Posts tagged with "Preservation":

The Past Imperfect

For the 53rd Venice Art Biennial, Jorge Otero-Pailos, a professor of preservation at Columbia, made a cast of the pollution on a wall of the Doge’s Palace on the Palazzo San Marco. Trained as a conservationist, he painted liquid latex directly onto the wall and then carefully removed the cast in one sheet. The result, The Ethics of Dust, Doge’s Palace, Venice, 2009, seen in this video, is a luminous scrim that preserves the residue accrued overtime. Such pollution is typically seen negatively, but Otero-Pailos sees it as a record of human activity and questions the impulse to erase these traces of the past.

You Windermere Some, You Lose Some

The Observer is reporting that Windermere, an individual landmark dating from the late 19th Century located on West 57th Street, was recently purchased for $13 million, or an astounding $181-per-square-foot. The sumptuous red brick apartment building had fallen into disrepair some years ago after its Japanese owner apparently lost interest in it, leading to a lawsuit we covered last year. Last Thursday, the commission announced [PDF] a landmark victory in its civil suit, which netted a record $1.1 million payment to the city, $2.6 million for seven displaced tenants of the former SRO, and an agreement from the new owner of the building to restore it to its former glory. (The suits had to be settled before the sale could go through.) So it looks like a win-win for everyone: An affordable gem for some enterprising developers, a windfall for the city, and a victory, most importantly, for those poor tenants.

Healthy Development

We've been following the proposed hospital cum condos plan for St. Vincent's rather closely as its percolated through the LPC the past year-and-a-half, but due to conflicting plans and just a smidge of St. Vincent's fatigue, we couldn't make it to yesterday's latest hearing on the Rudin condo proposal. As we understand it, though, it was no different than the proposal unveiled 51 weeks prior. What was on view, however, were some fancy new renderings of those same old buildings, which you can find here. According to the Times, the proceedings were raucous as usual, with some 80 opponents speaking out against the project, a 233-foot condo tower designed by FXFowle along with a handful of condo conversions made out of historic hospital building. These apartments, developed by Rudin Management, are meant to help finance the recently approved 286-foot hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb Freed that will rise across Seventh Avenue on the site of Albert Ledner's former National Maritime Union Headquarters. "Essentially, they felt the building had to come down," LPC spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon told us today in a phone interview. Did they happen to say how big is too big? "They didn't specify," de Bourbon replied. "They just said it was too bulky and too tall." Dan Kaplan, the FXFowle partner in charge of the project, assured us the firm would be back. "I was encouraged by the Commisisoners' constructive comments on the scheme presented," he wrote in an email. As for these renderings, it's always impossible to tell what a building will really look like once it's built, but these don't seem so bad, do they? Then again, the design team has often been criticized by the commission for manipulating their media to only produce the desired affect. But hey, who can blame 'em?

iToldya So

So it turns out they've finally approved designs for the Apple Store in Georgetown. As we speculated, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson came up with a perfectly appropriate glassy-historicist design, as they already have in places like Soho and Boston. The thing is, after a year-and-a-half of deliberating over designs for the project, and rejecting four previous proposals, what the Old Georgetown Board approved looks suspiciously like what was presented 18 months ago. It's basically the same as the previous proposal from February, except that columns were added to the entryway to make it not quite so glassy. And we thought New York was bad. (h/t ArchNewsNow)
What a difference a month makes. (Washington Post)

My Cousin St. Vinny

The Observer points us to a lawsuit filed today in State Supreme Court aimed at stopping the demolition of Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Union HQ in Greenwhich Village, now known as the O'Toole Building. If you read the paper with any regularity, you should know full well the story of St. Vincent's Hospital's attempts to replace the one-of-a-kind "overbite building" with a 300-foot tall Pei Cobb Freed-designed hospital tower. Well, the lawsuit may be just in time, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission is due to vote today on whether or not it approves the outsized plans for the new hospital building. As we most recently reported, a majority of commissioners are leaning towards approval, meaning the suit may be the last chance to save Ledner's building. The petition, which can be found here, was filed by the Protect the Village Historic District and a coalition of preservation groups and neighbors. It effectively calls into question the commission's torturous 6-4 October vote, which condemned the building in question, on the grounds that the hospital, and its development partner Rudin, were not wholly forthcoming. The petitioners claim the developers mis-attributed their "constitutional hardship"--St. Vincent's argues that it cannot carry out its charitable duties in its current facilities and that it cannot find a suitable replacement site beyond the O'Toole building--and that this hardship was falsely accepted by the commission. Perhaps more importantly, they challenge the fact that the property was knowingly purchased as a landmark by St. Vincent's:
In addition, petitioners contend that because St. Vincent’s acquired O’Toole Building AFTER the restrictions imposed by the Landmarks Law were already in place, the Hospital could not have had “reasonable investment-backed expectations” of the sort that would justify a constitutional exception to the otherwise proper and lawful restrictions on an owner’s use of its property that are codified in the Landmarks Law.
This has been a major issue for preservationist throughout the two-year fight because they fear it sets a dangerous precedent wherein any charity could purchase a landmark, claim it does not suit its needs, and then demolish it. The hope is that with the subpeona power of the courts, the petitioners can bring to light many of the concerns that were never fully aired in public at the commission, such as the financial position of the hospital and any closed-door discussions and analysis performed by the developers with regards to alternative site. Still, one prominent land-use attorney who often goes before the commission doubted the suit's success. The attorney, declined to comment because, on the one hand, a number of associates lived in the neighborhood and were upset by the proposal, while on the other, the firm had and might yet deal with similar claims. Generally speaking, however, the attorney said the commission is always very cautious on such matters. "The hardship is rigorous, it's difficult" the attorney said. "It's difficult to meet the standard, and the commission is sure to dot all its 'i's. Usually, it's difficult to overturn these administrative decisions." Indeed, at the October vote, every single commissioner read from prepared remarks, something almost never seen, especially from the entire commission. An LPC representative even explained that prepared statements were used to be sure everything was on record and legitimate. The rep then added, "You know, in case there's a law suit." Well, the commission's gotten it's wish, so to speak. (The city has declined to comment until it receives the petition, which a spokesperson said it had not.) Whether this turns into another Atlantic Yards, or even another Grand Central, which is what got us here in the first place, remains to be seen. Then again, if they vote down the hospital tomorrow, maybe it won't even matter. But if not, we can only hope Joe Pesci is on the petitioner's side, 'cause he sure puts up a good fight.

LIEBing for New Shores

The Lieb House, Robert Venturi’s second commission and once in danger of demolition, will soon be en route to its new location, but by sea, not by land. After a bit of resistance from Glen Cove town council, the house has been cleared to travel by barge to its new site in the Long Island town. The architect Frederic Schwartz and Jim Venturi, Robert’s son, led the fight to save the storied home. The beach house, completed in 1967 in Barnegat Light, New Jersey, was to be razed and replaced by its new owner. Schwartz and the Venturis negotiated a 10-day grace period to allow them to find a new location for the house before it was to be destroyed. They found a fitting new site for it alongside another Venturi-designed home on the Glen Cove property of Debbie Sarnoff and Robert Gotkin. The two-story, 2,000-square-foot Lieb House will now act as a guesthouse to the main residence. Featuring a large, segmented circular window and curiously large number “9” signage, the Lieb House became an immediate postmodern success. The not quite box-shaped home set the foundation for the then-burgeoning Venturi style. (Video courtesy The Press of Atlantic City). The Storefront for Art and Architecture is hosting a weeklong exhibition, including a pier party to watch it sail by, celebrating the house and its unusual move. Opening on March 11, the exhibition will feature a map highlighting the house’s current location, final destination, and the route it will take between the two. Original drawings and photographs of the house will also be on display. The following day, March 12, Storefront will present a conversation about the house and its fate with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. The couple had deplored the house’s once seemingly inescapable demise:

We think it is architecturally tragic: it is a very significant house. We enjoyed making it a Modernist box with views toward the sea via windows and a roof terrace, and with a big sign: "9". We loved that by accident the round window works as a halo to the neighbor's religious statue, and we loved working with wonderful, understanding clients.

Early on the morning after the discussion, the public is invited to Pier 17 between 7 am and 9 am, to watch the house cruise down the river toward its future habitat. Thirteen cameras, including a heli-cam, will be filming the move as part of a documentary on the house being produced by Jim Venturi.

Kenny’s Paradise

Could it be possible that Mr. San-Francisco-architecture Kenny Caldwell is tiring of the city? He is looking into the purchase of a spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright home in Los Banos, California, an “undiscovered” Central Valley town he calls “paradise.” The house was apparently commissioned in 1954, but not completed until 1961 (Wright died in 1959). It sits in the center of 76 “rich fertile acres” of walnuts and maybe beans (or is that cotton?) with 5 bedrooms, formalized ornamental screens, a koi pond, aviary, and tractor bay. This $2,700,000 “Usonian” dream may well be Kenny’s hideaway or castaway, but I bet his friends are already making plans to visit. That is, if they haven’t had their eye on a little Usonian Automatic of their own!

Astroland, Gone But Not Forgotten

Astroland may be gone, and much of Coney Island with it, but it least its most iconic symbol will be saved. (No, not the Tilt-a-Whirl.) As per a press release we just received, Carol Hill Albert, a co-owner of Astroland, has donated the amusement park's namesake rocket, which once rested atop Gregory & Paul's hot dog stand (an AN favorite).
"This one of a kind Rocket simulator was the very first ride to arrive at Astroland Park, when it was founded by my late father in-law Dewey Albert in 1962," Hill Alpert said in the release. "My husband Jerome and myself are donating this in his honor and on behalf the Coney Island History Project.  It is especially fitting that this Rocket, which was the first to arrive, will be the last item to leave Astroland Park. On the sad occasion of closing Astroland, which has been Coney Island's largest amusement park for 47 years, my husband Jerome and I are heartened to know that the City will be displaying the Rocket in a prominent location as part of the new Coney Island where it can continue to educate and entertain."
The release also said the city has agreed to afix a bronze plaque to the rocket to honor Astroland. And here's a video of its removal a few weeks ago:

The Apple Store Falls Far In Georgetown

While it is relatively old news that Apple (and ur-designers BCJ's) efforts to build a new Apple Store in Georgetown are being foiled by a group of local preservationists--I first stumbled upon it on Apple Insider while reading reports from MacWorld--it was a Bloomberg report in today's ArchNewsNow (h/t) that really got me thinking about the reality of such a store and just how it might take shape. When I read that "Apple’s architects, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, proposed building a store with an all-glass front at street level, topped by a slab of masonry with an Apple logo cut through it," I was rather surprised by the proposal. After all, one need look no further than Apple's three Manhattan stores to see a thorough going commitment to historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Apple's first, and most sensitive, venture in the city was the 2002 conversion (as always, by BCJ) of a sumptuous 1920s post-office in perhaps our most chicly historic neighborhood into an intensely sleek and yet extremely demure flagship. Despite all the straight lines and polished glass inside, the exterior of Apple Soho remains almost untouched, a respectful gesture to the cast iron beauties that surround it. While its--much ballyhooed--24-hour sibling on 5th Avenue has a decidedly more modern look, so does its surroundings, at the foot of the GM Building. Not to mention that, as MAS president Kent Barwick once told us, the new store resurrected an otherwise insufferable plaza. And while slightly more ostentatious than the Soho store (and really, isn't the entire Meatpacking District?), Apple's latest store on 14th Street still manages to adeptly combine a classic concrete loft building with a glassy electronics outlet. Why, then, would Apple make such a radical proposal for such a buttoned up community as Georgetown? Again, the Bloomberg article provides some interesting clues:
It’s not the first time Cupertino, California-based Apple was asked to revamp the design of one of its stores. Three years ago, a Boston architectural commission reviewing the glass façade that Apple proposed for a local store said the design “didn’t have a sense of place” in the neighborhood. Apple amended the design and worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to make sure the store--noteworthy for a giant wall of glass--fit in with the area. The Boston shop opened last year.
You can see the Boston store here, in The Wall Street Journal's brief account of the Apple Georgetown affair. Just looking at it, the Boston store is a far more modern proposal than its historical cousins in New York. Back in Georgetown, the local board that has so far denied the designs is obviously not opposed to a store being located on the premises. Not only is that section of Wisconsin Avenue essentially an outdoor mall, but the building was previously occupied by a French Connection boutique. The only explanation, then, is the old preservationist saw that the developer and architect have put forward an outlandish proposal they have no intention of actually building so that when the actual design comes up for review, it looks rosy by comparison. Now where have we heard that before?

Diane Keaton Mourns the Ambassador

We've followed the slow, sad demise of LA's Ambassador Hotel until it came down to the final, last-ditch effort to save just the Cocoanut Grove. Of course that didn't work out either, so look for a story in this month's issue about the park planned for the space, which will reference the Ambassador's history through an audio installation. Overall, though, it was an unhappy ending. But there was some solace knowing that, the whole time, Annie Hall was right there sobbing with us. National Trust for Historic Preservation trustee Diane Keaton's love affair with historic buildings is well-known around town (and best chronicled in her latest book on Spanish Colonial houses, California Romantica, co-written by DJ Waldie and designed by Lorraine Wild.) In her LA Times op-ed "The Ambassador Hotel lesson" she begins with the same swooning prose of her first visit to The Grove with her father, yet she ends with an authoritative, well-sourced, five-point plan for making the case for preservation strictly a sustainable one. In Keaton's world, we would treat these buildings with extreme care, as if we were wearing white gloves during every waking hour. Oh wait, that's just her. [via Curbed LA]

After the flood

On September 14, the Farnsworth House was engulfed by the Fox River, sustaining significant damage to its interiors and furnishings. The house, designed by Mies van der Rohe and now a National Trust Historic Site, is reopen for tours through October 29 to benefit the restoration. According to a new blog covering the effort, estimates for repairs are still being tallied. While restoration work is proceeding, some suggest that the house should be moved to a more secure location.