in Guben, a town in eastern Germany at the border near Poland. The town was divided after World War II between Germany (Guben) and Poland (Gubin) as the Soviet Army pressed in from the east. In 1945, the Wolf family—that commissioned the Mies house and lived in it—left. The house was demolished soon after. Some designers see the Wolf House and its flat roof as a pivotal part of Mies’ oeuvre: when his architecture turned more experimental and broke from the typical residential architectural language of the era (pitched roofs, porches, roaring 1920s opulence). Others worry a plan to reconstruct the Wolf House is unrealistic, that anything built would be an incomplete reconstruction. The New York Times reports that “the debate has particular resonance in Germany, where reconstruction of structures destroyed in World War II has been a contentious issue, with some critics characterizing reconstruction as an attempt to erase memories of Nazism.” This would not be the first plan for rebuilding a Mies project: the Barcelona Pavilion, built for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, was up for less than a year before it was dismantled. A group of Spanish architects rebuilt the pavilion in the mid-1980s.