Posts tagged with "Preservation":

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The future of Richard Neutra’s first U.S. building remains uncertain

The current owner of the Jardinette Apartments, the first commission the modernist architect Richard Neutra received in the United States in 1927, has worked out an agreement with the lender to pay back the necessary $214,009 to keep the building, while an auction database lists the property as an item up for auction this Friday. According to Curbed LA, Robert Clippinger of Clippinger Investment Properties purchased the Hollywood property on the corner of Marathon and Manhattan in 2016 but has not kept up with the necessary payments. The four-story building, designed with the assistance of fellow Viennese émigré and modernist architect Rudolph Schindler, is considered the first international style building in the country and helped the architect gain connections to design other projects throughout the city. A year after purchasing the property, now known as the Marathon Apartments, Clippinger contributed to a recommendation report the following year that addressed its significant state of disrepair with plans of restoration by 2018 (that never commenced). According to the report, the scope of rehabilitation, restoration, and maintenance work is substantial: it includes waterproofing the building envelope, patching and repairing the roof, restoring interior finishes, repairing and reconstructing fenestration, upgrading the fire sprinkler system, and reconstructing cabinetry in the kitchen, bathrooms and dressing rooms. The exterior, which was painted in an ahistorical beige, blue and pink combination about 20 years ago, would additionally need to be uniformly repainted white to complete the restoration. A set of images on the Clippinger website reveals what the property would look like, had the proper plans for restoration been made. Given the apartment tower’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places and designation as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, the city’s building and safety department revisited the 2017 report last January to grant the building a rehabilitation permit. So while it may appear up for auction, deep-pocketed preservationist will want to hold off; work to restore the building will begin sometime in the near future.
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New Jersey’s most famous work of novelty architecture is now on Airbnb

Lucy the Elephant, a 65-foot-tall wood-and-metal pachyderm on the Jersey Shore, has served many purposes over the past 138 years: Real estate office, tavern, private beach cottage, and standalone tourist attraction. Lucy has also lived through a lot—hurricanes, flooding, lighting strikes, encroaching development, two relocations, general neglect, “moisture difficulties,” and even an inadvertent fire started by the patrons of said tavern. Now, Lucy, greater Atlantic City’s most beloved jumbo-sized centenarian, is serving a new, though not all that surprising, role as a limited-time-only Airbnb rental. Because why hunker down for the night at Harrah’s or the Hard Rock Hotel Casino when there’s a giant, semi-habitable elephant that’s just steps from the beach and only costs $138 per night? Lucy the Elephant’s stint as an Airbnb property, as mentioned, will be short-lived—three nights only. The Save Lucy Committee, the nonprofit preservation group serving as Lucy’s caretaker and guardian, is hosting one-night sleepovers on March 17, 18, and 19. Three couples will be able to book Lucy via Airbnb when the listing goes live on March 5. The modest proceeds from overnight stays in New Jersey’s most unique, ephemeral accommodations will go toward upcoming renovations. “Right now, we're faced with a major renovation project, starting this spring,” Richard Helfant, the executive director and CEO of the Save Lucy Committee, told CNN. “Lucy's been painted so many times that her skin is at a point where it bubbles off. We're at a time where we have to strip her down to the bare metal, prime and repaint. It's a massive undertaking.” Not quite a duck with a trunk, Lucy has been an enduring symbol of Margate, formerly South Atlantic City, since 1881 when she was erected by James V. Lafferty—real estate speculator, engineer, and proto animal-shaped building constructor—as a means of luring potential property buyers to the Jersey shore. While Victorian-era tourists gawked at the 90-ton behemoth from the outside, Lafferty escorted potential clients six-stories up the building’s internal staircase into Lucy’s howdah-cum-observation deck so that they could better survey the lay of the land. The building was originally named Elephant Bazaar but took on the Lucy moniker after Lafferty sold the structure to the Gertzen family in 1887. The Gertzens, who converted Lucy into a tavern and later a summer rental home for a British doctor and his family, maintained ownership of the building until 1970 when they donated it to the Save Lucy Committee. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1976, Lucy the Elephant is the only such listed property to be available for overnight stays on Airbnb per the attraction’s official website. It’s also apparently the first animal-shaped building to appear on the lodging platform ,as Liz Fusco, senior communications manager for the US East division of Airbnb, relayed to CNN. A certain beagle in Idaho, however, would quite literally beg to differ. Airbnb aside, Lucy is an early, excellent example of programmatic architecture and is often been referred to as America’s first bona fide roadside attraction. While the early 20th century gave rise to a number of attention-grabbing buildings resembling things—the Brown Derby in Los Angeles (1926), Boston’s Hood Milk Bottle (1930), the Teapot Dome Service Station (1922) in Zillah, Washington, and, of course, the Big Duck (1931) of Long Island to name a few—Lucy arrived on the scene decades earlier, and has survived. “The oldest surviving example of zoomorphic architecture on Earth,” Helfant recently told the New York Times in an article detailing Lucy's upcoming run on Airbnb. Until 1900, there were three hulking elephant-shaped buildings on the East Coast including one on Coney Island which was also the creation of Lafferty. By the late 1960s, Lucy’s fate veered into bleak uncertainty. While roadside novelty architecture maintained popularity, especially in car-crazy Southern California, the Jersey Shore’s elephant-shaped building had fallen prey to disinterest and disrepair. Harsh marine weather had ravaged the beachside building’s facade, its tourist-snaring capabilities began to wane, and, in 1969, the owners sold the land, and the elephant on it, to developers who intended to demolish the then-condemned building. This led to the formation of the Save Lucy Committee, which raised funds to relocate the building to city-owned land, now a park, and treat it to a massive renovation. She was also moved in 1906 after a major storm. After four years of extensive restoration work, Lucy reopened to the public as a paid tourist attraction in 1974. Under the auspices of the Save Lucy Committee, the building has remained open for tours ever since, attracting roughly 132,000 visitors annually according to the Times (currently, tours run 30-minutes long and cost $8.50 for adults). But this marks the first time since the early 1900s that anyone has paid to sleep in the belly of the elephant. As the Times details, Airbnb has made, in the words of Helfant, a “sizable” donation to the Save Lucy Committee and decked out the surprisingly spacious interior of the building with period furnishings and decor—canopied bed, antique trunks, and grandma's elephant tchotchkes galore—that nod directly to Lucy’s Victorian heritage. And although Lucy once boasted a working bathroom, it has since been removed. To compensate, a comfort trailer will be parked at Lucy’s painted toenail-ed feet during the Airbnb stays. A staff member and security guard will also be camped out overnight in the attraction’s adjacent gift shop. Breakfast will be served in the elephant.
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Lovell Health House hosts temporary art exhibition of Eva Claessens’s artwork

While the future of Richard Neutra’s world-famous Lovell Health House remains uncertain, as its current owner is seeking a preservation-minded buyer, new life has been breathed into the Los Angeles home as it temporarily takes on a new function. Belgium-born, Uruguay-based artist Eva Claessens has taken over the home’s main living and outdoor spaces for a three-day pop-up exhibition of her paintings and prints that runs from February 23 through February 25. The event marks Claessens’ U.S. debut, as well as the home’s first time hosting an art exhibition. When seeing the work hung up casually throughout the structure’s interiors and its grounds, however, one might assume the space had always intended to display large-scale artwork. The home has the air of a lived-in gallery thanks to the crisp white walls and wide-open spaces, originally designed for individual and group exercises led by naturopathic doctor Philip Lovell. “A white gallery did not feel like the right place for me to show my work,” said Claessens in a press statement. “I wanted to find a place that reflected my aesthetic and the way I live. I live my life very much the same way as Dr. Lovell did, and my work reflects this.” The artist’s minimal yet gestural brushwork and interpersonal subject matter can also be compared to Neutra’s sketches, which often used as few lines of charcoal as possible to render entire scenes and the lives within them. The Lovell House’s current state of cosmetic disrepair fueled the artist’s creativity while curating her exhibition. “I see houses as living artwork and love restoring old houses,” she continued. “The more ruin they [are] in, the more my imagination [can] run free.” That is why Claessens is collaborating with photographer Yoshihiro Makino and filmmaker Romain Dussaulx to document the three-day exhibition as a short film to be screened at the LA Design Festival later this year. “This project,”  said Claessens, “is a marriage of four artists; Neutra’s architecture and my work with Yoshi’s photography and Romain’s storytelling.”
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro tapped to restore Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater in Dallas

Dallas’s iconic but ailing Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only completed freestanding theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the only public Wright building in Texas, will be restored based on a master plan devised by New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). Mark Lamster, architecture critic at the Dallas Morning News, writes that the announcement, which was made by the city-owned building’s longtime tenant (and original owner) the Dallas Theater Center (DTC), comes with a “combination of optimism, trepidation, and vigilance.” Reads a statement released by DTC:
“The building has been home to DTC since its opening in 1959, and the renovation efforts aim to preserve the theater’s distinct architecture while equipping it to inspire a new generation. A steering committee made up of diverse community stakeholders selected Diller Scofidio + Renfro after a thorough selection process, and the firm —with DTC—also will create a master plan for the nine-acre Kalita Humphreys site, which will include new theater spaces and a connection to the Katy Trail.
Completed several months after Wright’s death, the Kalita Humphreys Theater is one of the final projects designed by the influential American architect. The design was technically conceived, however, decades earlier for another theater company in a project that was ultimately never realized. The theater was subsequently adapted for its current Dallas site, perched on a heavily wooded bluff above Turtle Creek, when then-fledgling regional theater company DTC approached Wright to design a venue. At the time he claimed he was too busy to design something new, and suggested that DTC use the never-completed design. The theater is named after a local actress who perished in a plane crash in 1954—a year before construction kicked off—and whose parents made a significant donation to DTC to ensure the building would be named in her memory. The building famously features a revolving stage that, in the words of DTC, “exemplifies Wright’s Organic Theory of architecture,” which stressed the unification of the building’s form and function.” The theater, which has suffered through shoddy previous renovations and years of general negligence, was declared a City of Dallas Historic Landmark Structure in 2007. In 2009, DTC relocated its administrative offices from the languishing Wright-designed building along Turtle Creek to the newly-built Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by REX | OMA, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas. The Tony Award-winning organization currently stages performances at both venues. As detailed by DTC, the master plan will entail general restoration work of Wright’s deteriorating main building as well as the creation of two new, smaller performance venues to be used by other regional theater companies. The theater will also be further incorporated into the surrounding natural landscape. “By creating new spaces and opening up the site, the new master plan will boost the natural beauty of the theater’s surroundings and improve its ability to serve as a welcoming, accessible space for all,” said DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. Texas-born Charles Renfro, working in collaboration with his partners at DS+R, will lead the project. He remarked in DTC’s announcement that:
“As a native Texan, I am particularly excited to contribute to our state’s architectural heritage and partner with Dallas Theater Center, whose bold productions are equally matched by their bold commitment to architectural innovation. This project is an opportunity to restore the Kalita Humphreys—one of Dallas’s most overlooked pieces of architecture—to its rightful place in the pantheon of design masterpieces in the city. Not only is it Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built theater, but it has also made significant contributions to the way theater has been presented and seen. “Since it was built, the theater’s bucolic setting between Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail has been overwhelmed by parking lots and roadways. Our approach will seek to slow the site down and add new architecturally significant programs grown out of the surrounding urban green. The Kalita Humphreys complex will be an idyllic and iconic refuge surrounded by nature, merely footsteps away from the bustling city.”
DTC is slated to present a master plan developed by Renfro and his colleagues to the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture by the end of this year. The Dallas City Council will then vote to give the plan final approval. The public and various local stakeholders have been invited to attend an information session to be held on March 4 at the theater, and are encouraged to provide feedback. In sharing the news, Lamster pointed out that the involvement of a firm with such a high level of prestige as DS+R is agreeable, but they have a mixed track record when it comes to preservation-based projects. He mentioned the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art and the renovation of Lincoln Center, both in New York City, involved demolishing beloved nearby spaces—a neighboring museum and public plaza, respectively. In 2018, Lamster referred to the Kalita Humphreys theater as “the most neglected, misunderstood, and mismanaged building in Dallas.” Preservation architect Ann Abernathy of advocacy group Kalita Humphreys Theater at Turtle Creek Conservancy also expressed reservations, particularly with regard to the potential for overbuilding at such a bucolic site. She told the Dallas Morning News that: “The way they’re looking to sustain this property is to build more venues, and to build an income-producing garage, and an income-producing restaurant, and by the time they do that, they lose the economic value of a property of immense cultural importance.” The renovation's estimated budget has yet to be disclosed, but as Moriarty told the Dallas Morning News, he expects “it’s gonna be a lot.” “The final figure will be contingent on the master plan, which would then require the approval of the City Council. Once that happens we will move earnestly and aggressively into fundraising,” he said. While the Kalita Humphreys Theater is the only Wright-designed public building in Texas, he did design three private homes in the Lone Star State during the last decade of his career, including a Usonian house in Dallas that was featured in the 1996 Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket. Another, located in Houston, hit the market in June 2019 with a price tag just shy of $3 million.
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Downtown Los Angeles’s Broadway Street may soon go car-free

Los Angeles City Council Member Jose Huizar first began his Bringing Back Broadway initiative in 2008, which has gradually revitalized several of the early 20th-century movie palaces and long-underused commercial buildings along Broadway Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Now that many of those buildings are occupied with retail spaces, hotels, concert venues, and restaurants, Huizar recently introduced a motion looking into the feasibility of making the entire 1.5-mile stretch a pedestrian-only zone. “A car-free Broadway,” Huizar explained in a Twitter thread, “would bring a measurable increase in pedestrian traffic to the many new retail stores and theaters in the corridor.” By prioritizing pedestrian, bike, and bus traffic, Huizar argued in an attached statement, the economic development triggered by the original Bringing Back Broadway initiative would increase while reducing the number of car-related deaths in the area. He has also argued that the project is particularly feasible in light of the ongoing LA Streetcar project, a separate initiative that will provide an above-ground public transportation option that would intersect with preexisting transit systems, and which has already received approximately $1 billion in funding.
Huizar ended the statement with an analysis of all of the elements the redesign must consider, beginning with “accessibility options related to parking, residential and commercial loading/unloading, ADA, fire and safety, and private events.” The motion would also include the further preservation of the historic buildings along Broadway, and would continue to fill empty storefronts with public amenities. While Huizar's L.A. Streetcar project garnered the approval of over 73 percent of Downtown residents when it was first proposed, it is unclear as of yet how the motion to ban cars from Broadway will be publicly received. Car culture famously built Los Angeles, and there are virtually no other permanent examples of a similar move in any other part of the city. The closest precedent is CicLAvia, a nonprofit event that temporarily closes major thoroughfares to motor vehicles throughout the city to make them accessible to foot and bike traffic, which has received increased popularity since it was first inaugurated in 2010. The proposal follows last October’s announcement that San Francisco’s Market Street would be going car-free, and it is predicted that several other cities across the country may follow suit in their historic centers.
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Owners of Richard Neutra's Lovell House are seeking a preservation-minded buyer

The Lovell House, designed and built by Austrian architect Richard Neutra, was a leading example of the International Style when it was completed in the hills of Los Feliz, California, in 1929. Generally regarded as the first steel-frame home built in the United States, the home elegantly demonstrated the use of industrial methods of production for domestic design and remained in pristine condition for several decades. In its current state, however, the house suffers from significant cosmetic and structural disrepair and the owners are reportedly looking to offload the building. The home, often referred to as the Lovell Health House, was originally commissioned by naturopathic doctor Philip Lovell to include spaces for medical demonstrations and experiments, such as an outdoor gym, porches for nude sunbathing, and a kitchen specifically designed for vegetarian cooking. The property was later acquired by Betty and Morton Topper in 1960 for $60,000. Morton died 11 years later in 1971, leaving the home to Betty and their five children. After Betty's death in August of last year, their children have been opening up the residence to the public for private tours and events while seeking a preservation-minded buyer (the most recent event, held on January 26, was a highly-attended screening of Elissa Brown's documentary on Neutra, Windshield: A Vanished Vision, followed by a discussion between Brown, film composter Chad Fischer, and Lovell House owner Ken Topper, one of the five Topper siblings). Although now neglected, Neutra's touches are still evident throughout the building, especially in the large, multistory window sections for letting in natural light. Neutra was no stranger to working across California, but his homes have become increasingly threatened in recent years. The recent sale of the Ennis House, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home set a mere 1,600 feet away from the Lovell House for $18 million, suggests the residence will enter the market with a high asking price when listed (although the Lovell House doesn't have the same cultural cachet as the former).
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Notre Dame Cathedral's vaulted ceiling still under risk of imminent collapse

Despite the $1 billion raised in an effort to save Notre Dame Cathedral after it was ravaged by fire in April of last year, the 850-year-old structure continues to be under threat of further damage. Jean-Louis Georgelin, a French general overseeing the building's reconstruction, announced that its ceilings are still at risk of collapsing if immediate action isn't taken. “Notre Dame is not saved because ... there is an extremely important step ahead, which is to remove the scaffolding that had been built around the spire,” Georgelin explained in an interview with the Associated Press. The condition of the cathedral's vaults, a signature element of the overall design, is difficult to gauge given the centuries of reconstructive efforts performed by variously skilled craftsmen and the relatively little attention paid to them in the last year by the renovation team. “To make sure," Georgelin said, "we need to inspect them [and] remove the rubble that is still on them. It’s very difficult work that we have started.” Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, the rector of Notre Dame, added that there is a "50 percent chance" the landmark will be saved and predicted with the same likelihood that the 500 tons of scaffolding recently erected could fall onto the building's original three vaults. The news comes two months after the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Michel Aupetit, announced that a final evaluation of the damage would be concluded in Spring 2020. “We will have to encircle the scaffolding, then put a second scaffolding over it," he said. "From this new scaffolding, workers will descend by rope and cut it bit by bit into small pieces and this will take a long time." The stonework of the vaults will then have to be examined on a near-individual level. “We cannot take any risks," Aupetit cautioned. "We have to know which ones need replacing and which ones to keep. Only then will we know how much [the repairs] will cost and how long they will take." The most likely method of preventing irreparable damage, Georgelin stated, is for the preservation team to remove the scaffolding by the middle of 2020 and resume restoration in 2021.
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Vera Lutter to present camera obscura photos of LACMA before demolition

While the future of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) still hangs in the balance and a local nonprofit attempts to undermine its redevelopment at the ballot box next year, New York-based artist Vera Lutter has been quietly documenting the campus in its current state over the last two years. A selection of her photographs will soon be on display in the Resnick Pavilion, one of two Renzo Piano-designed gallery spaces on the LACMA site set to be saved from the wrecking ball. Lutter was invited to work in residence at the museum from February 2017 to January 2019 in order to create Museum in the Camera, her new body of photographic work focusing on the original campus architecture, gallery spaces, and individual pieces. To produce her photography, Lutter used a camera obscura, a box with a small hole on one side that filters light through its hollow interior to project an image onto film hanging on the opposite side. As one of the oldest optical technologies ever developed (first described in the 4th century BC), the camera obscura and the images it made under Lutter's careful watch turn the original LACMA campus into what looks like a centuries-old historical site. The project was sparked by an early working relationship between Lutter and LACMA director Michael Govan while he was serving as director of Dia:Beacon in New York. Throughout Lutter's LACMA residency, the artist's room-sized camera obscura was craned around the campus while being as minimally-obtrusive as possible. "Moving a camera for Vera Lutter is a very big deal," explained Govan. "Museums aren't [usually] so welcoming to giant wooden boxes." The conversations between Lutter and Govan resulted in work that seeks to document the four LACMA buildings set to be demolished in 2020: the three original 1965 structures by modernist architect William Pereira, and a street-front building erected in 1986 by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates. Museum in the Camera will be on view from March 29th to July 19, 2020.
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Currier Museum of Art acquires a second Frank Lloyd Wright home

New Hampshire’s Currier Museum of Art announced on November 14 that they will be adding a second Frank Lloyd Wright house to their permanent collection, making the institution the sole museum in the world to own two of “America’s most important architect’s” buildings.  The Toufic H. Kalil House is one of seven Usonian Automatic homes ever built and was put on the market this past September for $850,000. An anonymous donor provided the museum with $970,000 in funds to acquire the property and make it accessible to the public.  “This generous donation is a tribute to the philanthropy in our state, and serves as an example for others,” said Steve Duprey, president of the museum’s Board of Trustees, in a press release, which went on to say that with “the impending sale of the Kalil House, there was a real danger that it might be altered, moved away, or even torn down.”  The house is located at 117 Heather Street in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was built in 1955 with Wright’s patented technique of individually-cast interlocking concrete blocks reinforced with rods set into the walls and roof. The system stemmed from Wright’s larger vision for more democratic design and planning of modern architecture for middle-class America. Such houses were designed with the idea that home buyers could construct the homes themselves out of a kit.  Wright designed approximately 60 homes under the name “Usonian” including the seven Usonian Automatics. The term was used throughout his work to refer to the United States, as opposed to the term America, which of course also includes Mexico and Canada. For Wright, Usonian architecture was to be set apart from all previous “American” architectural conventions specifically.  Usonian houses, including the Kalil House, were typically small, single-story dwellings with an L-shaped plan. They made use of natural light, local materials, flat roofs, and radiant floor heating. The Kalil House, a 1,406-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house meets all of these requirements and, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, still includes much of the architect’s original furniture, textiles, and kitchen appliances. The house’s mahogany clad interior is illuminated by 350 individual glass windows, both fixed and operable.  While many of the features have been maintained, the house has also received updates to the roof, landscaping, and back patio. An unfinished, 264-square-foot guest home is located behind the house and was constructed in the same modular construction technique.  The Kalil’s were inspired to build the home after seeing their friend’s FLW-designed home just three doors down the street. The Zimmerman House was also acquired by the museum in 1988 as noted in the owner’s will, alongside an operating endowment for the building's maintenance.  Currier Museum’s director, Alan Chong stated in the press release, “Although they are about the same size and on the same street, the Zimmerman and Kalil houses are very different in character... Frank Lloyd Wright intended his Usonian designs to be affordable to the broader American public, but each is a distinctive work of art.” Just like the Zimmerman House, the Kalil house will be preserved and opened up for guided tours next April.
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French researcher "quarries" on site for a new type of recycling and restoration

“The mass-production of rubble constitutes one of modern architecture’s main legacies,” said the French designer and researcher Anna Saint Pierre. So much of what gets built gets demolished, or decays and needs to be restored or renovated. She explained that “The building sector accounts for 50 percent of natural resource consumption and almost 40 percent of waste production within European territories.” To help combat this waste she’s developed a new technique of in-situ recycling called Granito. The concept is to “quarry” materials on-site, taking stone from surrounding demolished structures and pulverizing it for use in new aggregates—by reusing these materials on location there’s no need for transportation. An architect at the French firm SCAU, Saint Pierre is putting Granito to the test on one of the office’s Paris projects. Saint Pierre’s proposal is to take 182 tons of unwanted granite panels from the extant structure, an office block also designed by the firm and opened in 1997 as the headquarters of Télédiffusion de France, and grind, sort, and reincorporate the material into terrazzo floors for the new building, a co-working space. Saint Pierre says that the granite and terrazzo floors, visible from the street, will act as “a fifth facade.” In addition to working to create terrazzo, she’s also been using in-situ recycling to create gabion walls, including for a future housing project. Since announcing Granito earlier this year, Saint Pierre has worked to tweak the process to become more energy efficient. “This project highlights the impact that the ever-shortening life of tertiary real estate programs has on the life and death cycle of the materials used,” Saint Pierre said. In this manner, Granito is not just a practical solution, but also a commentary on issues of architectural preservation. “Granito investigates new modes of memory transmission through [the] in-situ transformation of rubble,” she explains. “It’s an alternative to both ‘tabula rasa’ approaches or strict restoration.” Granito, “investigates site-specific loops of remembrance,” and understanding just what “in situ” might mean in this context is key to understanding the purpose of Granito. It’s about “the existing site, its memory, and its mutation.”
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Preservationists rally to save the prison where Oscar Wilde was persecuted

The Reading Prison in Berkshire, England, has been put on the market and cultural figures are rallying to save the building where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated between 1895 and 1897. The Grade II-listed building closed in 2013 and is under threat of redevelopment after the U.K. Minister of Justice put it up for sale earlier this month. The local council and Reading’s member of parliament, as well as other cultural figures, are working to develop a bid for the site.  “Sadly the Ministry of Justice put the gaol on the market and hopes to sell it to the highest bidder," said Matt Rodda, the Labor MP for Reading East, according to The Art Newspaper. "This decision risks this wonderful Victorian building being gutted and turned into luxury flats." The building’s association with Wilde makes it irrevokably an important site of LGBTQ+ history and heritage. Wilde was arrested in 1895 for “gross indecency,” a crime enforced by the Labouchere Amendment and largely used to prosecute men for homosexuality. Because sodomy laws were so difficult to enforce, the amendment instead enforced a blanket term that made such arrests much easier. The amendment wasn’t fully repealed until 1967, a time when widespread LGBT rights and advocacy were just beginning to gain traction. The prison has been described as a “Mecca for LGBT people wordwide" by the Reading Borough Council. A 2016 exhibition Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison, exemplified the building’s importance through a showcase of art by Ai Weiwei, Marlene Dumas, and Wolfgang Tillmans. A well-known admirer of Wilde, Patti Smith, paid homage by reading De Profundis, a 50,000-word letter Wilde wrote to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, while he was incarcerated in Reading.  “It’s a hugely significant space,” said Joseph Galliano, CEO and co-founder of Queer Britain, the national LGBTQ+ museum. “We are losing heritage and cultural spaces to commercial redevelopment which will never be recovered,” he told Euronews. The Ministry of Justice promised in a statement that they would “seek the best outcome for the taxpayer.”  Illustrating the artistic legacy produced under unfortunate circumstances, the following is an excerpt from Wilde’s De Profundis:

“When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realizing what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else - the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver - would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”

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The Nonument database is saving forgotten 20th-century buildings

Nonument is committed to not only recording but celebrating the 20th century’s most important non-monuments. Founded in 2011, the multidisciplinary artist and research collective has amassed a record of built spaces that stand, if barely; forgotten by time through decay, technological or political changes, Nonument is preserving them even as they fall out of favor in a changing 21st-century society.  Rather than present “a glorified collection of obscurities” or focus purely on architectural styles, founders Neja Tomšič and Martin Bricelj Baraga seek to develop a deeper understanding of public space and art, and how politics shape these spaces in our world today. In partnership with Mapping & Archiving Public Spaces (MAPS) project, the collective has a goal of cataloging more than 120 forgotten sites around the globe and bring them back into the public eye.  Created by the Museum of Transitory Art, MAPS shares many of the goals of Nonument: its mission “aims to identify, map and archive public spaces, architecture, and monuments which are part of our cultural heritage, but are not yet identified as such.” And that’s where Nonument began. NONUMENT01 was a response to the demolition of a Brutalist icon, the McKeldin Fountain in Baltimore. A decision made with limited public engagement or input, the fountain had been an important gathering point for protestors and creatives, and the visual centerpiece of McKeldin Square. Upon its removal in 2016, Lisa Moren, a professor of visual arts, enacted the first art installation of Nonument, debuting an augmented reality app that allowed users to recreate the fountain on their screens, and interact with memories like protest signs and koi fish to discover their stories. The app and its launch event at the site continued the legacy of the lost monument and its role within the city, setting a precedent for Nonuments of the future. The database is just one component of Nonument. Case studies on architectural theory and live art, and performance events like Moren’s, are also an integral part of the collective’s mission, making it more than just an encyclopedia of degrading buildings. While the act of listing the monuments breathes back a certain degree of life, critical discourse and real-life opportunities for interaction with the listed structures completes a circle of study and renegotiation with the space they occupy—aligning with the overarching goals of the group.  From nuclear power plants in Austria to stone sculptures in Serbia, the database is set to become a comprehensive collection and research resource for the 20th century, and continue to unearth the stories that matter, and rewrite the rules for sustainable management of our cultural heritage.