Posts tagged with "Modernism":

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The Union Carbide building should be torn down

When news broke last week about JP Morgan Chase’s plans to tear down 270 Park Avenue, otherwise known as the Union Carbide Building, by Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), the New York architecture community predictably went up in arms. Critics like New York Magazine’s Justin Davidson lambasted the plans as “obscene,” while Curbed’s Alexandra Lange called the plan “shortsighted.” But after the initial shock at such a huge building being torn down has faded—it would be the tallest building to be voluntarily demolished—there has still been little to no convincing argument offered for JP Morgan Chase to save the building. The Union Carbide building should be torn down. In fact, we should cheer as it falls because it represents the worst of midcentury American corporate architecture, something that at the time was totalizing, banal, repetitive, and dogmatic—when everything began to look similar. The Union Carbide building is derivative of the Seagram Building just down the street, an exemplar of a time when copying Mies had gotten completely out of control. In fact, Stanley Tigerman’s “The Titanic” addressed exactly this phenomenon: Mies was great, but his copiers were not. Buildings like Union Carbide are what inspired Tigerman and his peers to develop architectural postmodernism. By defending this building, critics are creating an echo chamber reinforcing bad corporate architecture that offers very little to architectural culture. By 1961, almost 70 years of seminal modernism had completely altered the way we build and the way we see our cities. Just in the United States alone, there are many important projects of the movement, including Mies’ Farnsworth House (1951), Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Building (1939), and a number of projects in California by Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra that stand as important works that need to be saved to preserve this history. A nondescript corporate box from 1957 that isn’t even one of the most important buildings on its own block—the Seagram Building, the MetLife Building, the Lever House, and the PepsiCo Building are all better—shouldn’t be cried over. The Union Carbide Building is an offender of the high modernist co-optation of the guiding principles of Modernism—a movement originally fueled by a socially progressive agenda (better, cleaner, more egalitarian cities) and made possible by radical innovations in building technology, most notably machine precision and mass production. Davidson rightly notes that “before the 1950s, builders could hide approximations and errors with ornament or tolerant stone.” However, this disregards that fact that buildings like 270 Park paved the way for the co-optation of the original machine aesthetic of mass production in modernism. What started as something beautiful and new became something developers used to cut costs. The result is today's banal stream of terrible, stripped-down glass boxes that litter our skyline today: the late capitalist use of the modernist aesthetic and efficient production process to justify cheaper and cheaper buildings. Davidson claims, "To demolish one of the peaks of modernist architecture in the name of modernity is obscene, a sign that you consider your city disposable.” Unfortunately, this is an odd conflation of the idea of modernity and the contemporary. In architectural terms, modernity and modernism are historical periods, linked by the advent of the industrial revolution and the refinement of the machine aesthetic alongside it. However, Davidson’s linguistic trick falters when we realize that tearing down 270 Park would not be a quest for modernity, as we are now postmodern or something even further removed from modernity. Once we can move beyond an ideological idea that modernism is still important to the contemporary, we can treat it fairly as what it is: a historical style. Furthermore, 270 Park and many other midcentury buildings were built by the most ruthless cabal of capitalists the world has ever seen. They did it with style, but let’s not forget that the Madmen of this era reinforced a power structure that we are still struggling to shake off today. Theirs was a world fueled by misogyny, exploitation, white supremacy, and capitalist imperialism. Union Carbide is or should be notorious as the perpetrator of the worst industrial disaster in the history of the world, the Bhopal disaster, in which almost 4,000 workers and at least 15,000 people total were killed by a toxic gas leak at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Midcentury clients were sometimes bad people with good taste. We shouldn’t tear the building down because of Union Carbide’s transgressions, but we should not assume that JP Morgan is a new evil desecrating some holy landmark. In fact, demolition is the only logical conclusion for a building like Union Carbide. It is a structure built precisely for the logic of the market to consume it: Capital exploits and extracts maximum value from whatever it uses and leaves behind a smoldering husk once it has been deemed worthless. Why not just let 270 Park die a natural death at the hands of the 21st century equivalent of Union Carbide: a multi-national bank? It’s really a beautiful story if you think about it correctly.   It is true that this is a wildly wasteful proposal. But this building can be torn down as an exercise in tearing down such tall structures. The demolition could offer a useful case study to learn from. As skyscrapers age, this will become an important preservation issue. How will we deal with tall buildings in urban settings that can’t be imploded? What are the techniques for taking away glass at 40 stories? How does a curtain wall removal differ from a typical window assembly? This is not always a question of waste, either. How do we take down tall buildings that are severely damaged by fires, earthquakes, or other disasters? If the demolition is done correctly, companies like Rotor Deconstruction could also salvage much of the architectural heritage by saving a good amount of the building material, which could find new life in newer buildings. A strong proof-of-concept would help the entire profession.  The Union Carbide building is the type of building that really isn’t that important, but has somehow become more revered because it is located in New York. However, this building is not any more remarkable than many like it all over the world. This myopic obsession with New York's past holds it back. Even Ada Louise Huxtable—who Lange quotes in her attempt to rationalize saving Union Carbide—once said in 1957, the year 270 Park was completed, “Today the old Park Avenue is being buried with remarkable and ruthless efficiency...For we must no longer just bury the past, we destroy it to make room for the future.” We have to wonder what she would think of the predicament today. However, just because 270 Park is not worth saving does not mean that what replaces it couldn’t be worse. The big question now is: What’s next? Architect Andrew Zago likes to say, “It’s ok to tear anything down, as long as you replace it with something better.” This is likely not JP Morgan Chase’s mantra, but the banking giant certainly has the resources to choose any architect it wants. How do we persuade Chase to hire an architect who will guarantee design excellence? One way is if the Department of City Planning were to hold the firm's feet to the fire. On such a high-profile project at the beginning of a neighborhood-scale transformation that the de Blasio administration seems invested in, DCP should have a say in what goes up. And they should care about design excellence. Let’s redefine what it means to be contemporary, not dwell on what it means to be “modern.”
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A California city will give $50K to the buyer who preserves this midcentury home

A California city is offering $50,000 to buyers willing to restore a stunning midcentury modern home by an eminent local architect. City officials in Palm Desert, California are auctioning off a 1,900-square-foot, city-owned house designed by Walter S. White, an architect who built more than 50 experimental homes in the Coachella Valley area from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. The open floor plan structure is distinguished by a parabolic roof that sails over the concrete block and glass walls and White's trademark cantilevered corner windows. That roof was designed to be in conversation with the backdrop of mountains that rise behind the house, and was a design patented by White. Among many notable features, the home sports a bathroom with a glass shower that opens into a private garden. Despite an impressive pedigree and design, the home, officially known as the Miles C. Bates House, is in profound disrepair, and additions from the 1970s (as seen in the photo at top) compromised the character of the original home. Although the city is obligated to transfer the deed to the highest bidder at auction, preservation-minded officials are hoping the $50,000 grant to restore the home will entice a likeminded buyer. (According to The Mercury News, the 50K offer is a no-go if the buyer substantially alters or demolishes the home.) Unlike other midcentury stunners in Palm Desert and neighboring Palm Springs, this one is relatively affordable. A city appraisal shows the property's market value is between $320,000 to $340,000. The house was completed in 1955 for artist Miles C. Bates. Starting today, the city is offering interested buyers private tours of the home, but during next month's Modernism Week, the annual celebration of modern architecture in and around Palm Springs, the property will be open to all for tours. For those looking to bid on the home, the fateful auction is scheduled for February 24, a day before Modernism Week wraps up.
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Exhibition on modern architecture in British Mandate Palestine opens at Yale

The Yale School of Architecture Gallery will host Social Construction: Modern Architecture in British Mandate Palestine, a traveling exhibition previously displayed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The exhibition, curated by Oren Sagiv, Ada Karmi-Melamede, and Dan Price, examines a period of modern architecture that emerged during the British Mandate period in Palestine (1917-1948). This particular interpretation of the International Style established a cohesive vernacular that not only altered the architectural and urban context but also revealed the social values that helped to adapt modernism to the region. Focused on Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, the exhibition consists primarily of archival photographs and interpretive ink drawings on mylar that were collected by Karmi-Melamede and Price and were originally featured in their book, Architecture in Palestine during the British Mandate, 1917–1948. The focus of the exhibition is on the transformative process of developing of a new state by blending the urban tissue of a foreign style with the particularities of local conditions. The show will be on view today, August 31, through November 18, 2017.
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Modern architecture stars in Kogonada’s Columbus

“Well, that’s Columbus—meth and modernism,” quips 19-year-old protagonist Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), in the new independent film Columbus. Directed by Kogonada, the movie centers on Columbus, Indiana, so much so that the city and its architecture functions as a character equal to the actors (and of course, lending itself to the film’s title). In context, her remark isn’t a flippant dismissal of the town but a reflection of larger issues Kogonado contemplates in his work. “Do forms make a difference? Do buildings make our lives better even when they are bad?” This is a particularly apt question to ask in a city like Columbus, which, although known for its architecture, is not exactly known as a cultural hotspot. It is rare that architecture features so heavily in what is otherwise a clever coming-of-age tale, but even the plot emerged from the city’s buildings. Kogonada was inspired by visiting the southern Indiana city and wrote the script based on his observations. “The City of Columbus had to give us permission to film there, or else we wouldn’t have made the film,” Kogonada said in a discussion following a screening at BAM. Scenes center on, around, and in the soaring modernist works by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, and Deborah Berke, as Casey rapidly gains aesthetic awareness and an appreciation for architecture as she grapples with staying in her hometown and taking care of her mother (a recovering meth addict) while her friends go off to college. She encounters Jin (John Cho), a Korean-American translator who comes to the city to care for his father, a noted architectural historian who falls critically ill while visiting Columbus; the pair form a relationship. The plot itself is charming and smart, but it is the film’s pacing, styling, and setting that elevate it to what the New Yorker has described as “precocious genius.” Kogonada incorporates the architecture both blatantly and subtly. Throughout, Casey names and describes each building to Jin, a newcomer to Columbus—Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church, I.M. Pei's Cleo Rogers Memorial Library, Eero Saarinen’s Miller house, the Irwin Conference Center, and North Christian Church, Deborah Berke’s Irwin Union Bank, and Robert A.M. Stern’s Columbus Regional Hospital, among others. Those structures not explicitly labeled still loom prominently in the setting. Architectural themes also permeate the film, most notably the exploration of absence and presence, void and volume. Kogonada explores this several different ways: Whenever music plays, there is an absence of dialogue; when Jin speaks Korean, there is an absence of subtitles; characters refer to plot moments that never came up; and at times there is silence even though the audience can see that the person is speaking. Other questions are grappled with, as well: “Can architecture heal?” “Do the buildings we grow up around inform our views of the world?” “What makes modernism important?” They are good questions and ones that the architectural, art, and design communities debate often, but in Columbus they are opened up to the layperson and architecture aficionado alike. For screenings and more information, see the film's website.
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Edward Durell Stone gem gets a comprehensive rehab

Grand Island is in the center of Nebraska. Halfway between Chicago and Denver along Interstate 80, it is perhaps best known for being the home to the Nebraska State Fair. It is also home to the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Designed by modernist architect Edward Durell Stone in 1963, the museum documents the lives of European pioneers who first settled Nebraska. Recently, the museum underwent a comprehensive renovation and rehabilitation, led by Lincoln, Nebraska–based BVH Architecture. BVH provided architectural and engineering services for the project. Working with the museum staff, the Stuhr Foundation, and the museum’s board, BVH developed a master plan to look into the 75,000-square-foot museum’s future. While addressing the changing needs of the museum’s collection and exhibition spaces, the master plan called for the careful treatment of the iconic building’s exterior. The facade, interior finishes, structural stability, HVAC system, fire and life safety, and accessibility were all addressed. Each of the improvements was designed not in interfere with the building’s operations or modernist styling. Following the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, the building was also added to the National Register of Historic Places 2015. The project also won a 2017 Docomomo Citation of Merit Award | Civic. All of this comes as the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary.
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2017 Docomomo US Modernism in America Awards winners announced

The 2017 winners have been announced for the Docomomo US Modernism in America Awards, a program that highlights the importance of preserving modernist architecture, landscape, and design across the country. The winners this year feature projects that have faced threats of demolition but have been restored. In one case, a project was demolished but its dispute is headed to the state's Supreme Court in a precedent-setting case on preservation. The awards also celebrate the people and organizations working to preserve, restore, and rehabilitate these buildings and spaces. The 2017 Modernism in America Awards will be formally awarded on October 6, 2017, at the Design Within Reach Third Avenue Studio in New York City. Here is this year’s Design Award of Excellence winners and Citations of Merit winners. You can also find details on see last year's winners here. Design Award of Excellence: Bell Works Location: Holmdel, NJ Original Architect: Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo Restoration Team: Paola Zamudio (Bell Works Creative Director/NPZ Style + Décor), Alexander Gorlin Architects (Lead Architect) Client: Somerset Development The first mirrored glass-enclosed structure designed by modernist architect Eero Saarinen was once home to Bell Laboratories (later owned by AT&T, Lucent, and ultimately Alcatel-Lucent). Once Alcatel-Lucent left the site and murmurs of demolition became known, Somerset Development and Alexander Gorlin Architects transformed the site into a two-million-square-foot mixed-use “metroburb” now known as Bell Works. “This is an ambitious project that has reconfigured what was once the largest vacant commercial building in the country into a dynamic urban center,” said architectural historian Robert Nauman in a press release. It was awarded the Commercial Design Award of Excellence. Yale Center for British Art Location: New Haven, CT Original Architect: Louis I. Kahn Restoration Team: Knight Architecture LLC (Restoration Architect); Yale Center for British Art; Yale University Office of Facilities (Department of Planning and Project Management); Turner Construction Company (General Contractor); Peter Inskip & Peter Jenkins Architects Limited (Conservation Architect); Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (Structural Engineer and Building Conservation Consultant); BVH Integrated Services – Engineer (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection); Philip R. Sherman, P.E. (Code Consultant); Staples & Charles Limited (Furnishings, Fixtures and Equipment Consultant); Michael Morris, Metropolitan Museum of Art (Architectural Conservator); Strong Chen Graphic Designers (Graphic Design); LMB Facilities Solutions, LLC (Logistics Consultant); Stephen Saitas Designs (Exhibition Designer) Client: Yale University Office of Facilities, Yale Center for British Art The Louis Kahn–designed building was awarded the Civic/Institutional Design Award of Excellence for its restoration. The Yale Center for British Art opened in 1977 and, after escalating conservation pressures, its current director Amy Meyers established a conservation plan that set policies for future care of the building. The restoration project was phased over 10 months in 2015. The Bubeshko Apartments Location: Los Angeles, CA Original Architect: Rudolph M. Schindler Restoration Team: Eric Haas, AIA & Chava Danielson, AIA – DSH Architecture (Restoration Architect), Joe DeMarie (General Contractor) Client: Madeleine Brand & Joe DeMarie The restoration project for the Bubeshko Apartments, one of the few intact family dwellings designed by modernist Rudolph Schindler, led to a Residential Design Award of Excellence. Schindler’s vision was that of a “Greek hillside”—a framework for individuated apartments, each with a direct connection to the outdoors, that work collectively. “Instead of transforming the complex into luxury condominium pods, the owners and restoration team gave careful consideration to both the original intent of the architect and original owners, thus ensuring this unique addition to the cultural life of Los Angeles will be admired and enjoyed for years to come,” according to the jury. Heroic Project & Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston Location: Boston, MA Heroic Project: Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo, Mark Pasnik Publication Team: Alan Rapp, Madeleine Compagnon, Michael Vagnetti and Gianfranco Monacelli, Monacelli Press, Reem Kanoo, assistant editor James Jarzyniecki, axonometric drawings Ann Lui and Josh Niemiec, researchers Contributors: Joan Ockman, Elizabeth Cohen, Keith N. Morgan, Douglass Shand-Tucci (essays); Peter Chermayeff, Henry N. Cobb, Araldo Cossutta, N. Michael McKinnell, Tician Papachristou, Frederick A. “Tad” Stahl, Mary Otis Stevens (interviews) Additional support: Graham Foundation; Zan Foundation; over,under; pinkcomma gallery; Bruner/Cott Architects and Planners; Simpson Gumpertz & Heger; Esto Calhess; Students of Wentworth Institute of Technology; Dozens of photographers and archivists who provided access to resources; More than 200 contributors to the Heroic funding campaign Awarded the Advocacy Award of Excellence, the Heroic Project and its book is an eight-year research initiative into Boston’s concrete architecture from 1960 to 1976. It led to an advocacy effort to preserve the city’s Brutalist architecture, including exhibitions, design studios, research seminars, lectures, interviews, tours, and landmark preservation campaigns. “By celebrating the artistry and design of concrete architecture in Boston and beyond, the Heroic Project redefines Brutalist architecture locally, nationally and internationally,” according to the Docomomo US Board of Directors. Save the Reactor Campaign Location: Seattle, WA Organization: Historic Seattle; Washington Trust for Historic Preservation; Docomomo US/WEWA The campaign aims to honor the role and impact of nuclear science during the Cold War, and its efforts have been awarded the Advocacy Award of Excellence. While the brutalist Nuclear Reactor building on the University of Washington’s campus was demolished, the Washington State Supreme Court is expected to rule on the bearing of local preservation ordinances over state institutions of higher learning who claim an exemption. Citations of Merit winners: The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (Grand Island, NE), American Enterprise Group (Des Moines, IA), Boston University School of Law (Boston, MA), Vincent G. Kling Mid-Century House (Gladwyne, PA). For more on the Design Award of Excellence winner and Citations of Merit winners, visit Docomomo US's website here.
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From futuristic mall to hellish jail: New AIANY exhibit delves into the history of Venezuela’s “El Helicoide”

AIA New York’s Center for Architecture opens its newest exhibit, El Helicoide: From Mall to Prison, on May 9. The exhibit, curated by Celeste Olalquiaga of PROYECTO HELICOIDE, examines the development and subsequent collapse of the El Heliocoide drive-in mall in Caracas, Venezuela. The building was designed in the late 1950s by architect Romero Gutierrez as a representation of the utopian hopes of a booming Venezuela and quickly became an icon of modern architecture. The spiraling mall caps La Roca Tarpeya hill, which overlooks Caracas, and is topped with a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. The project went from being the star of MoMA’s 1961 show Roads to an abandoned home of more than 10,000 squatters after facing several financial roadblocks and a series of political upheavals. In 1985 the abandoned building was adopted by the Venezuelan intelligence services and has since been a place of imprisonment and surveillance. “El Helicoide’s failure and turbulent history are symptomatic of what went wrong with modern Venezuela,” said Olalquiaga in a press release. “By showing the building’s patrimonial and cultural value, PROYECTO HELICOIDE seeks to highlight the country’s outstanding modern heritage in all its contradictory complexity.” A book about the project’s history, From Mall to Prison: El Helicoide’s Downward Spiral, will be released in conjunction with the exhibit. An opening reception with the curator will be held on May 9 and the exhibition will be open through July 13. For more information, you can visit the AIA New York’s Center for Architecture event page here.
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As Cuba’s economy embraces global tourism, modernist works fall under threat

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Preservation efforts aimed at recognizing and restoring Cuba’s storied architectural relics—long a pet project within professional and academic circles—might finally become mainstream as the country adopts market-based policies.

The implications of these economic and political changes for Cuba’s cultural heritage—much of which suffers from decades of deferred maintenance—are potentially vast and unknown. Architect Belmont Freeman, who has led many tours to Cuba on behalf of Docomomo and the Society of Architectural Historians, said, “There are a lot of cranes in Havana right now, every one of them related to a hotel project.”

Recent years have seen a ballooning interest in Cuba by international hoteliers. European luxury-hotel group Kempinski is set open its first hotel in Cuba this summer. The hotel will feature 246 rooms in the renovated Manzana de Gómez building, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was designed as Cuba’s first shopping mall in 1910. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is also entering Cuba by taking over operations of Havana’s neoclassical Hotel Inglaterra, the Hotel Quinta Avenida, and the colonial-era Hotel Santa Isabel. The move makes Starwood the first United States hotelier to enter the Cuban market since 1959. Hotel Quinta Avenida was renovated in 2016 and opened last summer. The Hotel Inglaterra, originally built in 1844, is expected to open in late 2017 after its renovation.

Real questions exist, however, not only in terms of the quality of these renovations, but also with regard to the status of other cultural, archeological, and architectural artifacts in the country. Cuba is home to a vast array of architectural history, including relics and sites important to the indigenous cultures that originally inhabited the island. However, colonial-era fortifications and more recent building stock, including successive waves of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century development, make up the vast majority of structures across the country. What will happen to those less prominent and more sensitive relics? Many of the city’s inner neighborhoods are filled with eclectic Beaux Arts–style structures, while the outer city and its environs are a hotbed of proto- and early-modernism, with works like the Hotel Nacional by McKim, Mead & White from 1930 and the Habana Libre Hotel by Welton Becket with Lin Arroyo and Gabriela Menendez from 1958 standing out both in terms of architectural style and for their respective roles in local and international history.

Furthermore, the Revolution’s communist utopianism was codified through the prodigious production of radically progressive works of architecture by Cuban modernist architects. Those works include the expressionist National Schools of Art by Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti, and Roberto Gottardi from 1961; the Brutalist Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio Echeverria (CUJAE) building by Humberto Alonso from 1961; and the vast neighborhoods of Habana del Este that are made up of locally derived designs modeled after Soviet modular apartments.

It is unclear if and when future building improvements are undertaken across the city, whether more recent works of architecture will be prized to the same degree as colonial-era works. Freeman painted a grim picture, saying, “There has been a steady pace of cosmetic refurbishment of old buildings in the colonial core of Old Havana, but (generally speaking) historic preservation efforts have not picked up in any significant way except for those related to tourism infrastructure.”

The effects of the recent formal economic and political changes in official policy are not necessarily new phenomena, however: Havana has strong track record of using historic preservation as an economic driver. The office of the City Historian, led by Eusebio Leal Spengler, has pioneered local attempts to embed the preservation and restoration of Old Havana’s neighborhoods into economic development plans. Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, and while many projects in the colonial core have benefitted from Leal Spengler’s efforts—namely the restoration of Plaza Vieja and a slew of other properties the office has converted for hotel and tourismuses—many of the city’s early modernist and post-revolutionary architectural marvels sit in various states of decay and disrepair. The restoration of the National Art Schools was, until recently, slated for completion and renovation. Those efforts have petered out, subsumed by a new economic downturn following geopolitical turmoil in Venezuela, one of Cuba’s chief oil providers.

Cuban architect Universo Garcia Lorenzo, who was coordinating the renovations for the National Art Schools until the funding dried up, explained that with the Cuban government strapped for cash, major restoration projects in the country will have to rely on international funding. Some help is coming: The Italian government is funding the continuation of work on Gottardi’s School of Dramatic Arts and also, England’s Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation was working to finance the rehabilitation of the ruined, Garatti-designed School of Ballet. But, Garcia Lorenzo said, “I can’t speculate now on when the restoration will be completed,” adding that despite the fact that Porro’s School of Plastic Arts and School of Modern Dance had been completely renovated in 2008, the current funding lapses meant there would be a shortage of funds “dedicated to maintaining those structures into the future.”

International funding cannot come soon enough, as the partially completed and dilapidated structures are exposed to the tropical elements. Garcia Lorenzo said, “Essentially, the three unfinished buildings are frozen in time, slowly decaying and waiting to be restored.”

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Gordon Bunshaft’s modernist tower is newest Dallas landmark

This week Dallas is celebrating its newest landmark, a goodie but not an oldie.

The Landmark Commission voted on Monday to designate One Main Place, designed by SOM's Gordon Bunshaft, as the city's newest landmark. Beyond its waffled exterior, the 48-year-old International Style tower houses 19 floors of offices and a Westin Hotel spread out over its 33 stories.

Usually, buildings have to be at least 50 years old to be considered for landmarking, but officials made an exception for its high quality design and its singular place in Dallas's history. The New Orleans–based owners sought the designation for one particular reason: historic preservation tax credits.

The gridded concrete and granite building, though, is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to its designation report, One Main Place was supposed to be part of a three-phase redevelopment of downtown Dallas that was proposed in the 1960s. That superblock scheme, which would have replaced downtown with Corbusian Cities of Tomorrow, was never realized in full.

According to the Dallas Morning News, one preservation expert told the Landmark Commission that Bunshaft's building, like Dallas' pedestrian tunnels, merited protection because it reflects a specific approach to planning that prevailed in the city through the 1980s.

One Main Place is "the center and genesis of the tunnel system," said Jay Firsching, a senior historic preservation specialist at Architexas. That system was proposed by Vincent Ponte, the Montreal urban planner behind his city's famous tunnels that keep pedestrians out of the cold during long Quebec winters.

To become official, though, the landmark still needs the Plan Commission and City Council's approvals.

Back east, Bunshaft's SOM designs are getting recognition by another landmarks commission: In 2015, New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission added 28 Liberty, an office tower and plaza in Manhattan's Financial District, to its roster of protected modernist buildings.

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AIA Gold Medal–winner Paul Revere Williams: An African American architect who transformed L.A.’s modernist architecture

The Architect's Newspaper is partnering with USModernist to showcase its comprehensive archive of American modernist designers. This is the first post in a series that will highlight individual entries. Paul Revere Williams was a Los Angeles–born, African-American architect who had an outsize impact on the region’s architectural legacy. Williams graduated from the University of Southern California in 1914 and eventually went on to design over 3,000 buildings over his five-decade-long career. Los Angeles residents and visitors alike are likely familiar with the designer’s work, if not his name—a lasting legacy that only recently came into the spotlight. Williams was posthumously awarded the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) 2017 Gold Medal—the organization’s highest honor, “recognizing individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture”—this year. For some, the recognition was thought to have come too late, especially in a field continually struggling with a lack of diversity. Lack of recognition does not detract from greatness, however, and Williams was a titan of American design through and through. As a young practitioner, he worked for architects Reginald Johnson and later John Austin, great architects in their own right. Williams became licensed in 1921, opening his own practice just a year later. He became the first African-American member of the AIA in 1923 and the first African-American AIA Fellow in 1957. Throughout his career, Williams worked across styles and locales, but it was his Modernist-style works that have persevered across time and still inspire us to this day. Williams is perhaps best known, inaccurately, for his collaboration with William Pereira, Charles Luckman, and Welton Becket on the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport from 1961. The Googie-style building is considered to be among the most important midcentury modernist works in Los Angeles, though Williams did not help design it. The structure consists of a flat, disk-shaped observation and restaurant area suspended off the ground by a pair of intersecting, parabolic arches. Some of Williams’s work is located outside Los Angeles, as well, including his collaboration with architect Quincy A. Jones on the Palm Springs Tennis Club and the La Concha Motel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Williams was a virtuoso of architectural style, as best exemplified by the architect’s many residential projects. Williams’s efforts, attuned to Southern California’s finicky penchant for pastiche and historical revivalism, range in style from the Hollywood Regency to the Spanish Revival, and, of course, modernist treatments. Williams was responsible for extensive interior and exterior renovations to the famed Ambassador Hotel in 1949. The architect worked on several renovations and additions to the Beverly Hills Hotel during the 1940s, including the iconic facade showcasing the hotel’s name in fanciful script. Williams dabbled in socially-responsible work, too, and—along with Richard Neutra—was responsible for designing the garden city-inspired Pueblo del Rio public housing projects in 1941. In a testament to Williams's lasting legacy, eight of his works are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and many more are still standing across Southern California. To read more about Williams, see his USModernist entry.
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John Harkness, co-founder of The Architects’ Collaborative, passes away

The last founding member of The Architects' Collaborative (TAC), John Harkness, died yesterday at the age of 100. A 1941 graduate of Harvard, Harkness co-founded TAC with his wife Sarah Harkness, five other architects, and Walter Gropius, in 1945. They submitted entries for a competition to design dormitories for Smith College which they did not win but they became famous for designing scores of post-war modern buildings all over New England. These buildings were important in creating an American modernism and furthering the idea of the architect's social responsibility. In 2002 Harkness told The Boston Globe: “We were on a mission to make a better world after the war… We all believed deeply in modern architecture. We used clean, simple lines and modern materials. There is no reference to traditional styles, just a desire to create what is appropriate for the purpose at hand.”
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This artist sets the stage for nature vs. modernism (and nature is winning)

British artist Alex Hartley reflects on the power of nature in his latest work, A Gentle Collapsing II, as part of his After You Left exhibition at Victoria Miro in London. The work—set in the gallery's garden—features an abandoned modernist dwelling that has been engulfed by a jungle landscape, provoking thoughts on decay, the built environment, and nature itself. The aesthetically appealing juxtaposition of wild and the artificial goes hand-in-hand with Hartley's take on modernism: The International Style house embodies the architectural movement's ideals of form and structural purity, but all sense of order has been lost. The forest is the victor. With A Gentle Collapsing II, Hartley references Plato's notion of artifacts being in a "state of becoming." In this instance, by making the audience explicitly aware of the building's natural demise, viewers become all the more appreciative of its presence and its obviously finite existence. This too is a nod to another philosopher—Martin Heidegger—who said “mortals nurse and nurture things that grow and specifically construct things that do not grow.” Subsequently, audiences are afforded lines of thought relating to entropy: What happened before the dwelling entered this state of dereliction? What were the possible paths of destruction that lead to this? What will/can happen next? The unpredictability of nature versus the rigid lineage of the building plays out for the viewer. After You Left and A Gentle Collapsing II are available to see through December 16 this year.