Posts tagged with "Historic Preservation":

A River of Light Flows Through Detroit’s Renovated First National Building

Curbed Detroit drew our attention to that city’s Fist National Building and its year-long renovation. The Albert Kahn-designed building opened in 1930. Its interiors have fallen into disrepair, including the original plaster ceiling. In preparation for Papa Joe’s Gourmet Kitchen, which will occupy 15,000 square feet of the building’s Cadillac Square frontage, the building’s ground floor underwent a massive renovation. The work uncovered the old plasterwork, raising the ceiling height in the process. A flowing white element was added to accent the historic ceiling. Photos courtesy Chris and Michelle Gerard.

Affordable Artists’ Housing Transforming a Former School in East Harlem

After a thorough search to identify a live/work project site in New York City, Artspace selected the former Public School 109 in East Harlem, a distinctive five-story building with copper-clad cupolas and decorative terrace cotta designed by Charles B.J. Snyder in 1898. The newly renovated building will include 90 units of affordable housing for artists and their families and 10,000 square feet of non-residential space for non-profits and community organizations. The Gothic Revival-style building is listed on both the National and State Register of Historic Places, and as part of the $52 million live/work project Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects and Victor Morales Architects plan to restore much of the terra cotta and reinstall original gargoyles and a large spire. Apartments range from 480 to 980 square feet with 100 to 150 extra square feet for artists to use as studio spaces, and feature large windows, high ceilings, and wide doorways. The project consists of common spaces such as galleries, meeting rooms and green space that promote community involvement. Applications will be available in Spring 2014. To assist the area in preserving its traditional Latino culture, at least half of the units will be reserved for current East Harlem residents.

After 200 Years, London’s Old Vic Theatre Considers a Facelift With Help From Kevin Spacey

Venerable old institutions in England are looking for a fresh look these days. The nearly 200-year-old Old Vic Theatre in London is the latest to make plans for a much-needed facelift. The institutions artistic director, actor Kevin Spacey, is committed to bringing the structure into the 21st century through refurbishment of the current building and expansion into a newly acquired adjacent space. The Guradian reported that the theater is working with architecture firm Bennetts Associates Architects to develop plans for the restoration, which will be submitted in an application to the local government this November. The new Old Vic will include an increase in front-of-house services, improved accessibility for disabled persons, and urgent repairs to the leaking roof. Spacey has often acknowledged the crumbling state of the theater, one of the oldest in London, especially the severe damage of its dribbling roofs and Victorian plumbing. The restoration plans to update the theater’s facilities and increase the amount available, create a public café and bar, an outdoor terrace, and a community event space. The improved theater will also provide step-free access and wheelchair spaces to allow for universal mobility within the building. Backstage, rehearsal rooms and green rooms will be improved. And the creation of an entirely new studio dedicated to the theater’s education and emerging talent program, Old Vic New Voices, will eliminate current reliance on rented space. Spacey has vowed to raise $33 million (£20M) for the project by the end of 2015, the year he plans to retire from his position. Although no timeline has been set, theater officials hope to begin construction in the next five years, but that date depends on fundraising.

Archaeological Survey in Angkor Reveals Intricacies of Pre-Industrial Urbanism

The US National Academy of Sciences has published the results of a survey performed in April 2012 of the forests of Cambodia, which uncovered a monumental, intricate landscape of low-density urban sprawl connected to ancient ruins of Angkor Wat that dates back to more than 700 years, invalidating archaeologists’ current understandings of pre-industrial urbanism. Until now, scholars have based their thoughts of medieval cities around the world on European cities. This study has revealed a colossal low-density urban system with working citadels and vast infrastructures in Cambodia. Lara Dunston of The Guardian wrote that the “high-tech survey of Khmer Empire sites has rocked the archaeological world and captured travelers’ imaginations.” The densely populated, sophisticated landscape system consists of and links Angkor cities such as Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Bayon, along with seldom visited medieval city ruins of Phnom Kulen, Beng Mealea and Koh Ker, over 62 miles away. Koh Ker, 75 miles from Siem Reap, and Beng Mealea, 32 miles away, were thought of as isolated structures, but the study has revealed that they were actually large outlying service centers for Angkor.

Road Builders in Belize Bulldoze 2,300 Year Old Mayan Pyramid for Gravel

The small tourist hotspot of Belize, with its pristine Caribbean coastlines, lush rainforest, and ancient Mayan ruins, suffered a dramatic loss recently when one 2,300-year-old ruin was razed. The 100-foot-tall Nohmul Mayan Pyramid was bulldozed to create gravel fill for a road-building project, its hand-cut limestone construction visible as excavators tore into the structure. According to CNN, authorities in Belize will be conducting an investigation and, even though the ruin was on a privately owned sugar-cane field, criminal charges are likely. The Nohmul pyramid, lying at the northern tip of Belize, was once home to a settlement of 40,000 people in 250 B.C. It was not open for tourists but had been excavated many times throughout the past century. Under Belizean law, all Mayan ruins, even those on privately owned land, are protected from destruction, but being on privately owned land does make if more difficult to detect destruction. Thus, smaller Mayan ruins are destroyed continually across Belize and neighboring countries, though not usually at this scale.

Four Firms Shortlisted To Rehab Gropius-Designed Embassy in Athens

The Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) announced yesterday its shortlist of design firms to rehabilitate the Walter Gropius-designed US Embassy building in Greece, known as the Athens Chancery. The four firms were selected out of an applicant pool of 56 submissions, and include: Ann Beha Architects, DesignLab Architects, Machado Silvetti / Baker, and Mark Cavagnero Associates. “The shortlisted submissions presented projects that were well-conceived and well-executed, displaying a sophisticated understanding of the issues involved in renovating historically significant buildings and experience with rehabilitations of complex modern structures,” the OBO said in a statement. While in keeping with a modernist aesthetic, the building, completed in 1961, is also a nod to the Parthenon with its white columns and marble facade. Following the selection, the four firms will be expected to establish their technical teams and provide more detailed information on their work and experience for the next phase of consideration.

Glimpse Miami’s Abandoned Marine Stadium and the New Perez Art Museum Miami

Last month AN compiled a list of the most high profile projects taking place in Miami, and on a recent trip to the Magic City, we had the opportunity to visit two of these sites: the shuttered Marine Stadium and Herzog and de Meuron's new building for the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). While new developments flood Miami, preservationists are fighting to save and revive the abandoned Marine Stadium on Virginia Key by Cuban-born architect Hilario Candela. In 2009, the graffiti-covered venue that once held powerboat racing events and large-scale concerts, was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of “11 Most Endangered Historic Places.” Now that the advocacy group, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, has won the approval from Miami City Commission for its Virginia Key Master Plan, including the restoration of the 6,566-seat stadium, the next step is winning the approval for the site plan and raising $20 million. When the Miami Art Museum started to outgrow its cramped quarters in Philip Johnson's Miami-Dade Cultural Center, museum officials and board members selected Herzog and de Meuron to design a new building (now dubbed the Perez Art Museum Miami) right on Museum Park overlooking Biscayne Bay, what Jorge Perez, real estate developer and the benefactor of the museum, has said is the "last big piece of public land downtown." "The board wanted a building that was first functional, and not just a piece of sculpture," said Thom Collins, Director of PAMM. The concrete and glass structure is a nod to Stiltsville, a vernacular form of architecture originally built on the bay in the 1930s, and will house a variety of exhibition spaces to accommodate works of different scale. "Our project was principally driven by the recognition of the fact that Miami is becoming a home for contemporary art," said Collins. "Our building now has no room for storage or conservation, or education."

Another Chicago Hospital On Life Support: Cuneo Hospital Threatened

The slow and tortured demise of Chicago's Prentice Women's Hospital now has an official stamp: according to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern University was issued a demolition permit for the Bertrand Goldberg cloverleaf last Friday. Wrecking crews will be on site in a few weeks after asbestos abatement wraps up, and there are sure to be protesters around the construction fence. Of course, as seems all too common, the city is also busy readying soldiers for the next preservation battle. The 1957 Edo Belli-designed Cuneo Memorial Hospital is targeted for demolition, but Uptown residents have reached out to Preservation Chicago for support seeking landmark status. The group listed the building on its 2012 list of seven most-threatened structures in the city. Add this to what happened to Prentice and it isn’t a good year to be a midcentury modernist hospital in Chicago.

An Afterlife for DeKalb’s Egyptian Theatre

Northern Illinois may not have pyramids (you’ll have to go to elsewhere in the Midwest for that) but the Egyptian Theatre continues Pharaoh Ramses II’s reign over downtown DeKalb, IL. As this post in PreservationNation describes, the movie house has undergone a series of restoration efforts since it landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Designed by architect Elmer F. Behrns in 1929, the theater’s pharaoh sculptures, scarab stained glass, and winged orb marquee fell into disrepair by the late seventies, when the theater closed. It reopened in 1983, but renovations continued until recently. In the last six years building rehabilitation and maintenance exceeded $1.5 million, but creative fundraising—the owners, Preservation of the Egyptian Theatre, Inc., sold the theater’s original seats when they were replaced in 2011 and even started running popular haunted tours—have helped fill the financial gap. The building owners hope to continue renovations, including replacing the carpeting and installing air conditioning.

Bertrand Goldberg’s Chicago Prentice Hospital Denied Landmark Status, Again

Amid the latest in a series of temporary reprieves, Bertrand Goldberg’s former Prentice Women’s Hospital was again denied landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Despite once again turning out a crowd of supporters who contributed hours of impassioned testimony, many preservationists were unsurprised by an outcome that they chalked up to political determinism. “I have this suspicion that [owner] Northwestern [University] has put before us a false choice,” said Commissioner James Houlihan, who nonetheless voted along with all of his fellow commissioners to deny the 1975 building landmark status. The commission Thursday reprised, in a way, a vote taken in November, in which they recognized the litany of evidence qualifying Prentice as an architectural landmark, voted to grant the building landmark status, and subsequently revoked their own decision in a second, almost unanimous vote. (The sole holdout during that vote, Christopher Reed, resigned at the end of 2012.) Their reason for doing so, said commission Chairman Rafael Leon, was a provision in municipal code that called on them to allow testimony from the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development. The jobs and tax dollars promised by new construction, they concluded, outweighed the building’s architectural significance—logic that preservationists took issue with on several levels. In December the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council claimed in court that the commission “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority,” when it denied the building landmark status by considering economic matters so prominently. Judge Neil Cohen dismissed that suit in January, but not without raising concerns over the commission’s transparency. “The commission maintains that it did not violate the landmarks ordinance or any other law,” Leon said when it came time to discuss Prentice. To show their methods were “beyond reproach,” he said, they would again hear public testimony. Jeff Case, a principal at Holabird & Root, was among the design professionals who opposed preservation, saying Prentice had “outlived its useful life.” “The building has moved on, and so should we,” he said. “333 East Superior will not be missed.” Carol Post of Thornton & Tomasetti concurred, citing structural problems in the building’s clover-shaped concrete shell. Still many more echoed the sentiments of an open letter signed in July by more than 65 architects, calling on the commission to reject the recommendation of the Department of Housing and Economic Development that previously swayed them to withhold landmark protection. “A Walmart will always generate more revenue than a water tower,” said Preservation Chicago’s Jonathan Fine. Christina Morris, a senior field officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Chicago office, similarly rebuked the commissioners for appearing to sidestep their civic duty. “You have an obligation,” she said, “to protect Chicago’s cultural heritage.” Since the commission’s November decision, preservationists have also attempted to meet Northwestern’s arguments on their own terms. Architects submitted four proposals for reuse that also included new buildings to satisfy Northwestern’s stated development needs. They claimed saving the Goldberg structure would result in an additional $103 million in one-time expenditures, $155 million annually in operating costs, $1.1 million in yearly tax revenue, and create 980 new jobs. Northwestern dismissed those proposals Thursday in a statement that called their economic assumptions “deeply flawed.” The four alternatives were “not viable,” said Northwestern’s Eugene Sunshine, because of structural challenges presented by Prentice and because some of them relied on developing nearby vacant land not owned by Northwestern University, but by Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. Commissioner Houlihan asked Sunshine if it was disingenuous to suggest the sister organizations could not get together and work out a solution to that problem. Sunshine said it was not. Dean Harrison, president of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, later testified that NMH had "long-standing plans" to build something else on the site, but did not provide a timeline for that development. Though Thursday’s decision could mark the end for preservationists in a long and heated fight, another court hearing is set for February 15.

Abandoned Power Plant on the Hudson River to Become Hotel, Convention Center

It has been nearly five decades since the Glenwood Power Plant in Yonkers, New York closed its doors, but developer Ron Shemesh has plans to transform this four-building complex on the Hudson into a hotel and convention center. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Shemesh, a plastics manufacturer from the area, bought the property from investor Ken Capolino for $3 million. The project will be costly, however. Mr. Shemesh will need to raise around $155 million to redevelop the plant. In December, the Mid-Hudson Economic Development Council gave Mr. Shemesh a small economic boost with a $1 million grant to preserve the sprawling complex.

John Johansen’s Mummers Theater May Not Be Doomed After All

There is some good news coming out of Oklahoma City where the effort to save the late John Johansen's iconic 1970 Mummers Theater has taken a positive—if tentative step—towards preservation. AN last wrote about the theater on May, 11, 2012 when a recent flood in the building seemed to doom an effort by a local group to purchase the facility and turn it into a downtown children's museum. We've kept up with the preservation effort periodically over the past year and always heard that its was a hopeless cause and would soon be destroyed and replaced by a new building. But the building which Johansen himself said "might be taken visually as utter chaos" has a compelling joy in its elevation and plan that makes it unique and certainly the most important structure in Oklahama City. Though it seems to be unloved by many in the local community who would rather see it demolished, Mummers Theater fortunately also has its supporters who want to see it saved and they are taking steps to free it from the wreckers ball. Just this week the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office voted unanimously to forward the building to the National Park Service (NPS) for designation as a national monument. Though the owner of the propert,y The Oklahoma Community Foundation, has objected to the listing, its still a positive step for this important building. A designation by the NPS would not in itself offer protection for the building but would be a sign that it has value and merit. So the fate of the building which Johansen said "gives the impression of something in-process" appears to be still that in process. Stay tuned.