In what has become a recurring irony, the poor taste of 20th century corporations has been saving the day for historic buildings across the country. Now as companies like Walgreens and CVS rehabilitate dilapidated banks into drugstores, St. Louis might be getting its first look in decades at a historic Isamu Noguchi designed ceiling hidden above a drop ceiling in what's now a U-Haul truck rental warehouse. Unbeknownst to many, what currently appears to be a clumsy brick and metal paneled warehouse at 1641 South Kingshighway Boulevard in St. Louis, is actually a gem of mid-century Modernism. The building that now holds the U-Haul storage and rental center was originally designed by St. Louis architect Harris Armstrong in 1947 as the headquarters for the Magic Chef American Stove Company. The structure was hailed as a masterpiece of International Style design, which included an ornate curvilinear lobby ceiling designed by none other than the famed Isamu Noguchi. It was not long before Magic Chef would move away and the building would become a clinic established by the Teamsters Union. Eventually left empty in the late 1960s, U-Haul, the current owners, would come to acquire the building in the late '70s. U-Haul would subsequently attempt to repair the now-decaying building and bring the space up to code, though with little-to-no mind towards preserving the aesthetics or architectural features of the building. It would be these very same inexpensive, and sometimes incomplete, fixes that would eventually be the saving grace of the building. Now, at least 20 years since a drop ceiling was added—covering the Noguchi designed ceiling—and metal paneling was added to the exterior of the building—covering its glass facade—it seems that at least some of the building will be returned to its former glory. As reported by local public radio station 90.7 KWMU, U-Haul is planning to uncover the figural ceiling in the spring of 2016. This news comes as a relief to many that remember the original space, believing the ceiling had been destroyed. And though U-Haul has made no indication that they would be restoring the entire building, this move makes it clear that the building could someday be restored. According to circuit court documents from the early '90s, it is very likely that the original windows are still under the metal paneling that now covers the building. In the 1980s, U-Haul was attempting to stop leaking windows with caulk to no avail. As an affordable solution, metal paneling was installed as a rain screen and a visual barrier into the building which holds customers’ stored items. This solution was not immediately accepted by the city’s Building Commission and Heritage Commission, and a series of hearings and appeals were held before the company was allowed to proceed with installation. The Heritage Commission called the plan no less than grotesque in their recommendation to stop the panels from being installed. "The proposed siding will create a design which is not compatible with the style and design of surrounding improvements and which is not conducive to the proper architectural development of the community. The proposed siding would also constitute an unsightly, grotesque or unsuitable structure in appearance, detrimental to the welfare of the surrounding property and residents." Though St. Louisans won’t be getting back their Modernist oven store just yet, it is encouraging that U-Haul is recognizing the worth of a designed space. With every uncovered ceiling or facade, the city gets one step closer to having a piece of its once lost architectural history back.
Posts tagged with "Modernism":
Donald Olsen, one of Northern California's purest modern architects, has died. Known for open, light-filled residences with glass and concrete walls, white cladding, and a few quirky details, Olsen—a student of Walter Gropius—brought drama to an area whose architecture often lacked it. Olsen didn't build many structures, but most of his simple, International Style forms were captured in black and white by photographer Rondal Partridge, and are held at the Environmental Design Archives at the University of California. AN will have a longer obituary about Olsen and his outsized impact soon.
The style of architecture known as "mid-century modern" is a cousin to the "International style." A popular combination of European stylistic tendencies and domestic American influences, including furniture design, it has become an influential catch all term for distinguished post-World War II structures and commercial tract homes (like the Eichler Homes). While the style has become widely popular in lifestyle magazines like Dwell and even replicated in new suburban developments, the original homes are being regularly torn down and being replaced with bloated McMansions that have shoe closets the size of the former mid-century living rooms. But the style has a huge following and a number of organizations to highlight and preserve is monuments. Docomomo has been in the lead highlighting these structures and Palm Springs was one of the first city to host a "modernism week." The latest city to create a week of activities devoted to the style is Sarasota, Florida, which along with Palm Springs and New Canaan, Connecticut, were experimental centers of the style. The Florida city also had a gifted number of architects working in the style: Paul Rudolph and his early mentor Ralph Twitchell, Gene Leedy, Victor Lundy, Tim Seibert, and Carl Abbott. The four day event of lectures, city and house tours that took place this fall was a model of how a community can highlight its unique but disappearing history. The week was created the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (founded by Martie Lieberman, a realtor who specializes in the style of homes) which is trying to promote the city's modern architecture. It hopes to raise awareness of the style so its buildings can be preserved, updated, and even become a model of a future architecture that is more responsive to needs and demands than the typical McMansion. Sarasota prides itself on its modern history and was a unique crossroads of culture, commerce, and environment after World War II that helped birth this style. The week also highlighted the fascinating figure of Philip Hiss III who moved to the beach community in 1948 and became a major figure in the community. He was chair of its education department (which commissioned Paul Rudolph to design two high schools) and a developer of the modernist community Lido Shores. The Foundation is hoping to make their week an annual affair and the area has the modern assets to make it work.
Deborah Berke, SHoP, Tod Williams Billie Tsien to compete for new Cummins' Indianapolis headquarters
Engine manufacturer Cummins Corporation announced plans for a new regional headquarters in Indianapolis Monday, but the Columbus, Indiana–based Fortune 500 company won’t look to local design talent to lead the project. Instead, three of the country's leading names—all based in New York City—will compete for the project. Three New York–based design firms will compete to build the new headquarters, which will be on the site of the former Market Square Arena in downtown Indianapolis: Deborah Berke Partners, SHoP Architects, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. Cummins hasn’t released any design specifications for the $30 million building, but the company has a history of pursuing striking architecture. Its foundation arm has contributed to the creation and preservation of iconic modernist structures in Columbus, Indiana, including the Miller House, which was designed collaboratively by Eero Saarinen, Dan Kiley, and Alexander Girard. Market Square Arena was demolished in 2001, but only recently have developers begun to fill in the vacant land. Cummins is expected to select a winning design this September.
A big “Happy 40th Birthday” goes out to the Sydney Opera House this year, which is still looking good in its middle age. Completed by Danish architect and Pritzker Prize–winner, Jørn Utzon, in 1973, the iconic performing arts center is now an internationally renowned late modernist architectural marvel. Originally, when Utzon entered the 1956 New South Wales Government sponsored competition to envision two performance halls on the Sydney Harbor, his design was discarded. However, his “entry created great community interest” and the jury was persuaded to choose him as the sole architect in the ambitious project. Utzon received the Pritzker Prize in 2003 and the building made the World Heritage List in 2007. The architect died one year later in Copenhagen but his vision lives on. Against a Sydney Harbor backdrop, the Sydney Opera House has become a graceful, yet dynamic symbol of Australia.
The landmark Aluminaire House is homeless yet again. The situation is not so out of the ordinary, however, as preservationists and communities have recently been confronted with the futures of these pioneering modernist structures. In this particular battle, a team of architects is hoping to relocate the historic house, which has already been disassembled and rebuilt three times, to a vacant lot in Sunnyside Gardens, a landmarked district in Queens. The proposal to reassemble the house as part of a low-rise residential development at 39th Avenue and 50th Street is facing uncertainty from residents who would prefer the site be turned into a community park. Architects A. Lawrence Kocher and Albert Frey designed Aluminaire as a case study in 1931. Constructed of donated materials and built in ten days, the first all-metal, prefabricated house in the country debuted at the Allied Arts and Industry and Architectural League Exhibition. Subsequently, the house was sold to architect Wallace K. Harrison who disassembled and moved it to Long Island. New York Institute of Technology then reassembled the structure on its campus, which has since closed, leaving the structure to the Aluminaire House Foundation, which has disassembled and stored it. The Foundation now seeks a low-rise, high-density New York neighborhood to display the building as it was initially intended – as a low cost urban home prototype. Residents are concerned that the house’s design does not belong with the area’s traditional brick housing scheme. Still, Sunnyside Gardens and Aluminaire have a history together—they were both featured in a 1932 MoMA modern architecture exhibit. Reconstructing the house in Sunnyside would actually place Aluminaire within its planned context. The project embarked on its lengthy journey through the public approval process at Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee meeting last month. The foundation is scheduled to present to the commission in September. For now, the house is in storage.
To celebrate its perennial master of modernism, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Illinois Institute of Technology produced a video showcasing his work and influence in Chicago. Take a few minutes on the 75th anniversary of Mies' arrival in the Windy City to watch it.
It has been a rough few months for modernist civic buildings. First, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks denied Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital landmark status, and then came the demolition of Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama, and now the future of The Roundhouse, Philadelphia’s Police Headquarters, hangs in the balance. Last week, during his budget address, Mayor Nutter brought to light the city’s plan to renovate the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Building at 4601 Market Street and turn it into the new police headquarters (to be shared with the City Morgue and the Health Center). Nutter said that the move would mean selling the Roundhouse, along with several other municipal buildings. PlanPhilly reported that the city would pay for the renovation of 4601 Market Street with long-term borrowing, but the costs of the project “would be offset by the sale of the three would-be surplus municipal properties.” The Roundhouse—designed by architectural firm, Geddes, Brecher, Qualls, and Cunningham (GBQC)—is constructed of structural pre-cast panels and was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal Award for Best Philadelphia Architecture in 1963. Right now, graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Historic Preservation Graduate Program have teamed up with Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture to come up with different reuse strategies for the Roundhouse. Two graduate students at UPenn, Kimber VanSant and Allee Berger, have launched a campaign, Save the Roundhouse, on Facebook. VanSant and Berger point out that in the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s “In Progress” Philadelphia 2035 plan for the Franklin Square Neighborhood, the Roundhouse is labeled as “Likely for Redevelopment” or referred to as “Police HQ lot,” which indicates that the Roundhouse building might not factor into the overall redevelopment of the area. Berger and VanSant plan on pursuing landmark status for the building, but fear that with a backlog of nominations waiting for approval at the Philadelphia Historical Commission, time might run out before the city’s development gets underway. The two preservationists are also concerned that city officials have misrepresented the condition of the building. “Through the campaign, we’re trying to make it clear that the building is in excellent shape and a great candidate for reuse,” said VanSant. VanSant and Berger said that the next steps will be centered around public engagement, speaking with developers, and eventually forming a coalition with local preservation and modernism groups. “This building is a physical vestige of when Philly was really going through some transformative changes in the late 1960s. There were a lot of urban renewal campaigns going on at the time. It was a very pivotal time for the city,” said Berger. “The building is a tour de force of architectural engineering.”
Frank Gehry should be plenty busy with ambitious plans to revitalize downtown Toronto and to expand Facebook’s offices on the boards. Now, Gehry has been commissioned by the National YoungArts Foundation (NYAF) to update one of Miami’s most elegant and historically significant urban spaces: The Bacardi Complex on Biscayne Boulevard. Purchased below market for $10 million by the NYAF—a nonprofit arts organization that helps aspiring high school artists—Gehry will convert the former 3.5 acre corporate campus into a new arts complex. “By acquiring the Bacardi campus we are able to honor and preserve an important part of Miami’s cultural history,” Paul T. Lehr, executive director of YoungArts, said in a statement. Known for his curvaceous object-buildings, Gehry has already addressed obvious concerns from local community members and historic preservationists. “It’s not going to be a building that’s architecturally published in any way,” he told The New York Times, suggesting that his renovations won't include his typical flourishes on the campus' exterior. “But it’s a place I want to go.” A jewel of Miami Modernism (MiMo), the complex houses the beautifully-proportioned, 8-story Bacardi Headquarters Building (1963), a structure that elegantly fuses European, Latin American, and Caribbean Modern influences. Arguably one of Cuban architect Enrique Gutierrez’s best projects (designed in collaboration with Mies van der Rohe), Bacardi quickly became a symbol of hope and nostalgia to Miami’s newly immigrated Cuban community, a burst of intense formal beauty on an otherwise banal Miami streetscape. Its solid north-south facades showcase tropical murals designed by Brazilian artist Francisco Brennand, who used 28,000 6" by 6" hand-painted blue and white ceramic tiles to produce a warm, exotic contrast to the cool, gridded glass facade floating above the street. Behind the tower, a smaller, 2-story annex building nicknamed “The Jewel Box on a Pedestal” (1975) hovers 47-feet above the street. Designed by local Coral Gables architect Ignacio Carrera-Justiz , the Jewel Box also fuses architecture, culture, and art. Its exuberant one-inch thick glass mosaic walls, produced by French stained glass artists Gabriel and Jacques Loire, were designed by German artist Johannes Dietz to reference the rich and complex rum-making process. Miami's Preservation Board designated the complex, including its buildings, “historic” in October 2009, prohibiting demolition and protecting its heritage from insensitive alterations. Gehry, who has long been friends with NYAF's founders, will make interior alterations to accommodate new educational programs, design a new public park, and build a new performing arts center to replace an existing—non-landmarked—office building. “I have been a mentor to some of the YoungArts students and know what a tremendous impact this organization has on them,” Gehry said in a statement. “It’s a privilege to help make a new home for YoungArts, so it can do even more for these wonderful young people.”
Carlo Scarpa: The Architect at Work The Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery The Cooper Union 7 E. 7th Street Through April 21 A collection of hand drawings and photographs of work by renowned postwar Italian architect Carlo Scarpa is on view for the first time in New York. The exhibition depicts the conception and realization of two major works, the renowned Villa Ottolenghi (Bardolino, Verona, 1974–79) and the Il Palazzetto series of imagined interventions in a 17th-century villa (Monselice, Padua, 1969–78). Scarpa is renowned for his poetic expression of space through the use of materials and ornamentation, and visitors to the gallery will witness the architect’s development of spatial ideas through 22 original hand drawings of Villa Ottolenghi and 11 of Villa Il Palazzetto. Reproductions of historical photos taken of the Villa Ottolenghi before it was completed as well as recent and historical photos of Scarpa’s work at Villa Il Palazzetto are included, along with reproductions of his drawings for the Museo di Castelvecchio and the Museo Nazionale dell Arti del XXI secolo.
We spotted this amazing cartoon by fueledbycoffee over at Core 77 this week and think it's pretty amazing. Don't miss the rest of the cartoon over at Core77 showing adaptations of Noguchi and Nelson. We'll be out on Monday, but right back in the game come Tuesday morning. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!
Solar Cycle. The Dutch dream up a ways to capture latent energy beneath bike tires. Go East Young Man. With the economy in the States still somewhat sour, the good news for West Coast firms is in the East, the Far East, writes AOL's Daily Finance. AIA's Scott Frank spills the goods for Danny King. Walled Out. It was hard to miss the spirited crowd on Chambers Street yesterday as three City Council committees held a joint hearing on Wal-Mart’s proposed move into New York held. Wal-Mart was a no show. The line to get in stretched down the block. And Council Speaker Quinn blasted away. Today's Daily News editorial found the whole drama, well, dramatic. Polar Opposites. Ben Thompson and Paul Rudolph were cut from the same Modernist cloth, under the influence of Gropius, but the two took different paths. One was from the north the other from the south, one standoffish, the other a team player. One a sculpture, the other an entertainer. In Architecture Boston, David N. Fixler explores how their forms function.