Posts tagged with "Preservation":

Placeholder Alt Text

Wilf Hall Not Bad By NYU Standards

Yesterday, John Hill, arguably the city's most prolific architecture critic, finished up one of his latest projects, entitled "31 in 31." In addition to his usual flood of posts, Hill is chronicling one building every day in August, in preparation for a new guide book. The buildings are scattershot, ranging from the new Crocs super store in the West Village to One Bryant Park, but most of them are new and, in a way Hill always seems to manage, representative of precisely what has been going on in the city recently—not comprehensive, but authoritative. It's a rundown worth running down, but one building in particular caught our eye: the rather unassuming Wilf Hall at NYU. The project is not yet complete, but it caused quite a stir when it was proposed. Local preservationists objected to the project because it would destroy the Provincetown Playhouse, where Arthur Miller got his start, as well as the home of a number of other old, long-gone bohemian haunts. (Granted prerservationists object when NYU sneezes.) Even though the project is not located in a historic district, master faker Morris Adjmi was brought in, an architect known for his historically sensitive work, including the Scholastic Building in Soho and the High Line Building across from the Standard. Here, Adjmi appears to have pulled off a very nice set of four modern rowhouses, rather prettier ones than the building it replaced. The retained and restored facade of the Provincetown Playhouse is particularly notable for how draws attention to the historic structure, highlighting it instead of hiding it. It is a refreshing building after so much massive development by the university, from Philip Johnson's unusual Bobst Library to the downright awful Kimmel Center. It would seem this is the first project from NYU to make good on its promise to respect the scale and architecture of the Village—a promise that may not hold if its bombshell of an expansion plan is approved in the coming months and years. So what does Andrew Berman, head of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and leading NYU antagonist think of Adjmi's building? He is not impressed, to say the least. In response to a query from the Observer, he sent over the following email:
The Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments was one of the most historically and culturally significant buildings in New York City, and should never have been demolished.  It was the home not only of the world-famous theater, but of a collection of institutions which were called by historians "the cornerstone of bohemia" and "the locus of cultural activity and the gathering places of all the figures associated with the Greenwich Village Renaissance that began the era of Modernism in the U.S."  The entire building had been determined eligible for the State and National Register of Historic Places, and for a mere increase of 17,000 sq. ft.of space NYU chose to demolish rather than renovate or reuse the building, though only five years earlier they had demolished several other historic edifices including the Poe House and Judson Houses just across the street to make way for yet another mammoth Law School building.  To add insult to injury, NYU's promise to preserve in perpetuity about 5% of the original building was secretly compromised when, behind construction walls, they actually demolished part of the tiny theater space and kept that fact hidden, which was only revealed by vigilant neighbors and GVSHP. Is the new building less overwhelming and oppressive than many other recent NYU projects?  Of course, but it would be a shame if that were the sliding scale by which we judged the university. Wilf Hall will sadly always be a monument to the university's broken promises and greed, and to the loss of yet another irreplaceable piece of New York's proud history.
So much for community outreach.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bucky Comes to Town

If you couldn't make it down to D.C. last month for the Environmental Film Fest, it's still not too late to catch one of the entries, A Necessary Ruin. The movie tells the story of the untimely destruction of Buckminster Fuller's Union Tank Car Dome, a piece of railroad infrastructure that was the largest clear-span structure when it was completed in 1958 before being summarily destroyed three years ago. Its epic story will be told tomorrow night next Friday at the Center for Architecture, followed by a lively discussion with Jonathan Marvel, all part of the current show, Modernism at Risk. You can watch the trailer after the jump.
Placeholder Alt Text

Burnham Depot Reno?

Designed by the great Chicago architect and planner Daniel Burnham, this handsome if forlorn rail station may get a new life. Located in Richmond, Indiana, which is about halfway between Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, the old Pennsylvania Railroad Depot has been empty for over 30 years. According to the Richmond Palladium-Item, via archinect, owner Roger Richert recently bought the building for $75,000, but it is expected to take $1 million to stabilize. Richert is working with the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana to identify tax credits and other funding options in hopes of turning the building into a conference center, restaurant, a music venue, or retail space. Though the much of the interior is gone, Richert said the shell is strong, a testimony to Burnham's robust design.
Placeholder Alt Text

Detroit Harkens

Last week, we reported on a new, rather unprecedented plan by new-ish Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to condense the city to fit its current population, which is half what it was six decades ago. Among the people we interviewed was local AIA President Raymond Cekauskas, a huge Detroit booster who sent along the picture above, a reminder of the city's "grand past," as Cekauskas put it. But it is also a fitting image of what the city could very well become under Bing's plan, still in its chrysalis—a little smaller, tightly knit, transit-oriented (yes, transit is coming to the Motor City), in a word, homey, which we mean in a good way. Just look at all the gorgeous homes wanting for salvation. Meanwhile, a Tufts professor looks to Flint and Youngstown for similar shrinking models, though by no means on the same scale. Welcome to the Brave New Midwest.
Placeholder Alt Text

Preservation Gang

On the heels of their much praised Aqua tower, Studio Gang is talking on a very different kind of project, the renovation and conversion of the historic Shoreland Hotel in Hyde Park into rental apartments, and retail and event spaces, the Chicago Tribune reports. The building, which was most recently used as student housing by the University of Chicago, is in rough shape. Some of the once opulent interiors are in tact, but other spaces have been gutted or badly damaged, which could offer interesting opportunities to juxtapose contemporary insertions with historic elements. The project adds adaptive reuse and historic preservation to the firm’s already diverse portfolio. If the project is successful, perhaps it will help breathe life into the firm's other major Hyde Park project, Solstice on the Park, which has been languishing on the boards.
Placeholder Alt Text

Soho Salvage

Another piece of New York City's historic fabric is disappearing. But only for a short time! We hope... Curbed swung by 74 Grand Street today and discovered that deconstruction of the five story cast-iron building was just getting under way. The building has been leaning for years after being undermined by construction a neighboring lot. Because it had gotten so bad recently—some 30 inches out of alignment in spots—the Department of Buildings declared the building would come down before it brought the entire blog along with it. Afraid a unique piece of the city would be lost, the LPC demanded the facade be replaced whenever a new building gets built on the site, and it would be locked up in a city warehouse until then. The LPC signed on reluctantly, as the oldest cast-iron facade in the city was once stolen from such a warehouse and sold for scrap. We've got our fingers crossed this time around.
Placeholder Alt Text

Preserving The Changes

In the world of historical preservation, when it comes to restoring a building, there is often the difficult question to answer of when does history begin and end? So many of our significant elderly structures have undergone numerous renovations and additions, such that stakeholders can easily come to loggerheads when deciding exactly what to protect and what to discard. Just such a drama has recently played out in Hondo, Texas—a little town west of San Antonio—where county commissioners have decided to not restore their courthouse to its original 1893 condition. While the project, which was to receive funding from the Texas Historical Commission (THC), would have restored an 1893 clock tower, it also required demolishing two wings of the building that were added in 1938-40 by the Works Projects Administration (WPA). While there was a contingent of people who were against the restoration because they believed in the historical worth of the WPA additions, in the end it was a question of money that killed the project. Restoring the courthouse was estimated to cost $5.7 million. THC was prepared to write a check for an initial $372,000 to get work started, but after that the state's commitment seemed murky and county commissioners balked at the possibility of being stuck with an obligation to finish the project on their own dime.

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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?