Posts tagged with "Preservation":

Less is More on Lakeshore

Photographers and videographers William Zbaren and Robert Sharoff interviewed architect Ron Krueck about his firm's restoration of Mies van der Rohe's  towers at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, better known as the Lake Shore Drive apartments. Krueck, a principal at Krueck + Sexton Architects, calls the towers "revolutionary" for their time for their delicacy and lightness. The video is accompanied by beautiful photographs of the exteriors and grounds.

A Castle Near the Sand

With snowpocalypse about to descend on the city, summer feels a long way away. But there is cause for sun-soaked celebration today, as the Landmarks Preservation commission calendared the Shore Theater, the first step in the public review process to make the building an official city landmark. The calendaring is actually the first fruits to bear from the Bloomberg administration's 13th hour deal with developer Joe Sitt. It will be months before amusements return to a saved Coney Island, but a major negotiating point for the community—and the amusement community in particular—was more landmarks in Coney to protect the area's historic buildings from the flood of development the city's rezoning hopes to create. So far, there are no other buildings in the docket besides the 1920s theater-and-hotel building, though, which could be cause for concern—especially after the area's oldest building recently suffered water damage. Still, after decades of deterioration, any progress is good. In other landmarks news... The commission also calendared today the Gramercy House and the Addisleigh Park Historic District. The former is an apartment building on East 22nd Street designed by Edward and Charles Blum in 1929 and completed in 1931. The building, according to the commission report, boasts "textured brickwork, contrasting base and striking polychrome terra cotta trim." Meanwhile, the latest proposed historic district (the 101st?) is located in Queens and comprised of 426 buildings, the St. Albans Congregational church and its campus, and 11 acres of St. Albans Park. Many of the buildings date from the 1910s to 1930s, and according to this page on the Historic Districts Council's website, the area was an enclave in the 1950s for the city's well-to-do blacks, including Jackie Robinson, W.E.B. DuBois, Count Basie, Joe Louis, and Ella Fitzgerald, among other notables. Here's a map of the area, and you can see it in GoogleMaps here. Finally, the commission voted in favor of two new landmarks today. The Penn Club, formerly the Yale Club, is located on 44th Street between 5th and 6th avenues, near a clutch of other robber baron-era clubhouses. The 11-story building was completed in 1901 on commission from Yale, with designs by two Yalies and McKim, Mead, & White alums, Evarts Tracy and Egerton Swartwout. The building was later acquired by Penn. The other new landmarks is the 143 Allen Street House, which was built around 1830 for ship captain George Sutton, a time, as the commission report notes, "when the Lower East Side was a fashionable residential district." And so the circle is complete. These two buildings also had hearings the same day as Paul Rudolph's 23 Beekman Place, so it's quite possible that building could be coming up for a vote in the near future as well.

Yankees Do Over Dandy

This weekend, a lot of New Yorkers were fixated on Yankee Stadium, though for far different reasons than the Times, which paid the House That Ruth Didn't Build some overdue (or undue, if you're a Steinbrenner) attention. The biggest and most alarming story was that the vaunted stadium—the most expensive ever built in the U.S., in part thanks to questionable public financingwas cracking, particularly in the ramps, a troubling spot given all the foot traffic. It was revealed over a year ago that a faulty concrete tester was employed on the project, along with hundreds of others in the city, though it also turns out the mob was involved in pouring all that concrete. The Times' description is so matter of fact as to be breathtaking:
The ramps were built by a company accused of having links to the mob, and the concrete mix was designed and tested by a company under indictment on charges that it failed to perform some tests and falsified the results of others. But it is unclear whether work performed by either firm contributed to the deteriorating conditions of the ramps.
Turns out the ramps are safe, according to a Department of Buildings inspection, but given recent revelations about the mob's infiltration of that city agency, we're glad we're Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Then again, maybe not. Elsewhere, About New York columnist Jim Dwyer took the team to task for not yet making good on its promise to replace the city park on which the new stadium sits with one on the site of the old one, forcing local Little Leaguers to travel as far as Staten Island for "home" games. Then again, part of the reason the Bronx Bombers could be dragging their heals is that preservationists are still fighting to keep part of the old Yankee Stadium intact at that new park, a facadist reminder to what once was. Or maybe all the mob contractors were too busy with other projects to get started on this one.

Crowning 23 Beekman

While the big news out of the LPC today was the approval of 980 Madison, there were quite a few noteworthy developments as well, namely the designation of three new landmarks and the calendering of 23 Beekman Place, better known as the Paul Rudolph house, which is the first step in the designation process. Poking fun at her fellow colleagues who had been skeptical of the Norman Foster designed addition at 980 Madison, which had been approved earlier in the day, commissioner Margery Perlmutter quipped, "Sometimes a rooftop addition does become a landmark." Rudolph's quixotic construction was completed in 1977, though he would revise it, like much of his work, until his death two decades later. It sits atop an otherwise typical Upper East Side brownstone built in 1900, and it also happened to be occupied by Catherine Cornell, who bought the rowhouse in the 1920s, just as she was becoming a major star on Broadway. Winking back at Perlmutter, commissioner Pablo Vengoechea remarked that were Rudolph applying for the addition today, there is no way the commission would support it. It was also pointed out that the interiors, once a testing ground for Rudolph's design ideas, would not be landmark in light of a rather drastic renovation earlier this decade. As for the new landmarks, they are the former Jarmulowsky Bank building at the corner of Canal Street and Orchard Street, the Ralph and Ann Van Wyck Mead House on Second Avenue near 7th Street, and the Lamartine Place Historic District, a contiguous row of houses on West 29th Street between 8th and 9th avenues. The first is, as the name suggests, the former 12-story headquarters of a Lower East Side bank built in 1911-1912 in the Beaux Arts style out of limestone and brick. It was praised by the commissioners for being a monumental structure in an otherwise low-rise neighborhood, which is perhaps why it is currently on the market for many, many millions of dollars. Perhaps the building was built because someone tried to cash an equally large check at the bank's former location in 1905. The Mead House happens to be the world's oldest halfway house for women, having been bought by the Womens Prisoners Association in 1874, a decade after the townhouses construction. Despite the ominous sounding name, it is this uninterrupted ownership that helped keep the house intact for so long. As commission chair Robert Tierney put it, "The strands of history that flow through this house are amazing." Finally, the Lamartine Place Historic District [PDF] protects a row of houses in Chelsea originally developed by William Torrey and Cyrus Mason in the 1840s. In the proceeding years, two of the houses would become important stops on the Underground Railroad, one of which was attacked during the notorious draft riots 1863. Many of the Greek Revival buildings still stand, some even relatively intact, but two were considered so altered, they were removed from the district. "This is an important row and a very important reminder of the draft riots," Vengoechea said, adding that he hoped this bit of history could somehow be incorporated into the site.

So Long SCI-Arc

"I hadn't even heard about it," Ray Kappe told us when we called him to find out about an item in Curbed the other day noting that the Santa Monica City Council had overturned a ruling by the Landmarks Commission that would have designated SCI-Arc's original home as a historical icon worthy of preservation. Kappe, who founded the school in 1972 at a 1950s industrial building at 3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue [map], actually sided with the council in its decision, calling the building "messed up completely." He said it used to sport "a pretty good 30s modern look. It had good character, but now it's got dumb character." That's because at one point the landlord replaced the ribbon windows with generics, among other changes. According to Curbed, "The city's Landmarks Commission made the site a landmark in February 2008 based on its relationship with SCI-Arc and Kappe, its reflection of the neighborhood's development, and its architectural merits, which include what the Commission's action says is a 'late Bauhaus, mid-century fenestration pattern.'" But now, the council has overturned that decision because, according to a staff report, "The structure is a common example of a utilitarian, vernacular industrial building that has been significantly altered. It is not unique in design or rare architecturally." With appeal in hand, Curbed speculates new owners NMS Properties are going to build apartments on the site, which Kappe thought was a fine idea. "The building was good and it served its purpose, but I don't think it should stand in the way of somebody's development," he said. Might we suggest a certain Southern California architect educator for the job of building NMS' new apartments?

Bathing Beauty

Since My Architect, interest in Louis Kahn’s work has grown exponentially, and many of his lesser-known buildings have received greater care. Among the most endangered was the Trenton Bath House in Ewing, New Jersey. Though it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, it’s future was uncertain until 2007 when the Township of Ewing and Mercer County, NJ acquired the property and agreed to restore it, a process you can now follow on a new website. The project, which includes restoration of the four connected pyramid-shaped pavilions and two day camp pavilions as well as the reconstruction of two additional day camp structures and landscape improvements, is being led by Farewell, Mills, and Gatsch Architects. If you'd like to see the structures in person, the mayor of Ewing is hosting a celebration for the structures on Monday, September 14 from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. The free event will be held at site, now part of the Ewing Senior and Community Center, which is located at 999 Lower Ferry Road.

An Olympic Conundrum for Chicago

We've been following Chicago's Olympic bid rather closely of late, and not only because we're on the way to inaugurating a Midwest edition of the paper. First, there was SOM's intriguing proposal to create "sustainable," "low-impact" Olympics that would have few legacy costs by using temporary facilities, an approach the IOC apparently favored. Then there was the impact of that plan, which still called for the demolition of some buildings—as well as hundreds of trees in Washington Park—most notably at the Walter Gropius-designed Michael Reese hospital campus. Outcry from preservationists led the city to delay demolition, which made time for the preservationists to develop alternative plans. Olympic opponents may be catching another break now, as, ironically enough, the very things the IOC purportedly liked about Chicago's bid-lite may also be its undoing. The IOC released its evaluation report today, which outlines the strengths and weaknesses of of each city's bid a month in advance of the final selection. In addition to Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, and Madrid are vying for the games. Reports indicate the South American city could be the favorite, while Chicago's proposal was called "ambitious," which sounds like damning praise, with the Tribune doing a good job of highlighting the curious position the IOC has laid out:
A risk highlighted for Chicago's bid, the planned use of many temporary venues, reflects an IOC desire to have its cake and eat it, too. Based on the 2003 report of a Games study commission, the IOC espouses the idea of not wanting host cities to build expensive, permanent venues that will become underused, costly-to-maintain white elephants. Yet it also is thrilled when a city like Beijing goes overboard to do just that. In its detailed evaluation of the Chicago bid's response to the 17 themes assessed, the report praises the city's concept for being ``in line with the IOC Games Study Commission recommendation to `build a new venue only if there is a legacy need...''' In the same sentence, the report says that means a greater burden on the Olympic organizing committee (OCOG) to pay for and deliver that part of the project, as opposed to cities that build permanent structures and do not assign their cost and development to the Games operations (OCOG) budget. In its summary of the Chicago bid, the report says there is increased risk in Chicago due to an ``emphasis on major temporary or scaled-down venues.'' That includes the Olympic Stadium, which would be a temporary, 80,000-seat structure. Chicago bid officials have insisted their venue plan not only is financially responsible but could be a model for future Olympic host cities.
Clearly, cost is a concern, especially in these economically challenging times. Still, the ambivalence the IOC has for what exactly it wants is amusing, if not downright frustrating. That is, of course, unless you're a preservationist wanting nothing to do with the current Olympic bid. Oh, and guess what else is a concern? The weather, of course. Or, as only the FT could put it, "meteo­rological shortcomings." (h/t ArchNewsNow)

NYU Destroys Again

Curbed directed us to a travesty in the Village today, albeit an unsurprising one. It appears NYU, in constructing a new building for the law school, damaged the shell of the Provincetown Playhouse, which it had promised to preserve. We say this is unsurprising because, as we recall and Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation again confirmed, this is precisely what preservationists feared would happen. You see, a lot of people assume, that like the rest of Greenwich Village, that NYU's Washington Square Park campus is also landmarked, and therefore protected from overdevelopment, especially from the at-times over-zealous educator. Trying to improve its image and community relations, however, the school sometimes agrees to preserve buildings it technically would have to, though with little oversite. In the case of the Provincetown theater, which we covered last June, NYU declined to save the entire building on MacDougal Street—it's being replaced by Morris Adjmi—but they would retain the shell of the Provincetown Playhouse, the launchpad for Eugene O'Neill and Off Broadway theater. Berman and other preservationists were suspicious of the deal, however, because a similar one had been cut at the start of the decade, when NYU promised to save the facade of Edgar Allan Poe's home on nearby West Third Street as part of another law school building, Furman Hall. After a long court battle to save the building, with such bigs as E.L. Doctorow and Lou Reed weighing in, NYU was told it could demolish the "non-contributing" building, but it agreed to incorporate pieces of the original into the new building. But just as happened earlier this month at the Provincetown, the Poe house was damaged during construction, and had to be replicated from scratch. Berman, in an email, called it "classic NYU:"
This is exactly what happened with the Poe House, and it's classic NYU. I have some pictures from the early stages of their doing this (see attached—I don't know if they've done more since then). There is no recourse with LPC because the building is not landmarked (the city refused to). Our hope is that this will make city and local elected officials take a closer look at NYU and their lack of honesty and willingness to abide by their own commitments, and in the future will not support such plans as happened in this case.
NYU told The Villager the damaged wall "was found to be made partly of rubble and unstable." The school says it has put construction on the south side of the building on hold—it will continue on the north side—while a report is prepared. Among other unsurprising surprises is that NYU did not know about the damage until last week, weeks after the damage was done, as though preserving that wall were somehow not one of the prime directives for the contractors on the site. Apparently, NYU's priorities remain their own and no one else's.

Wright Room Service

A non-profit group in Mason City, Iowa is restoring the last remaining Frank Lloyd Wright designed hotel, according to the AP. Completed in 1910, the Park Inn Hotel complex also includes a bank branch and a small office building. It had previously been used as a hotel, apartments, and a strip club.

The building was owned by the city, which after failing to sell the structure on eBay (they were asking $10 million for the dilapidated structure), turned it over to the Wright on the Park, Inc., which pledged to restore it using public and private funds. They recently received an $8.2 million grant from the state of Iowa toward the project and are looking to raise an additional $2 million.

When the renovation is complete, the hotel will include 20 suites. Though the group can claim that the Historic Park Inn is the only extant hotel designed by Wright, the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, originally designed as an office building and residence, has been converted into a hotel.

Put Up A Parking Lot

Despite interest from developers and pleas from activists in St. Louis, yesterday the Missouri Circuit Court ruled that the demolition of the mid-century modern San Luis Apartments can proceed. An appeal brought to the court by The Friends of the San Luis last week attempted to prevent the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which owns the building, from the further demolition of the structure. The Archdiocese wants to build a surface parking lot on the site, creating a large gap in the urban fabric of Lindell Boulevard. The Friends group is organizing a rally to be held at the site tonight to show its continued intent to preserve this “high-merit” building and to protest the court’s decision. Further appeals to halt demolition may also be brought by the group.

Last Gasp for Gropius?

The demolition of the Michael Reese hospital campus in Chicago, partially designed by Walter Gropius, has been put on hold until after October 2, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will announce the host city for the 2016 Games. Preservation groups are pushing for adaptive reuse of some of the buildings, but the city is determined to clear the site for either an Olympic Village or for private development. The delay, then, probably does not signal a victory for preservationists. It is more likely a calculated move on the part of the city and Chicago 2016 to quiet opposition until after the IOC makes its decision. (Community Media Workshop via Blair Kamin.)

Prospecting for Landmarks

Last week, Prospect Height's became the city's newest landmark district. At 850-odd buildings, it is the largest district to be created since the Upper West Side Historic District was created in 1990. Clearly, a lot of work went into the three-year effort championed by locals and the Municipal Art Society and driven largely by the nearby Atlantic Yards project and the undue development it spurred on one of Brooklyn's last unprotected brownstone neighborhoods. To highlight just how hard it is, but also what a triumph, MAS put together this thoughtful little video. Hopefully it will inspire you to do something civic minded as well on this patriotic weekend or beyond.