Posts tagged with "Preservation":

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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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq4_-iBCqp8 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Auxr7QozFxE 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.”

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Preserving buildings near JFK’s assassination could cost $138M

In Dallas on Monday April 25, the city held a public county commissioners meeting to discuss a uniquely local issue: preserving the buildings surrounding Dealey Plaza, where the 35th President, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald. “As soon as those shots rang out, everything around Dealey Plaza had to be frozen in time,” Brooks Love, chief of staff for Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia, told the Dallas Morning News. The cost to renovate the interiors of two county-owned buildings overlooking the plaza—the 1918 Criminal Courthouse and Jail and the 1925 Records Building—could cost $138 million. Part of the preservation effort includes a courtroom where Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner—and for those who believe in conspiracy theories, possibly connected to the mafia—went on trial for killing Oswald. (An American history refresher: Ruby was found guilty and sentenced to death, but he successfully appealed. Yet he died from lung cancer before a new trial date was set. So he died unconvicted.) At the moment, Dallas County is discussing financing. “The tax rate would stay the same for property owners. The county would use money from its cash reserve that is earmarked for spending on buildings and roads,” Ryan Brown, the county budget officer explained to the Dallas Morning News. Below is a look at the historic evaluation slides Quimby McCoy Preservation Architecture presented to the county April 25. Dealey Plaza is a National Historic Landmark. There is information on the historic evaluation designations of nearby buildings, as well as floor plans and photos—both historic and current—of the buildings' interiors and exteriors. https://www.scribd.com/doc/310417020/Records-Bldg-Historical-Evaluation-Presentation-042616 There is another public meeting scheduled to discuss renovation funding for May 17.
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Retrofitting Brutalism: Boston University Law Tower

[Note: Retrofitting Brutalism appears online in three articles, each highlighting a different project. You can find our second installment, the Peabody Terrace, here. The third installment on the Holyoke Center appears here.]

Stationed between Harvard University and MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bruner/Cott finds itself at arguably the epicenter of Brutalism—the Charles River where reinforced concrete towers thrived in the 1960s due to postwar campus expansion programs and the desire for an effect of stability and permanence among institutions. Bruner/Cott’s pioneering work with adaptive reuse in the 70s, along with extensive experience in managing the preservation of entire campuses of buildings—some nearly entire towns—has naturally led the firm to Boston University and Harvard University , where the architects find themselves reengaging the work of their former colleagues and teachers.

Technical complexities of renovating Brutalism bring forth a new set of preservation issues not seen in the restoration of 19th century clapboard buildings and limestone buildings—namely the cultural and tectonic baggage of exposed concrete. People often dislike concrete buildings. And concrete-formed structures are prone to sprawling and cracking since they are often reinforced and formed incorrectly. There is an art to concrete restoration that not only involves labor-intensive selective demolition, but also a precise pairing of aggregates to minimize the difference between old and new exposed finishes. “This is very fascinating work on a level that is very different than renovating a 19th century Victorian church. Modern architecture is of my time. We were around when modern architecture was new and innovative, and now we are renovating it. Its very interesting to see its faults and to be able to bring it back so it can continue for many years—hopefully many decades,” said Cott.

The following projects have much in common despite a range of nearly 20 years between completion dates. Their stories all stem from what Cott describes as a “downward spiral” of disinvestment—a familiar story that goes something like this: The building is not particularly liked by the public leading to a decline in its use, which triggers owners to stop taking care of it because of costly repairs. The building deteriorates, and its occupants hate it even more. Now demolition is on the table as a solution. The first question from these owners is often, “If we clear out the building, can we demolish it?” All of this effort is ironic for an architectural movement that made every aesthetic, formal, and structural attempt at erasure of a tumultuous past that included the Great Depression and two world wars. But Bruner/Cott sees its work as a respectful blend of preservation and correction of modernism’s faults, and “do the impossible” by making these buildings better than they ever were to begin with.

Boston University Law Tower

• Date of Retrofit: 2015 (original construction 1965) • Architect: Bruner/Cott • Project Scope: New Redstone building; total gut renovation of Tower and Pappas Library; facade restoration. • Consultants: Weidlinger Associates (structural); BR+A (mep/fp); Richard Burck Associates (landscape design); Colburn & Guyette (foodservice design); Acentech (acoustic, av); Atelier Ten (lighting); Haley & Aldrich (geotech); Nitsch Engineering (civil); Faithful & Gould (cost estimating) • Windows:  Graham Architectural Windows • Facade Installer: Sunrise Erectors

The project began with Bruner/Cott compiling a report that paired preservation principles with a development-minded approach. This became the blueprint for renovations to Sert’s Boston University Law Tower. Bruner/Cott’s message to BU’s administrators was simple and direct: “You are the stewards of an incredibly important piece of modern architecture.” In total, the architects added 100,000 square feet to Sert’s composition, which Cott said was already a generally well-defined and complete scheme. “The owners were smart enough to ask the question, ‘Can these buildings be saved?’ which is music to any architect’s ears.”

Bruner/Cott’s comprehensive renovations to the 265-foot-tall tower included building system upgrades that required the insertion of new vertical distribution chases through Sert’s concrete slabs, and a chilled-beam, passive cooling system. Building envelope repairs included the patching of more than 630 separate areas of concrete through a labor-intensive process involving sawing and chipping away at the structure to get behind reinforcement bars. New patches of concrete were carefully color matched to the existing concrete through a process of specifying matching aggregates to Sert’s original mix. The patched areas were bush hammered to match the existing finish. Cott said this method of renovation is invasive not only to the building, but its occupants: “If the owner thinks they can’t afford to move people out of the building, then all of that noise and vibration is something for the occupants to complain about.”

One of the major flaws of this building was the circulation system of the building, which relied on elevators to transport large crowds of students to elevated lecture halls in the tower. During classes, it would take 20 to 30 minutes to clear the room, which was disruptive to the academic schedule. Bruner/Cott reprogrammed the building, swapping in administration and faculty offices for the large occupancy areas, which have relocated to a new five-story 93,000-square-foot addition between the base of the tower and an adjacent library. “We made every effort to make the new construction part of the aesthetics of the original tower,” said Cott. “When you’re inside, you know the building has been renovated, but you don’t really know what is renovated and what is original.” The architects worked to maintain the historic character of the building intact through exposed, board-formed concrete finishes.

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Cincinnati preservationists fight to save 124-year-old Dennison Hotel

Spearheading the efforts to save the Dennison is the Cincinnati Preservation Collective (CPC). Preservationist have argued that if the Dennison is razed, then no historic buildings in the downtown are safe. The owners of the property, Columbia Development Corp., have said that they want to build a Class-A office tower on the site to attract a Fortune 500 company. The CPC is skeptical, citing the fact that Columbia Development Corp. has bought and razed buildings claiming to have development plans only to leave the property as a surface parking lot. In one case an entire block was demolished and has sat as a parking lot for 29 years. Columbia Development has gone through the steps to assess the feasibility of redevelopment or complete rebuilding of the site. A document filed with the Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board outlines the condition of the building as well as the cost of redevelopment. The document states that the building's poor condition currently poses a public safety and that redevelopment would be cost prohibitive. The document also describes one of the reasons Columbia Development bought the property: “This acquisition was necessary to protect the family’s investment in this block of downtown Cincinnati,” referring to the investments made by the Columbia Development Corps. and its parent Joseph Auto Group in the nearby area. The hotel's previous owners had planned to redevelop the building as affordable housing or transitional housing for persons with disabilities or addiction transitioning out of homelessness. Columbia Development Corp. will present their vision for the site, and request a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the building, in a public hearing in front of the Historic Conservation Board at 4pm EDT on Monday, April 18th at the Cincinnati City Hall.
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Why the Met Breuer Matters

Today, March 18th, at 10 am, the Met Breuer officially opened in the former Whitney Museum at Madison Avenue and 75th Street. The Marcel Breuer-designed building has been restored and updated by an in-house design team and New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle. I had the opportunity to tour the building with the architects and Jorge Otero-Pailos, Associate Professor and incoming director of the Historic Preservation program at Columbia University GSAPP. For a full schedule of The Met Breuer’s opening weekend events, visit their website.
The Architect’s Newspaper: What do you think the Met Breuer means architecturally? Jorge Otero-Pailos: Consider the first show that they are mounting there: Unfinished, Thoughts Left Visible. I think it is in part the Met’s way of signaling their view of the building. They are putting this question of the “unfinished” in relation to the building as their opening show. This is something that I’m very interested in because a work of architecture is never finished in the sense that a work of art could be finished.  With art you can express that work is purposely left unfinished by the artist, but in architecture, even if the architect would have wanted to finish the building, it is constantly being transformed and switched and replaced. Now, part of the interesting thing about all of these brutalist buildings of the 1960s is that they shun away from what we call finishes, you know, like drywall and like trim and like paint, so the building itself evokes this sense of incompleteness, but in a that incompleteness is also showing a type of directness, or an idea about materiality and construction technique being on the foreground, which was prevalent in brutalist architecture. How does the intervention express this? It’s a very subtle work and I think it’s the kind of work that will be imperceptible to most people.  I think that’s one of the really interesting things. There has been a major investment in upgrading the building done on the part of the Met, and it will appear to most people as if nothing has happened.  That in itself is radical in today’s day and age, because we are so used to the trend that the institution needs to have a mark, that it needs to be present, that the branding needs to sort of appear and that the new needs to be expressed somehow, and that the present needs to be expressed.  But here, the present is being expressed as a choice, as a choice to pick a building as opposed to the choice to build a building, which to me is very different and unique, sort of a real different idea about the city, even, than the idea of having to build and having to express the institution somehow.  So this suggests a type of separation between the identity of the user and the identity of the building, which is quite refreshing. So there is a separation between identity of the institution and the building? Yeah. I mean, there is this distance between the two, they coexist, but they are not the same.  I think that’s quite interesting, given the fact that most buildings go up today are so overtly trying to give expression to some sort of corporate identity or city identity or trying to embody the user or the financier or, it seems to me that this loosening up of that relationship is really important as a contribution. What is also refreshing is the role of the architect in the process, because what you would typically have is all of the discussion, not so much about the building, but about the personality and intentions of the architect. Here, we’re forced into a discussion about the building, about the object itself—its qualities, its successes and failures. We think about what it enables us to do and not do, what kinds of shows can be in there and not be in there, what kinds of audiences can be attracted to it, not attracted to it.  So it’s about the building, and that, I think, is really extraordinary today when you look at architectural journalism or even criticism, so much of it tends to fold back on the biographical and the figure of the architect as the source of what gives unity and that becomes the criteria for judgment of the work. I think it’s a hard thing in today’s reality to even conceive of having to rethink this building and engage with it, and I would say that, that’s the exciting part about it, that here people are going to be looking very closely at the building, be looking for signs of change, and they’re going to find that it’s been very carefully manicured to appear as if nothing has changed where a whole lot has happened. What is the relationship of the building to Breuer? It is interesting that a building, in a sense, can have a life after its architect that it doesn’t have to be beholden to that, and that it doesn’t require a new architect in order to be relevant for today. We often hear so much about the need to hire a contemporary architect in order to make the existing building feel contemporary. And I think here, the fact that the architect has chosen not to leave their mark. Beyer Blinder Belle has chosen to hide their mark, which is very different and suggests that the building can be contemporary. The process by which the building can become relevant and contemporary again is not necessarily through the mediation of a contemporary architect, but that it is concerned about whether people will like it or not. Will people come back? And so, will people choose it?  And that sort of leaving it up to the public without over-manipulating it is, I think, a really daring thing that the Met is doing. Yeah.  How does that contrast with the New Whitney, the last big museum to open up in New York? They, in a similar way, kind of take that back seat.  At least, my reading of that Renzo Piano building is it’s really taking a back seat to a lot of other factors, like the city and the “public” and the city and the art, in a way.  But it’s in sort of a different way, maybe. Do you see a difference in the way the institutions are treating the idea of museum experience? I think what I would compare is not so much the new and old buildings, but the last exhibition that the Whitney put up and the first exhibition that the Met is putting up.  Whereas in the last exhibition at the Whitney, they basically devoted the whole museum to Jeff Koons as a type of “hurrah of a contemporary artist,” to make the building feel contemporary by using this blockbuster exhibition of a major artist, versus this notion of the “unfinished,” which is a much more, let’s say, intellectual proposition, less reliant on individual name recognition, and more suggestive of a relationship to the building— a relationship between the art and the building on a conceptual level. These are completely different types of positions on the building from the point of view of the institutions. What do you think is the Met’s point of view about the Breuer building? Well, I think that they’ve treated it more like an art object than a building. I think, for example, it is actually sort of telling that Beyer Blinder Belle has decided to leave the image of human touch, you know, the rub, the lifting of the patina of the bronze railings, to leave that as if it still retains that human touch, as if nothing has been redone, and then to redo all the other pieces where there is not that sort of focalization of attention, where you don’t put your hand. I think that, to me, is super interesting. So they basically, looking at that lobby, it has been the focus of all the attention, and it has been treated as basically an artwork, like another one of the Met’s interiors. They collect interiors. When you look at the Met’s collection, it has a very large collection of period rooms where you have a Frank Lloyd Wright period room and you have an early American Colonial period room and a French parlor period room. I think that sensibility of the period room is very interesting, and it’s a little bit the way it has been installed. Also, that big display is like a label for the whole building, like an object needs a label, right? Especially in museum studies. And when you walk into a museum, you look at a painting, it always has a little label next to it. And so that screen is, in a way, the label for the building. It tells us what the building is now, how it’s being used and what to attend to and so on. I think the potential for that screen is very high. I wonder what they are going to choose in terms of artists or people to design that screen. It should be site-specific. But it would begin to question this relationship between the label and the object, and I think that’s really quite interesting. Is this the biggest period room? I don’t think so. I think I would pick Grand Central for that. That’s a big period room. The Met Breuer is probablt the biggest period room of the Met. How do you think that the visitor experience changes with the addition of the public café space in the courtyard, which will be unticketed? Opening up the bottom courtyard to the public is really quite a radical move. That courtyard has been closed to the public for a very long time, and to recuperate that as a public space, so we can walk off the street and go downstairs and have access to the garden in that sunken court, I think is really an extraordinary move. It sort of completely changes the entrance of the building and the experience of the building from the street, and the experience of the visitor off the street.  I think that will make it a huge success with New Yorkers and with visitors that this has been given over to the public in a serious way, as opposed to just the paying customers. And I think that in a lot of very successful adaptations of historic buildings and museums or expansions or whatever, there is always a rethinking of the entrance and of the entrance sequence and of the entrance experience. It’s just very important to so-called directors of visitor experience today, but also to architects. If you look at the work of Renzo Piano, he always switches the entrance on the building. Look at his work at Isabella Gardner Museum, or at the J.P. Morgan Library. He always shifts the entrance of the building, of the historic building and makes you enter in a different way and circulate through the existing buildings in a different way. And by circulating through them in a different way, you rediscover them, because the sequence is different, the expectations are different.  So I think that opening up of that bottom court does that. It really changes the whole entrance, even though you’re still walking through that bridge. The other thing to remember is that enduring institutions in Manhattan have always moved around, I mean, changed buildings. Madison Square Garden started in Madison Square and is now on 34th Street occupying its 4th building. The Whitney itself is now occupying its 5th building.  Columbia University used to be downtown; it’s now uptown. A bit like hermit crabs, institutions change buildings as they evolve. I think the Met Breuer is interesting because it invites us to look at at the buildings that institutions leave behind and ask questions about their continued relevance within the cultural life of the city. What does it mean for an institution to take over another institution’s building? What sort of institutions will be able to inhabit the New Whitney after the Whitney is gone? Or what sort of institutions will be able to go into MoMA after MoMA moves out?  What will be left? Will it be an object to be shared by everyone in this city? To what degree city is a part of the conception of the architecture, I think is really important. If you look at the Folk Art Museum versus the Breuer building, two very different attitudes about museum expansion and how to deal with an existing significant work of art, of architecture. Now, the Whitney benefited from the fact that it is in a landmark area. It’s in the Upper East Side historic district that protects it. Which was not the case for the American Folk Art Museum. But these are different attitudes to buildings of the recent past, if we can call them that. I think that’s very interesting as a point of comparison of what’s happening in New York City. I mean, it speaks to different attitudes from different types of institutions, different understandings of their duty of care. And interestingly enough, the Met just really started thinking about architecture as a department. They haven’t had an architecture department; whereas MoMA has had the oldest architecture department in the country, for that matter. Maybe that’s a modern versus a sort of pre-modern attitude toward conservation? Or maybe they’re two competing contemporary views. And I think in that is also the degree to which the public is allowed to be involved in the choice and in the discussion about what to do with a building. I think it’s been interesting in both cases. Buildings are constantly unfinished. And so, to get to a point where Beyer Blinder Belle and the Met are actually making in-fillings in the blemishes of the concrete invisible, where they have to actually push the envelope of technology to make that in-fill, to me, is really suggestive of a different type of sensibility, a different way of collecting the present towards the future. I think that, for me, that’s one of the most important things. I mean, there are certain buildings that as New Yorkers, you can’t imagine the future without.  And that is part of the future. That is part of a future that is more realistic than this sort of frictionless future where there is no resistance from reality. I think that is part of what this building does. It just resists. It was built to resist the city, right? Interview edited and condensed for clarity.
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Isamu Noguchi's space-age, fluid ceiling is hidden inside this St. Louis truck rental warehouse

In what has become a recurring irony, the poor taste of 20th century corporations has been saving the day for historic buildings across the country. Now as companies like Walgreens and CVS rehabilitate dilapidated banks into drugstores, St. Louis might be getting its first look in decades at a historic Isamu Noguchi designed ceiling hidden above a drop ceiling in what's now a U-Haul truck rental warehouse. Unbeknownst to many, what currently appears to be a clumsy brick and metal paneled warehouse at 1641 South Kingshighway Boulevard in St. Louis, is actually a gem of mid-century Modernism. The building that now holds the U-Haul storage and rental center was originally designed by St. Louis architect Harris Armstrong in 1947 as the headquarters for the Magic Chef American Stove Company. The structure was hailed as a masterpiece of International Style design, which included an ornate curvilinear lobby ceiling designed by none other than the famed Isamu Noguchi. It was not long before Magic Chef would move away and the building would become a clinic established by the Teamsters Union. Eventually left empty in the late 1960s, U-Haul, the current owners, would come to acquire the building in the late '70s. U-Haul would subsequently attempt to repair the now-decaying building and bring the space up to code, though with little-to-no mind towards preserving the aesthetics or architectural features of the building. It would be these very same inexpensive, and sometimes incomplete, fixes that would eventually be the saving grace of the building. Now, at least 20 years since a drop ceiling was added—covering the Noguchi designed ceiling—and metal paneling was added to the exterior of the building—covering its glass facade—it seems that at least some of the building will be returned to its former glory. As reported by local public radio station 90.7 KWMU, U-Haul is planning to uncover the figural ceiling in the spring of 2016. This news comes as a relief to many that remember the original space, believing the ceiling had been destroyed. And though U-Haul has made no indication that they would be restoring the entire building, this move makes it clear that the building could someday be restored. According to circuit court documents from the early '90s, it is very likely that the original windows are still under the metal paneling that now covers the building. In the 1980s, U-Haul was attempting to stop leaking windows with caulk to no avail. As an affordable solution, metal paneling was installed as a rain screen and a visual barrier into the building which holds customers’ stored items. This solution was not immediately accepted by the city’s Building Commission and Heritage Commission, and a series of hearings and appeals were held before the company was allowed to proceed with installation. The Heritage Commission called the plan no less than grotesque in their recommendation to stop the panels from being installed. "The proposed siding will create a design which is not compatible with the style and design of surrounding improvements and which is not conducive to the proper architectural development of the community. The proposed siding would also constitute an unsightly, grotesque or unsuitable structure in appearance, detrimental to the welfare of the surrounding property and residents." Though St. Louisans won’t be getting back their Modernist oven store just yet, it is encouraging that U-Haul is recognizing the worth of a designed space. With every uncovered ceiling or facade, the city gets one step closer to having a piece of its once lost architectural history back.
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How Ada Louise Huxtable Saved Salem: Symposium marks the 50th anniversary of urban-renewal critique

On October 13, 1965, the New York Times ran a piece of architecture criticism on its front page, above the fold, spanning five out of seven columns. The writer was Ada Louise Huxtable, and the topic was the looming decimation of downtown Salem, Massachusetts—near Huxtable’s summer home in Marblehead. “Urban Renewal Threatens Historic Buildings in Salem, Mass.,” read the headline. “Foes Fear Plans Will Mar Old New England Heritage.” Those were the dark years between the demolition of New York’s Penn Station in 1963 and passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966. Huxtable offered Salem as a case study for the postwar urban-renewal movement that leveled “blighted” communities in favor of highways, garages, parking lots, and new construction, all generally discordant in style and scale. Despite a lack of interest from developers, Salem aimed to demolish 82 percent (39 acres) of the buildings in its historic core. “Across the country, the battle between history and the slipping tax base is on,” Huxtable wrote. But the “conditions, assumptions, and values that make the bulldozer seem the only practical tool” were empty, including the “conservatism and shortsightedness of local commercial interests.” The piece struck nerves nationwide. Within ten years, Salem’s administration had changed, the plan had died, and Salem had launched a public-private program to restore facades, renovate interiors, and improve landscaping and circulation. In 1974 and ‘75, Huxtable wrote follow-up stories, “How Salem Saved Itself from Urban Renewal” and “Good News From the Witch of Salem.” The 50th anniversary of her pivotal piece inspired a symposium held Friday, September 25 at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum, “ Mightier Than a Wrecking Ball: How Ada Louise Huxtable Saved Salem.” Co-sponsored by Historic Salem, Inc., the Peabody Essex Museum, and Historic New England, the event was conceived in part by Ed Nilsson, a Salem architect who had worked with Huxtable on modifications to her 1958 ranch in Marblehead. Following a short film on Huxtable’s local impact, four speakers shared different perspectives. Christopher Hawthorne, of the Los Angeles Times—whom Huxtable, near the end of her life, called the best architecture critic in the country—broadened the context in his keynote address. Thanks to urban renewal, he said, “We’re still trying to recover from the radical remaking of the landscape” in downtown Los Angeles. Hawthorne called for a change in the 50-year mark of a building’s maturity, as the digital age is having a “profound impact on the speed with which we forget about and rediscover” architectural movements. Preservation advocates, he argued, need to “get ahead of the curve of popular taste, and that means...talking now not about the ‘60s or even the ‘70s, but the 1980s and even the 1990s.” For longtime Huxtable fans, Eric Gibson, arts and culture editor at the Wall Street Journal, delivered a rare treat: scenes from the process of working with “Ada Louise.” Being her editor, he quipped, was “the closest thing to a sinecure...in contemporary journalism.” After an anecdote about touring the George Washington Bridge Bus Station with the elegant octogenarian, Gibson traced the groundwork for her blistering 2012 critique of the proposed renovation of the New York Public Library. “She wanted to make sure the tone was absolutely right,” he emphasized. “She didn’t want to come across as shooting from the hip.” Even so, the story exploded, and, like her original Salem piece, it “shifted the ground of the debate.” Huxtable died a month later, and the library killed the project the following year. Elizabeth Padjen, FAIA, founder and former editor of ArchitectureBoston magazine, presented a balanced history of Salem’s urban-renewal effort. Reminding the crowd that fear and distrust of cities ran deep in the 1950s, she used archival photos to show how troubled Salem had become: Old Town Hall (1816) was surrounded by boarded-up buildings, and “even the bars were closing.” Models of the renewal plan showed how overwhelmingly destructive it would have been, and how poorly it would have been executed. Spotlighting the arrival of the right professionals at the right time, Padjen narrated Salem’s resurgence, over the course of the 1970s, into a place that “celebrates its heritage.” Donovan Rypkema, principal of the Washington, D.C.–based consultancy PlaceEconomics, made an animated case that bolstering a city’s tax base does not, in fact, mean replacing old buildings with new construction. Historic districts, he argued, have economic attributes that can be counterintuitive. If well maintained, they are consistently popular places to live; their density packs more taxpayers into a given area; and they draw “heritage visitors,” who are known to spend well in local businesses. Carl Nold, president and CEO of Historic New England, moderated a panel discussion on preservation and economic development. Throughout the afternoon, Huxtable’s legacy was honored with intelligence and affection. “Her writing effected change,” Gibson said, “preventing catastrophic and irreversible destruction to our architectural heritage and quality of life.”
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Before the Department of Homeland Security moves into its old insane asylum home, the National Historic Landmark will need some intense TLC

Although a designated landmark, the proposed new site for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the heart of the St. Elizabeths West Campus, Washington D.C., is an intense fixer-upper. Working with architects Shalom Baranes Associates and contractor Grunley Construction, the General Services Administration proposes a total renovation of the 264,300 square foot Center Building, a collection of seven connected structures that served as patient treatment rooms and administrative offices for the original Government Hospital for the Insane. It later became known as the St. Elizabeths Hospital. Once rehabilitated, the Center Building will house the DHS headquarters and the Secretary’s Office. Located north of the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters, the 176-acre west campus was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1990. The Center Building was shuttered three years ago following the transfer of St. Elizabeths Hospital functions to the east campus, and photos submitted to the National Capital Planning Commission show that the building is deteriorating on the inside. Its exterior openings were boarded up in 2014 in advance of its reuse. "Basically, this project entails the integration of a completely new building within the envelope of the original and restored facades,” reads the submission to the NCPC. “Critical to the project's success is not only the preservation of important historic fabric, but the optimum interplay between historic planning ideals and modern, efficient workspace." The preservation and restoration project includes building stabilization from below grade, masonry repairs, window replacements, the removal and reconstruction of interior walls and floors, porch reconstruction, and landscape upgrades, among other fixes. To finance the repairs, President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget request includes $379.7 million to fund the second and third phases of the DHS campus consolidation.