Posts tagged with "Preservation":

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Landmarks chair steps down; exclusive interview to come

Chair of New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) Meenakshi Srinivasan is stepping down effective June 1, and tomorrow AN will present an exclusive interview with Srinivasan on what her next steps will be. As first reported by the Times Ledger, Srinivasan will be leaving a position she’s held since her appointment by Mayor de Blasio in July of 2014. “I am honored to have served as chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the past four years and to have had the opportunity to serve the city for the past 28 years,” said Srinivasan in a statement. “I am proud of what we have accomplished—promoting equity, diversity, efficiency and transparency in all aspects of LPC’s work, and working with the administration to make preservation a critical part of the city’s planning process. “It’s been an intense, challenging, and incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve been very fortunate to work in three agencies and chair two commissions involved with the city’s land use and built environment, and to have played a role in shaping this incredibly diverse and dynamic city. I would love to do more hands-on project-based work related to land use planning and zoning and will be transitioning to the private sector.” The move comes during a tumultuous time for the LPC, as the commission has been roiled by criticism of a proposed rule change meant to improve efficiency and streamline the approvals process. The changes, discussed further in-depth here, drew charges that they lower the agency’s standards from preservation groups like the Historic Districts Council. AN will follow this announcement with an interview on Friday.
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Apple's Melbourne flagship faces opposition from local politicians and architects

Opposition to Foster + Partners-designed Apple flagship store in Melbourne is mounting, as local politicians petition the Victoria state government to withdraw planning permission without significant revision to the store’s design. Criticism of the Apple store stems from worries that the two-story, pagoda-inspired pavilion, composed of glass curtain walls and metal cladding, is not contextual with the bulky and deconstructivist character of LAB Architecture Studio’s Federation Square. Moreover, the construction of a new flagship store entails the demolition of the Yarra Building, a three-story structure that is home to an organization that promotes and celebrates Aboriginal culture. Its replacement with a commercial structure is perceived to run counter to the civic role of the urban campus. Opened in 2002, Federation Square is a 7.9-acre civic precinct located in the center of Melbourne. The complex is renown for its fractal composition and diverse cladding materials, which include zinc, a range of sandstones, and glass. One year after opening, the city-block-sized development became the most awarded project in the history of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. Federation Square has evolved into an integral component of Melbourne’s cultural scene, and is home to a number of public institutions, including the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the National Gallery of Victoria. Since 2016, Apple has eyed Melbourne’s Federation Square as a site for a new flagship store. Foster + Partners is a longstanding collaborator with Apple, designing numerous stores as well as the company’s new Apple Park campus. Advocates for the new Apple store view the project as a financial boon for Federation Square. As reported by ABC, the regional government estimates that the flagship store will deliver an extra two million visitors annually and create 250 construction jobs, as well as 200 permanent positions. Additionally, the Foster + Partners proposal includes a 5,380-square-feet extension of public space towards the Yarra River. Outside of design complaints, criticism has also been lodged at the state government for their lack of public consultation during the planning process. Citizens for Melbourne, an advocacy group for public space composed of many architects, characterizes the demolition of the Yarra Building and the construction of the Apple store as a back-door corporate takeover of public space. Interestingly, architect Donald Bates, whose practice Lab Architecture Studio was responsible for designing Federation Square, supports the idea of the Apple flagship on the plaza. Peter Davidson, the former co-director and designer of Lab Architecture Studio, has not yet commented on the alteration of Federation Square. The construction of Apple Federation Square is set to begin in 2019 and finish in 2020.
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Youth lead preservation efforts at Grand Teton historic district

Last week, the youth corps of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, called HOPE Crew (short for Hands-On Preservation Experience), launched a week-long project to save Grand Teton National Park's historic Crandall Studio in the Jenny Lake Historic District. The project was formed in partnership with the National Park Service's Western Center for Historic Preservation and the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. The Crandall Studio is the cabin of photographer and painter Harrison R. Crandall, later used as a dancehall, studio, general store, and visitor center for the park. The cabin is the gateway to Jenny Lake – a placid glacial lake surrounded by the cragged peaks of the Tetons. This rehabilitation is part of HOPE Crew's broader mission to foster a preservation ethic in youth through firsthand exposure to preservation philosophy as well as to the physical work of preservation, from stabilizing walls to repairing roofs in historic buildings. It also serves to fill a gap in the lack of manpower and expertise many national parks are experiencing. Having already completed upwards of 100 projects since the project's inception in 2014, HOPE Crew builds a knowledge base they can bring from one site to the next, applying restoration techniques learned from work at neighboring parks like the Old Santa Fe Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, and Tuzigoot National Monument. The program has contributed nearly $14.3 million in preservation work to parks and buildings across the western United States, with a membership roster that is ever growing. With the possibility of massive cuts to the National Parks budget on the horizon, casting doubt on the ongoing maintenance of historic sites, HOPE Crew seems to demonstrate a productive model for public-private partnerships that encourages preservationist values in the next generation who, like it or not, will inherit these public lands.
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Saving our heritage: top historic preservation stories from across the U.S.

Historic preservation stories always stir up a conversation: What parts of American architectural history should be preserved? What doesn't need saving? Since our last coverage of 2016's top historic preservation articles, many new buildings have become imperiled or found respite from demolition.As we celebrate America on July 4, here's an updated list that includes a unique Brutalist building in Southern Florida under threat, a recently-saved Frank Lloyd Wright home, and As we celebrate America on July 4, here's an updated list that includes a unique Brutalist building in Southern Florida under threat, a recently-saved Frank Lloyd Wright home, and many more. Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture's latest addition Without homebuilding entrepreneur Zach Rawlings, this 2,500-square-foot Frank Lloyd Wright–designed concrete home would have succumbed to developers who wanted to bulldoze it and replace it with more profitable housing. But Rawlings, along with architect Wallace Cunningham, saved the David and Gladys Wright home. Now it's being transferred to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; students will have the opportunity to engage with the building and its renovation process in a design studio specifically designed for the site. New York's landmarked Citicorp Center Plaza demolished Designed by Sasaki Associates in 1973, the Citicorp Center’s plaza and fountain were just recently demolished, despite their landmarked status. The opaque and irregular approvals process deprived the public of the opportunity to weigh in on highly visible changes to the iconic plaza. It was eventually revealed to The Architect's Newspaper that Boston Properties, the owner proposing the changes, had received permits from the Department of Building (DOB) just four days before the site was landmarked, which technically allowed the changes to be made. Fate of iconic Kenneth Treister-designed Miami tower unclear  A building that heralds back to Miami's "Tropical Brutalism" era, this Brutalist tower known as "Office in the Grove" is threatened with demolition if it is not saved and landmarked. Designed by Florida's modernist architect Kenneth Treister in 1973, it is among the first buildings to be constructed of post-tensioned concrete slabs and a completely prefabricated concrete facade. While Brutalism may be hard for the public to appreciate, the concrete style intended to create openness in public buildings while responding architecturally to the climate. According to Docomomo US/Florida, “this was Miami’s first office building to give the community an eye-level, landscaped grass berm as its facade.” The hearing for the building's landmark status will be held on September 5. New master plan proposal for The Alamo in San Antonio raises debate A $450 million plan for The Alamo Mission, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, wants to declutter its plaza, which involves relocating an historic cenotaph. Architects have expressed tentative approval of the plan, but have also voiced concerns that the current proposal—which includes glass walls separating the Alamo grounds from the rest of the city—inhibits the use of space for the public. The public was also skeptical of the glass walls, raising questions about a modern design in San Antonio's historic downtown. Philip Johnson's New York State Pavilion revamp A modernist icon, the New York State Pavilion was originally designed by architect Philip Johnson for the 1964 World's Fair. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but years of neglect have left the structure in abandoned, despite a new coat of paint in 2015. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, preservation group People for the Pavilion, and New York City government began soliciting ideas for a bold new take on the structure, ultimately selecting the design "Hanging Meadows" last August. Meanwhile, a separate $14.25 million renovation is underway to re-open the Pavilion to the public in the fall of 2019. America's first glass house, a National Treasure, will be restored  It's often referred to as "America's First Glass House." Now, the House of Tomorrow (a remnant from the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress World's Fair) by Chicago architect George Fred Keck is set to receive an update from a team of Chicago firms. There was a $2.5 million campaign to restore the house last year led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Indiana Landmarks. The building's design features glass curtain walls for passive solar heating (coming well before Philip Johnson's 1949 Glass House and Mies van der Rohe’s 1951 Farnsworth House), an "iceless" refrigerator, and the first-ever General Electric dishwasher. The restoration plan includes removing deteriorated surfaces, replacing the current glass walls with modern glass, and the revealing cantilevered steel girders that give the house its open floor plan. Gordon Bunshaft–designed addition to Albright-Knox Art Gallery threatened While he was at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Buffalo native Gordon Bunshaft created this addition to the original 1905 Albright-Knox museum; it included an auditorium with jet-black windows (seen above), galleries, and a courtyard that extends between the addition and the original building. Now, as part of a plan put forth by OMA's New York office, its courtyard and galleries would be demolished while the auditorium would remain. OMA contends that the courtyard divides the park in which the museum sits; removing it and the galleries will restore circulation to the site while making way for bigger exhibition spaces. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery still needs $20 million for the expansion, though groundbreaking is planned for April 2019. The City of New York wants to raze Wagner Park One of the best places to see Lady Liberty is Wagner Park, a small green slice of Battery Park City on the lower edge of Manhattan. Two decades ago Boston-based Machado Silvetti, in collaboration with landscape architects at OLIN, unveiled the park, an open space that ushers people towards the water’s edge with sweeping views of New York Harbor and that famous freedom statue. Now, in response to the specter of Hurricane Sandy and the threat of rising seas, the agency that oversees the area is planning a total park overhaul. The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) is set to replace the existing landscape that architects and residents love with a park it says will align better with new resiliency measures that are reshaping the Manhattan waterfront. Illinois Governor ransoms Thompson Center for public school money In an act of political wrangling that typifies the relationship between the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced that if the city would allow the sale of the Helmut Jahn–designed James R. Thompson Center, he would provide the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with additional funding. Last week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that he would block the sale of the postmodern building out of fear of having to replace the large CTA subway station beneath it.
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Two historic L.A. structures saved from demolition (for now)

Two historically-significant structures in Los Angeles were temporarily granted a reprieve from the wrecking ball last month when both were approved by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Committee (CHC) to receive cultural landmark status as a Historic-Cultural Monument. One structure, the Charlotte and Robert Disney House, a craftsman bungalow that served as Walt Disney’s first Los Angeles residence and the location of his first animation and production facilities in the region, was recently being eyed as a potential tear-down property. A demolition permit was filed by the owner to remove the one story structure and garage to enable new construction. Located in the Los Feliz neighborhood, the house originally owned by Walt Disney’s uncle and aunt, and was used by the visionary storyteller as a temporary residence in the early 1920s when he first moved to the Los Angeles area.  The structure was recently listed on the Los Angeles Conservancy’s preservation watch list, a designation that brought public attention to its impending demolition and helped convince the CHC to take action on the structure's nomination. Adrian Scott-Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, credited a diverse partnership between activists and city officials for the preservation success, telling The Architect's Newspaper (AN) over the telephone, “The Disney residence represents another threatened building where the Department of City Planning stepped up to the plate and initiated the nomination process.” Community and political will toward preserving the vernacular structure was anchored by the cultural and symbolic importance of Disney’s work in that community and in Los Angeles at-large. A second structure, the midcentury modern Lytton Savings Bank building designed by Kurt W. Meyer in 1960 , has also cleared the CHC’s vetting process. That structure has been under threat of demolition to make way for 8150 Sunset, a Gehry and Partners-designed development proposed by Townscape Partners. The $300-million complex is organized as a pair of towers stacked above an articulated podium, rising between five and 15 stories above the city, on a site carved into multiple, leafy public plazas fronting the Sunset Strip. The design for 8150 Sunset was approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission (LACPC) in August and aims to add 249-units of market rate housing, 37 units of affordable housing, as well as 65,000 square feet of retail space. One problem: The developer’s preferred scheme calls for a blank site, wiped clean of the historic bank. The bank’s architectural features, a roof made of folded concrete plates and expanses of glass and stone, invigorated preservationists to make a case for the structure. Scott-Fine told AN that the Gehry project, as presented, would “unnecessarily demolish a historic cultural monument,” and that “there's a very clear way for this project to move forward while preserving the bank building.” The developers were prepared for this turn of events and presented various options for the development to the LACPC in an Environmental Impact Report, including several of which called for the preservation and restoration of the bank structure. The project has been controversial on multiple levels, with other neighborhood factions decrying the project’s density, height, and massing. The LACPC’s project approval itself was contingent on the developers boosting the affordable housing component of the project by nine additional units, from 28 units to 37 units. Regarding where preservation in relation to other complex urban issues like affordability, gentrification, and development, Scott-Fine told AN, “One doesn’t trump another, nor are they mutually exclusive. You can achieve multiple goals at once,” adding, "Starchitecture doesn't trump our heritage." Next, both of the structures will head to the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee for final approval of their nomination status. So far, Townscape Partners have not issued a statement on the bank's nomination. 
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The Getty Foundation unveils this year's modern architecture grantees

As part of its international grant initiative, Keeping it Modern, the Getty Foundation has unveiled this year's recipients for funding. Now in its third iteration, the grant seeks to award a select group of 20th century modern architecture buildings with funds to aid their preservation. Based in California, which arguably has more than its fair share of modernist artifacts, the Foundation proclaims that as of now, "modern architectural heritage is at considerable risk." Here is the list of nine buildings that will share just more than $1.2 million in grants.  
Association de Gestion du Site Cap Moderne Villa E.1027 Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France Built: 1929 Architect: Eileen Gray Funds Awarded: $200,000 Designed by architect and designer Eileen Gray, this dwelling is southern France has a rather sombre history. Essentially vandalized by Corbusier who painted murals (famously doing so while nude) on the building without Gray's permission, the murals were later used as target practice by Italian soldiers in World War II. The modernist house was then later sold onto doctor Peter Kägi who, while grappling with morphine addiction, let the house deteriorate. With rumors of it being used as an "orgy den, with Kägi picking up local boys and offering them drugs and booze," Kägi was found murdered in the residence. Squatters and vandals later occupied the building though Corbusier's art somehow survived. The Villa is now cared for by the Association Cap Moderne, a non-profit organization that has pledged the long-term maintenance of this Monument Historique. Funding will go toward a "scientific study of the original color scheme, climate control research, a furniture study, and a special scientific analysis of the Le Corbusier murals to inform their future restoration."
Highland Green Foundation Inc. First Presbyterian Church Stamford, Connecticut, U.S. Built: 1958 Architect: Wallace Harrison Funds Awarded: $130,000 Boasting a dazzling interior (seen here in AN's previous coverage of the building) the church is composed of prefabricated triangular panels of precast concrete. The interior is illuminated by an array of more than 20,000 shards of amber, emerald, ruby, amethyst and sapphire stained glass. This colorful method of illumination is part of Harrison's use of dalle de verre windows—a cost-effective technique that allows the glass and concrete to work in unison. Now maintained by the Highland Green Foundation, funds will be used to "survey, document, and study the site, drawing on the input of engineering consultants and material scientists." Instituto Lina Bo e P.M. Bardi Casa de Vidro São Paulo, Brazil Built: 1952 Architect: Lina Bo Bardi Funds Awarded: $195,000 The appropriately named Casa de Vidro (Glass House) residency was built for Bo Bardi and her husband as a private dwelling. The building demonstrates Bo Bardi's ability to execute European modernist styles across the Atlantic and in a drastically different, tropical environment. The building is now in the hands of the Instituto Lina Bo e B.M. Bardi, an organization founded by the architect and her husband to publicize Brazilian culture and arts. According to the Getty Foundation, the grant will allow an "international team of conservation architects, landscape conservation specialists, cultural heritage experts, and civil and structural engineers to develop a conservation management plan for the property. The project will also include a 3D topographic survey of the site that allows engineers to identify potentially harmful structural deformations at the smallest scale, not perceivable to the naked eye." Comisión del Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación Cristo Obrero Church Atlántida, Uruguay Built: 1960 Architect: Eladio Dieste Funds Awarded: $150,000 By its full name, the Cristo Obrero y Nuestra Señora de Lourdes church was the first independent commission for revered Uruguayan architect and engineer Eladio Dieste. With an undulating wave-like brick facade running lengthways on either side of the building, Dieste's subtle articulation of light stems from a series of well-placed windows and bricks that contain colored glass. Dieste's engineering prowess is also showcased inside through a bell tower that features perforated walls and a free-standing minimalist spiral staircase bereft of support column and a handrail. Though under the care of the local community, the Getty's funding will facilitate the supply of a "team of national and international experts" that will carry out a "rigorous study of the church and bell tower" as part of a "comprehensive engineering study and a conservation management plan." ArchiAfrika Accra Children's Library Accra, Ghana Built: 1966 Architects: Nickson and Borys Funds Awarded: $140,000 After Ghana escaped the clutches of colonialism in 1957, Accra quickly became the focal point of West African Modernism, symbolizing the country's liberation. The Children's Library in the Ghanaian capital followed suit. With a brise soleil that acts as a simple but effective shading device, while also allowing natural ventilation of the building, Nickson and Borys' design epitomized a radical political change for the country. Though currently in good shape under the stewardship of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the Ghana Library Board, the $140,000 will be used to "ensure that the building is preserved to the highest standards." Here, a team of specialists will "collaboratively research the library complex and develop a conservation plan." The Writers' Union of Armenia Sevan Writers' Resort Lake Sevan, Armenia Built: 1935 & 1965 Architects: Gevorg Kochar & Mikael Mazmanyan Funds Awarded: $130,000 Embodying the utopian ideals of the early Soviet Union, Gevorg Kochar & Mikael Mazmanyan strived to create a functional and egalitarian space derived from abstract forms. Only two years after their writers' retreat's construction, however, the architects fell out of favor with the Stalinist government with both being arrested and exiled to Siberia for 15 years. Returning in the early 1960s, Kochar added a new lounge and rebuilt the existing guest house. Now, the building is still used by native writers as a retreat, though the Getty has acknowledged that many modernist Soviet structures in post-USSR member states are now in danger. The grant will "support the methodical and scientific analysis of the Sevan resort" and aims to "set a precedent for valuing modernist heritage not only in Armenia, but also in other post-Soviet and post-socialist countries." Liverpool Roman Catholic Archdiocesan Trust Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Liverpool, United Kingdom Built: 1967 Architect: Sir Frederick Gibberd Funds Awarded: $138,000 Working alongside a group of artists, Sir Frederick Gibberd was able to design one of Liverpool's most dominant architectural icons. A soaring lantern tower illuminates the interior through its dalle de verre stained glass, creating a sharp contrast in both tone and vibrancy with the raw white concrete of the exterior. Saddled with internal leaking and defects to the mosaic cladding of the concrete buttresses, repair work began in the 1990s. Funding from the Getty will support an ongoing study into the failure of the dalle de verre in the building's Lantern. It will also be used to "develop and test a conservation repair methodology for the dalle de verre glazed Lantern, which is currently the cause of significant water ingress." Nirmala Bakubhai Foundation Gautam Sarabhai Workshop Building Ahmedabad, India Built: 1977 Architect: Gautam Sarabhai Funds Awarded: $90,000 Drawing inspiration from German engineer and architect Frei Otto, the Gautam Sarabhai Workshop Building employs a steel grid frame coated by a thin-shell Ferro cement roof. This allows the interior—which stretches across 134 feet—to be free from any interfering structural columns. Thanks to the building's light-weight structure, it was able to survive the 7.7 richter-scale earthquake in 2001. To ensure this structural performance is maintained, its owners plan on researching and creating a "comprehensive conservation plan." This will include the development of a Building Information Model (BIM) used to monitor and track the structure's condition, of which the Getty's grant will support. Kosovo's Architecture Foundation National Library of Kosovo Prishtina, Kosovo Built: 1981 Architect: Andrija Mutnjakovic Funds Awarded: $89,000 With the intention of establishing an "authentic national architectural expression," Croatian architect, Andrija Mutnjakovic used translucent acrylic rooftop domes, in-situ cast concrete, marble floors, and white plastered walls to create a distinctly modern library. Featuring forms from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires to reflect the areas history, materiality was also used in symbolic fashion with an aluminum lattice skin contrived by some as acknowledging the area's two predominant religions. Though the interior was subject to damage during the Kosovo war in 1998-99, the library's exterior remained remarkably unscathed. Now, however, the hallmarks of age such as leaks have begun to settle in. The grant from the Getty will go toward furthering conservation specialists' understanding of the building, where "every aspect" will be studied while consulting Mutnjakovic himself.
The Getty Foundation created Keeping It Modern to complement the Getty Conservation Institute's Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI).
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"The Destruction of Memory" documentary explores the role of architecture in cultural genocide

In light of the destruction to architectural heritage sites in PalmyraThe Destruction of Memory documentary film couldn't be more topical: it examines "the war against culture, and the battle to save it."

Based on architecture critic Robert Bevan's acclaimed book by the same title, the issues in Palmyra are echoed in the films trailer: "In this war, buildings aren't destroyed because they are in the way of the target, they are the target," the narrator, Oscar-nominated British actress Sophie Okonedo implores.

In what may come as a surprise to some, people—and not buildings—are still the film's primary focus. The Destruction of Memory places emphasis on "those who willingly risk their lives to protect not just other human beings, but our cultural identity—to safeguard the record of who we are, and to provide evidence of crimes against humanity." These individuals provide hope in the otherwise bleak landscape of cultural and architectural preservation.

The film also looks at what and how preventative measures will tackle the demise of cultural heritage in war-torn countries across the globe. Examples ranging from Kristallnacht, the Bosnian War (notably the fall of the Mostar bridge), and contemporary challenges in the Middle East feature throughout.

In addition to this, The Destruction of Memory draws on interviews from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO; Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; as well as international experts including the Smithsonian’s Corine Wegener and architect Daniel Libeskind.

“The assumption has long been that heritage is an unfortunate collateral casualty of war. What this film demonstrates is that, instead, architecture can be targeted deliberately for destruction, particularly in campaigns of ethnic genocide and cleansing," said author of the book, Robert Bevan. "It is vital, therefore, to make more explicit the links between cultural protection and the protection of human rights.”

Director and Producer Tim Slade said “The use of cultural destruction as part of ethnic cleansing in the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s violently exposed the seriousness of the issue, but at international courts and tribunals, recognition of the role of cultural destruction in ethnic cleansing and genocide during these Wars has fluctuated. The links between the killing of people and the killing of their identity are not necessarily being made.” The Destruction of Memory will screen at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City on June 21st, and at the British Museum in London on June 26th.
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Problems in Palmyra: How should we rebuild our ancient ruins?

"The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation," said SS chief Heinrich Himmler, referring to the Polish city of Warsaw in 1944. When Warsaw was systematically flattened by the Nazi party in World War II, an estimated 85-90 percent of buildings, including the 18th Century Old Town, were destroyed. Such was the state of decimation that post-war town planners had to refer to 18th century paintings of the city by Italian artists Marcello Bacciarelli and Bernardo Bellotto to aid its reconstruction. Despite infighting between planners, some of whom wanted to use the clean slate to radically modernize the city, and with minimal help from neighboring states, the citizens of Warsaw rebuilt the city. Now, the reconstructed Old Town of Warsaw is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but what does this say about the role of architectural preservation and authenticity? In light of ISIS's path of destruction, which has seen the loss of architectural treasures across the Middle East, many are already seeking ways to restore monuments that have been destroyed. And similar questions about authenticity are entering broad public discourse. The 1,800-year-old Arch of Triumph in Palmyra, Syria is one of the latest ancient monuments to be toppled by ISIS. However, Oxford’s Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), had other ideas about its fate. The team, spearheaded by director Roger Michel, has faithfully remade a facsimile of the arch.
Using marble donated from Egypt, 3D modeling tools, and photographs of the original Roman arch, the Arch of Triumph has been reconstructed in London's Trafalgar Square. Here it resided for only 3 days before touring the world, due in New York this September. The Arch's restoration, however, has sparked a debate on whether we should restore such monuments. "History would never forgive us" writes Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, who says that ISIS's destruction should remain as a reminder of the horror they inflicted on the city and the Middle East. The Arch has also been hailed as "unethical" and a "reconstruction of 'Disneyland' archaeology." Indeed, it is worth noting that few people were aware of Palmyra before ISIS stormed in and 'put it on the map' so to speak (albeit in the most sinister of fashion). Michel, on the other hand, argues "Monuments—as embodiments of history, religion, art, and science—are significant and complex repositories of cultural narratives. No one should consider for one second giving terrorists the power to delete such objects from our collective cultural record." He also adds: “No one would have seriously considered leaving London in ruins after the blitz." Jones, however, counters that "Palmyra was in ruins before ISIS occupied it and it is still in ruins today." Yet the Palmyra ruins, before ISIS came along, were already a World Heritage Site. With regards to Michel’s comment on the Blitz, the Marshall plan aided London and other major cities, however, the world didn’t donate to Brest, Dresden, Coventry, and Croydon when they were bombed. Admittedly, these cities all belonged to world powers, but historical buildings nonetheless were still lost. What’s interesting in Britain is how post-war architecture is now cherished, with many brutalist structures being nationally listed. The case of Coventry and its Cathedral is a poignant example. Such was the decimation of the city that Luftwaffe coined the phrased “to coventrate." As a result, the city’s 14th Century cathedral was blown out, but its successor, built by Basil Spence and Arup is now a Grade 1 Listed Building — the highest level of protection grantable. Here, a new history has been born. But should Palmyra be awarded the same respect? Or does the age of its ancient ruins nullify this?
Stefan Simon is the Inaugural Director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) at Yale University, an organization dedicated to advancing the field of heritage science by improving the science and practice of conservation in a sustainable manner. Speaking to AN, Simon commented on how reconstruction is not a new phenomena. "It's not only about civil unrest, war, and man-made disaster'" he said. "It's also sometimes about natural disaster. The [Sungnyemun] City Gate of Seoul, national treasure number one of south Korea, burned down in 2008 and was reconstructed."
"If you go down to the conservation of archaeological sites in general, there has been for example the charter of Venice in 1964. Those charters and others speak to how to deal with ruins and processes like reconstruction, while respecting authenticity and integrity of a site. I would say while the Palmyran situation is unique in one sense, in the sense of restoration and conservation, it isn't so new."
A lesson on how not to rebuild history can be seen in Skopje, Macedonia. The baroque and neo-classical buildings, part of "Skopje 2014" (completed in 2015) constructed in the last six years create an altogether alienating experience. Seen by many as an attempt to rewrite history through architecture, the project tries to paint over the built monuments of its socialist and Yugoslavian past and has consequently been cloaked in controversy. Here the existing architectural dialogue has been lost among the myriad of misplaced nostalgia. Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's taste for baroque neo-classical facadism and obsession with classical history has resulted in seemingly satirical postmodern architecture, typified by a "laughable" statue of Alexander the Great. Suffice to say, Skopje is not a world heritage site. As for Palmyra though, the scale of restoration is another point of discussion, as is who's duty it is to rebuild it. If the stamp of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site is any barometer to abide by, then Warsaw sets a precedent in that reconstruction does little to alter authenticity. As to who should undertake the restoration, however, remains open. Simon Jenkins, chairman of England Wales and Northern Ireland's National Trust asks "How much of what has gone should be restored? By what means, and by whom? And where does Palmyra belong, to Syria or the world?" In a globalized era, does the status of being a piece "world" heritage signify global ownership and responsibility? Politics has also plagued the issue: former London Mayor Boris Johnson has backed Michel and demanded that “British archaeologists be in the forefront of the project,” especially considering how “ineffective” Britain was in safeguarding the site originally. And so leading the way, for now at least, is Oxford’s Institute for Digital Archaeology. However, they aren't the only conservation group to go digital. Taking a different approach, yet still using technology, are a group of three under the name “project_agama." The team, led by Lauren Connell, an architect at BIG, are touring parts of the Middle East to translate the intricate patterns on ancient tiling into code. Aided by Baris Yuksel, an engineer at Google and Alexis Burson, an associate at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, they aim to “make sure that our common heritage is digitized, but not to be saved, instead to find new life in the new buildings.” To achieve this, the code transcriptions of pattern-work are made accessible through an open source Grasshopper plug-in that makes for “easy panelization of tessellated tile patterns.”

“This process will both create a record of these works for future generations as well as allow them to be translated into something completely modern and malleable,” the team say on their website. Their approach is arguably much less intrusive than what is being exhibited in Palmyra, however, as a project in progress, its effectiveness remains to be seen.

Speaking specifically about the Palmyra Arch of Triumph replica erected at Trafalgar Square, Stefan Simon hinted at the emergence of a new industrial era. "This ties into a challenge we all are facing—the 4th industrial revolution, the new digital age, providing us with both opportunities and challenges," he said. "3D documentation will help us tremendously in conservation, but the discussion on 3D-recreations however, for me, this is interesting more as a process, not so much as a product. This is just a replica, has nothing to do with what shall happen at the site," Simon commented. "That is a very personal view. I understand it has tremendous potential, for sure, and there are many groups and consortia who are working to document cultural heritage, movable and immovable, in Syria and elsewhere. For example, together with ICOMOS and the California NGO CyArk, we collaborate at Yale IPCH with the Syrian DGAM in the Anqa Project on documenting architectural monuments and sites and providing open access to these data for scholars and global community." Further dilemmas though continue to be raised, which Simon addresses. "What do you do with this digitally-born data? How do you preserve that, make sure it doesn't disappear or the media become obsolete?" Simon asked. "We [conservation professionals], many of us material-focused people, we tend to largely underestimate the challenges linked to the 3D era. I see this virtual world, the 3D recording of sites positively , but we shouldn't mix that up with the conservation of a site. It isn't the same."
Simon also argues that the arch's reconstruction is "certainly a process that needs to be guided by UNESCO and the advisory bodies to the world heritage convention like ICCROM and ICOMOS. We first have to understand that there's a strong interest of the Syrian people to just see Palmyra rise again, if I may say that so simply."
Withdrawing pressure over the Palmyra site is another factor Simon stresses. "I understand the political pressures but as conservation professionals we need to comply first and foremost with professional standards," he said. "Pressure, in such circumstances, can lead to undesirable results. Sometimes more damage can result from a fast and quick approach of repairing and reconstructing, than by the actual disaster."
  "With the attention focusing on Palmyra," he continued, "let's not forget there's tremendous destruction at other World Heritage sites like Aleppo, where the front line passes through the center essentially since 2012, and many other cities. Recently, the commercial quarter of Asrouniyeh in the Old City of Damascus, dating back to the end of of the Ottoman period, was heavily damaged by a rampant fire. With all concerns on Palmyra, we must not forget the Syrian people, who are suffering terribly since years."

The case for conservation, it seems, will always be a source of debate. Though as architecture critic Jonathan Glancey notes in his book, aptly titled Lost Buildings, “Throughout history humankind has made something of a habit of losing buildings as if these were nothing more substantial than copper coin, a hairpin or set of car keys. Even with our greatest and most celebrated monuments we have been, to say the least, careless.”

Perhaps then, it is best we try our best not to add this growing list of deceased buildings. The Palmyra Arch of Triumph "MkII" will eventually make its way to the city after its globetrotting adventure. However, there it will reside only a stones throw away from its 'original' location. Whether it stands as part of a "new" history for Palmyra, or merely fades into its original past, only time will tell.

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After years of work, Louis Kahn's meticulously restored Yale Center for British Art reopens

After eight years of planning and construction, three phases of conservation work, and being closed for 16 months of renovation, the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven—the 1977 Louis Kahn masterpiece and his final building—reopened to the public May 11. The work was based on a conservation plan commissioned by Amy Meyers, director of the center, shortly after her arrival in 2002, when elevator control panels had to be replaced and she realized how quickly design and maintenance decisions could cause a major building to “drift from its original form in unsatisfactory ways.” The plan was written by Peter Inskip of the British conservation specialist firm, Peter Inskip & Peter Jenkins Architects; his colleague, Stephen Gee; and Constance Clement, the center’s deputy director. Using archival materials from Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, the team analyzed the center’s materials and established a series of 142 policies that led to the first three phases of the project. The project’s architect is Knight Architecture of New Haven, headed by George Knight, a 1995 graduate of the Yale School of Architecture and a teacher there since 2004.  (Kahn, who studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, was a professor and design critic at the Yale School of Architecture from 1947 to 1957.)  The center sits directly across Chapel Street from the 1953 Yale University Art Gallery, Kahn’s first commission; both museums are recipients of the AIA Twenty-Five Year Award. The Center describes the project as “an opportunity to reimagine and reconfigure its presentation of more than 500 works from its permanent collection,” the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. 700 objects are now on display, up from 500 previously. The project’s first two phases involved the 2008-11 rehabilitation of its exterior lobby court, and repairs, made in 2011-13, to its lecture hall lobby, and 2013 refurbishment of areas used by the departments of prints and drawings, and rare books and manuscripts. The third phase—involving enhancement of the center’s galleries and lecture hall; upgrades of mechanical and electrical systems; and improvements to fire protection, security systems and accessibility—was undertaken in 2015 and 2016, when the center was closed for 16 months. The budget for this work was $33 million, provided by the Center’s endowment. Kahn’s design for the center was completed after his death by Pellecchia & Meyers, a firm started by two of his former employees. It features a concrete exterior structural frame with pewter-colored matte steel and reflective glass infill panels, as well as a geometric, five-floor interior, designed around two interior courtyards. It employs natural materials including travertine, white oak, and Belgian linen, and maximizes natural daylight with skylights throughout the fourth floor and a series of plexiglass diffuser panels, mounted below the skylights, to scatter light and provide even illumination. Among the most beautiful aspects of the project’s third phase is transformation of the center’s Long Gallery into a teaching and study gallery, as envisioned by its founding director, and creation of a new collections seminar room, located in a former administrative office at the east end of the Long Gallery. These spaces are both on the center’s fourth floor. Movable, Belgian linen-covered gallery partitions called “pogos,” which had previously subdivided the Long Gallery, were removed. This created an unobstructed view of the 140-foot-long space, where over 200 works of painting and sculpture are now presented floor-to-ceiling salon style, across seven bays, arranged by themes like marine painting, the British empire and “into the woods.” The collections seminar room has new floor-to-ceiling white oak wall panels that contain special display systems that permit close study of objects under diffused natural light, and custom, white oak furniture and cabinetry. The center’s lecture hall also has been refurbished. It has a new, central seating layout that accommodates 200 fixed seats and five wheelchair and accessible spaces; new stainless steel handrails and LED step lights along the aisles; new theatrical and house lighting; and a completely renovated audiovisual system, with state-of-the-art recording and presentation capabilities. The precise care taken throughout the project is evident in many of its smallest details: Michael Morris, an architectural materials conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and member of the project’s conservation and design team, advised on restoration of the center’s travertine. The team located sheep in New Zealand that grew the wool used in new, undyed carpet installed throughout the center, replicating Kahn’s original carpet and replacing synthetic carpet installed in 1998.And it was fortuitously able to locate a new version of gallery seating originally designed by Don Chadwick for Herman Miller. The Chadwick seating was selected by the original interior designer, Benjamin Baldwin. In an May 10 interview in New Haven, Meyers, who considers the Kahn building one of the Center’s greatest works of art, said she and the project’s team now plan to “take a breath, sit down and discuss together what the next logical phase in the ongoing program should be.” She also said she hoped the example set by the center would be followed by stewards of other modernist buildings, noting that similar initiatives are in fact underway at Kahn’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in La Jolla, Calif., and his Richards Medical Research Laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania.
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Retrofitting Brutalism: Holyoke Center

[Note: Retrofitting Brutalism appears online in three articles, each highlighting a different project. To read the series introduction and explore the first project, the Boston University Law Tower, visit here. You can find our second installment, the Peabody Terrace, here.] Holyoke Center

• Date of Retrofit: 2018 projected, (original construction 1965) • Architects: Hopkins Architects (Design Architect); Bruner/Cott (Executive Architect) • Consultants: Arup Partners (mep, structural engineering); Faithful & Gould (cost consultant); Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (structural engineering); Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (landscape architect) • Project Scope: Renovation of former Holyoke Center will include much-needed modernization of the building; improved access to Harvard’s information center; enhanced landscaped plazas at north and south ends of the site; new, flexible interior spaces for events; and common spaces to attract varied constituencies within the university. • Clear window film: 3M, Solyx • Installers:  A+A Window, American Window Film

Recently renamed the Smith Campus Center, Sert’s former Holyoke Center at Harvard University is an h-shaped 10-story building offering a panoramic view of the nearby Charles River. With a crumbling exterior concrete envelope and inefficient heating and cooling system, the building is undergoing a significant renovation process spearheaded by London-based Hopkins Architects and executive architects Bruner/Cott.

Two quotations might aptly describe Sert’s dogmatic approach to campus planning and architecture, which often was in conflict with popular taste. The first, from Sert himself, proclaiming his disdain for Harvard Square’s historical colonial architecture that he partially demolished for his Holyoke Center: “Stepping into Harvard Square is like entering one of Dante’s circles of hell in terms of anything associated with human enjoyment, pleasure, or beauty.” A year after its completion, Harvard’s student journal shot back with: “The one nice feature about Holyoke Center is that it’s the one place in Cambridge from which you can’t see Holyoke Center.”

Today, the building—recently renamed the Smith Campus Center—is undergoing a major physical and cultural transformation that seeks to strengthen the Harvard community, rather than to divide it. The university has engaged the university student and faculty body through 25 focus groups to produce a collective vision for the new center. The committee organizing the reprogramming of the building has received over 6,000 survey responses.

While Boston University’s Law Tower received an addition that blended old with new, blurring the lines between Sert’s building and new construction, the Smith Center’s addition will separate itself from Sert’s architecture—a move that seems intentional. Visualizations of the addition promise relaxed spaces full of nature: A natural wood-clad ceiling and light-filled glassy expanses offering glimpses to nearby renovated leafy plazas.

It is ironic that here in the very building Sert used to set forth a modernist agenda erasing the past, a new addition and campaign by the university is on track to culturally erase his project—from the facade system down to the name of the building. “The new Smith Campus Center will embody the aspirations and values that we hold dear and seek to preserve. It will draw us together more closely, strengthening the sense of community at Harvard by encouraging spontaneous interactions among students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the broader community,” said Harvard President Drew Faust.

“We realize if we’re going to save these buildings and have another 50 years of usable life, we really have to make them better than they ever were to begin with. Because as good as they might have been in the beginning of 1960, they’re much better now than they ever were in terms of occupant comfort and ease of movement.”


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Old Cook County Hospital to be redeveloped

After 14 years of sitting empty, the Old Cook County Hospital in the Illinois Medical District may soon be redeveloped by Civic Health Development Group (CHDG), a team of developers, real estate investors, and builders. Selected through an RFP, the group plans to invest $600 million to transform the Beaux Arts structure into a mix of retail, hotel, and housing. CHDG will then pay $2 million in rent annually as part of a land lease agreement that will maintain the county’s ownership of the property.

Originally designed by Paul Gerhardt and Richard Schmidt, and constructed between 1913–1916, the hospital, with its three story ionic columns, is on the National Registry of Historic Places. If allowed to move forward, the first undertaking of the development will be to restore the building’s historic facade. The Cook County Board of Commissioners and Finance Committee are currently reviewing the project. If approved, the rehabilitation could start as early as this year, with a goal of completion in 2018. Currently, the redevelopment plan calls for four stages to include the rehabilitation of the existing hospital building, demolition of neighboring buildings, and the possible construction of a nine-story clinic and administration building. The Cook County website identifies Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill as the architects working with CHDG to design the redevelopment.

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Retrofitting Brutalism: Peabody Terrace

[Note: Retrofitting Brutalism appears online in three articles, each highlighting a different project. To read the series introduction and explore the first project, the Boston University Law Tower, visit here. This second article features the Peabody Terrace; the third piece focuses on the Holyoke Center.]

Peabody Terrace

• Date of Retrofit: 1995, window replacement 2004 (original construction 1962) • Architect: Bruner/Cott • Project Scope: concrete envelope repairs, replacement window system, building system upgrades • Structural Engineer: Foley and Buhl Engineering, Inc., Watertown, MA • Mechanical Engineer: Zade Associates, Boston, MA • CM: Shawmut Design & Construction, Boston, MA • Windows: Custom Window, Plymouth, MA

Josep Lluís Sert’s career was born in Barcelona where, after briefly working for Le Corbusier in Paris, he went on to found numerous influential artist groups influential in the growth of modern architecture. He was exiled to New York City during WWII where he worked on several urban planning schemes for cities in South America. From this experience, he became dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, initiating the world’s first urban design degree program. 

One of his trademarks, prominently found on the facade of Peabody Terrace, are wonderfully colored panels integrated into window systems. “They’re very romantic,” said Cott. “…and surprisingly brightly colored. You can open them up and let in fresh air.” The problem was that these panels were literally the only means to temperature control in the building. All of the dwelling units, despite various solar orientations, ran off one thermostat. Tenants had no control of their heat, often using  Sert’s operable panels to cool their overheating spaces in the winter months. The units were neither air tight or waterproof, further adding to the deterioration of the building.

“That was the extent to the sophistication of what I would call the most innovative housing project designed in the past 100 years,” said Cott. “It was the work of a genius, the way he [Sert] aggregated apartment units around stair cores and skip stop elevators […] an incredibly beautiful exterior without any regard to occupant comfort.”

Bruner/Cott approached the project in the 1990s as a preservation exercise, reconstructing the 500 interior units, repairing the concrete envelope, and designing an extensive replacement of Sert’s window system. Moss said that owners will typically just cover up the issues in these types of aged buildings. “That kind of recladding approach is going to become more and more endemic, but for good modern buildings it is a real problem. Often it skips the step of understanding and then working sympathetically with the original architecture.”