As the chorus of criticism swells against MoMA's plan to demolish the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, a pair of petitions have been posted urging the Modern to reconsider its demolition plans. Also, a crowd-sourced tumblr, #FolkMoMA, is soliciting ideas for reuse of Williams and Tsien's building. With all the action online, will anyone be taking to the streets for some old fashioned picketing? Will anyone chain themselves to the bronze facade? Has all this worry actually left the bubble of the architecture community?
Posts tagged with "Preserving Modernism":
One of Moscow's most iconic pieces of architecture, the cylindrical home of avant-garde architect Konstantin Melnikov built in the 1920s, is reportedly showing signs of structural damage caused by rumbling from neighboring construction projects and is in danger of being demolished. The New York Times reports that preservationists including Docomomo have sounded the alarm that cracks have been forming in the structure and its foundation. Russian preservation group Archnadzor has filed an appeal to President Vladimir Putin in an effort to save the structure from potential collapse. Currently occupied by Melnikov's granddaughter, Ekatrina Karinskaya, the house has not been officially declared a landmark while an ongoing dispute over ownership plays out. According to the Times, Karinskaya said "the construction is part of a willful plan 'to simply destroy the house.'" Preservationists believe the biggest threat to the house is the underground parking garage at the nearby mixed-use construction project, that could, according to a report posted on Docomomo, cause flooding at the house as the garage structure acts as a dam, blocking the flow of groundwater. Other preservations efforts call for the house to be preserved as a public museum storing all of Melnikov's archival material that is largely inaccessible today. More interior views of the house can be viewed here.
Cincinnati's 1938 Frederick and Harriet Rauh House by architect John Becker is a success story of preserving modern architecture. The house was nearly demolished for a McMansion several years ago, but the Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) initiated a restoration project in September 2011 and the revolutionary International Style abode is now complete after just over a year of renovation. The CPA will celebrate the renewal of the Rauh House by hosting a two-day symposium, “Preserving Modern Architecture,” taking place on April 24 and 25. The first day of the symposium will focus on classifying the Modernist legacy and the forces that shape it while the second day will address conservation efforts by reviewing current preservation undertakings. The symposium examines case studies in Ohio and the Midwest, including discussions like, "What’s Worth Preserving? Identifying the Best of Midwestern Modern Architecture." Architecture critic Paul Goldberger will deliver a keynote lecture on "Public Awareness of the Early Modern Architecture and Preservation Implications." In the wake of the demise of Chicago's Prentice Women's Hospital, Preserving modern architecture has become everyday dialogue in the architecture world, and other structures such as the Edward Durell Stone-designed Upper West Side school making way for a luxury tower and the Edo Belli-designed Cuneo Memorial Hospital in Chicago may not survive the threat of demolition.
New York City’s financially-strapped Department of Education is seeking to cash in on a 99,000 square foot lot on 70th Street just west of Broadway, but a local elementary school and the legacy of one of America’s first Modernists stand in the way. If the Department gets its way, the three-story P.S. 199, designed in 1963 by Edward Durell Stone, will be sold to developers and replaced by a 340-foot-tall luxury residential tower in the already crowded Upper West Side neighborhood. Stone’s architecture has faced criticism since the late 1950s, when he moved away from the earlier International Style to incorporate classical reference and Beaux-Arts formalism into his designs. While some of his work, like DC’s Kennedy Center, have won over both the public and critics, other relics of his legacy have not faired as well. Famously, the marble-clad "Lollipop Building” at 2 Columbus Circle faced drastic renovations both inside and out in 2005, effectively erasing any remnants of Stone’s maligned eclectic historicism despite strong resistance from preservationists and the architectural community. PS 199, with its white brick colonnade, dramatic six-foot cornice, and sober monumentality exhibits many of the same qualities that have won Stone praise from some and abuse from others. While it has thus far slid beneath the radar of Stone’s detractors, it may soon face the wrecking ball nonetheless. Neighborhood residents have begun a campaign to stop the Department's efforts, with a petition less than 300 signatures short of its goal. Community members worry that the planned residential development will displace their school, lead to additional stress on already burdened local infrastructure, and lead to overcrowding. While the Department promises to install a new school in the base of the development, like they did at Frank Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street, this concession has done little to appease local antagonism towards the project. One can assume that as this project moves forward, we will here more and more from local activists and preservationists alike.
The slow and tortured demise of Chicago's Prentice Women's Hospital now has an official stamp: according to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern University was issued a demolition permit for the Bertrand Goldberg cloverleaf last Friday. Wrecking crews will be on site in a few weeks after asbestos abatement wraps up, and there are sure to be protesters around the construction fence. Of course, as seems all too common, the city is also busy readying soldiers for the next preservation battle. The 1957 Edo Belli-designed Cuneo Memorial Hospital is targeted for demolition, but Uptown residents have reached out to Preservation Chicago for support seeking landmark status. The group listed the building on its 2012 list of seven most-threatened structures in the city. Add this to what happened to Prentice and it isn’t a good year to be a midcentury modernist hospital in Chicago.
Oklahoma City just cannot tear down its architectural landmarks fast enough! The city and its developer community have been trying to do away with John Johansen's famous Mummers Theater and now David Box, a local developer, wants to get rid of a unique geodesic dome built in 1958 on Route 66. The developer—who claims among other things that the roof leaks and "you can't just call a normal roofer and say hey we got a geodesic dome here can you fix it"—will give anyone who wants the dome a $100,000 bonus to take it off his property so he can fill it in and "make it safe." The structure was originally built to house a bank and has been declared eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and was designed by local architects Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson, and Roloff based on Buckminster Fuller's patented dome.
It has been clear since earlier this year that Richard Neutra's Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg, PA was to meet the wrecking ball, but within the last week, bulldozers have officially destroyed the structure, according to Hanover Evening Sun, ending a more-than-three-year battle over what to do with the mid-century building. Originally designed to house Paul Philippoteaux’s 377-foot painting of Pickett’s Charge, the rotunda is being torn down in order to restore the land on which it has resided since the 1960's to it’s historic Civil War state. Bob Kirby, Superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park, expects demolition to be completed by late April but major efforts to restore the landmark site will not occur until after July 3rd, the date marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Concrete architecture from the 1970s hasn't been faring well of late, but while Bertrand Goldberg's expressionist Prentice Hospital seems destined for the wrecking ball, Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York has been spared. In a 15-6 vote, the members of the Orange County Legislature backed a resolution to renovate the building, defeating efforts by County Executive Edward Diana who has pushed for demolition of Rudolph's dynamic and puzzling structure. The arguments hinged on cost more than on architectural merit, but even so, architecture fans will be relieved that this unique building will be spared.
Amid the latest in a series of temporary reprieves, Bertrand Goldberg’s former Prentice Women’s Hospital was again denied landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Despite once again turning out a crowd of supporters who contributed hours of impassioned testimony, many preservationists were unsurprised by an outcome that they chalked up to political determinism. “I have this suspicion that [owner] Northwestern [University] has put before us a false choice,” said Commissioner James Houlihan, who nonetheless voted along with all of his fellow commissioners to deny the 1975 building landmark status. The commission Thursday reprised, in a way, a vote taken in November, in which they recognized the litany of evidence qualifying Prentice as an architectural landmark, voted to grant the building landmark status, and subsequently revoked their own decision in a second, almost unanimous vote. (The sole holdout during that vote, Christopher Reed, resigned at the end of 2012.) Their reason for doing so, said commission Chairman Rafael Leon, was a provision in municipal code that called on them to allow testimony from the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development. The jobs and tax dollars promised by new construction, they concluded, outweighed the building’s architectural significance—logic that preservationists took issue with on several levels. In December the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council claimed in court that the commission “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority,” when it denied the building landmark status by considering economic matters so prominently. Judge Neil Cohen dismissed that suit in January, but not without raising concerns over the commission’s transparency. “The commission maintains that it did not violate the landmarks ordinance or any other law,” Leon said when it came time to discuss Prentice. To show their methods were “beyond reproach,” he said, they would again hear public testimony. Jeff Case, a principal at Holabird & Root, was among the design professionals who opposed preservation, saying Prentice had “outlived its useful life.” “The building has moved on, and so should we,” he said. “333 East Superior will not be missed.” Carol Post of Thornton & Tomasetti concurred, citing structural problems in the building’s clover-shaped concrete shell. Still many more echoed the sentiments of an open letter signed in July by more than 65 architects, calling on the commission to reject the recommendation of the Department of Housing and Economic Development that previously swayed them to withhold landmark protection. “A Walmart will always generate more revenue than a water tower,” said Preservation Chicago’s Jonathan Fine. Christina Morris, a senior field officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Chicago office, similarly rebuked the commissioners for appearing to sidestep their civic duty. “You have an obligation,” she said, “to protect Chicago’s cultural heritage.” Since the commission’s November decision, preservationists have also attempted to meet Northwestern’s arguments on their own terms. Architects submitted four proposals for reuse that also included new buildings to satisfy Northwestern’s stated development needs. They claimed saving the Goldberg structure would result in an additional $103 million in one-time expenditures, $155 million annually in operating costs, $1.1 million in yearly tax revenue, and create 980 new jobs. Northwestern dismissed those proposals Thursday in a statement that called their economic assumptions “deeply flawed.” The four alternatives were “not viable,” said Northwestern’s Eugene Sunshine, because of structural challenges presented by Prentice and because some of them relied on developing nearby vacant land not owned by Northwestern University, but by Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. Commissioner Houlihan asked Sunshine if it was disingenuous to suggest the sister organizations could not get together and work out a solution to that problem. Sunshine said it was not. Dean Harrison, president of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, later testified that NMH had "long-standing plans" to build something else on the site, but did not provide a timeline for that development. Though Thursday’s decision could mark the end for preservationists in a long and heated fight, another court hearing is set for February 15.
Peavey Plaza, downtown Minneapolis’ celebrated modernist square completed in 1975, fell into disrepair—two of its three iconic fountains are no longer operational, and its sunken “garden rooms” have helped harbor illegal activity. Landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg’s plaza became the focus of a high-profile preservation battle two years ago, with The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) leading the charge to rehabilitate Peavey and city officials pushing for demolition. Now TCLF has announced the plaza has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The “park plaza” style Friedberg forged is evident in Peavey’s blend of hard concrete squares and American-style green spaces. It joins 88,000 sites of architectural heritage on the list, only 2,500 of which have significance in landscape architecture. Preservationists sued the city last year to contest city council’s claim that there were “no reasonable alternatives” to demolition, hoping to win protection under Minnesota’s Environmental Rights Act.
There is some good news coming out of Oklahoma City where the effort to save the late John Johansen's iconic 1970 Mummers Theater has taken a positive—if tentative step—towards preservation. AN last wrote about the theater on May, 11, 2012 when a recent flood in the building seemed to doom an effort by a local group to purchase the facility and turn it into a downtown children's museum. We've kept up with the preservation effort periodically over the past year and always heard that its was a hopeless cause and would soon be destroyed and replaced by a new building. But the building which Johansen himself said "might be taken visually as utter chaos" has a compelling joy in its elevation and plan that makes it unique and certainly the most important structure in Oklahama City. Though it seems to be unloved by many in the local community who would rather see it demolished, Mummers Theater fortunately also has its supporters who want to see it saved and they are taking steps to free it from the wreckers ball. Just this week the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office voted unanimously to forward the building to the National Park Service (NPS) for designation as a national monument. Though the owner of the propert,y The Oklahoma Community Foundation, has objected to the listing, its still a positive step for this important building. A designation by the NPS would not in itself offer protection for the building but would be a sign that it has value and merit. So the fate of the building which Johansen said "gives the impression of something in-process" appears to be still that in process. Stay tuned.
After years of litigation, preservationists have lost the battle to save Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg cyclorama building, an iconic example of modern architecture from the 1960s. The bulldozers could raze this circular visitor center as early as February, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The National Park Service commissioned the glass and concrete building as part of its Mission 66 initiative—a billion-dollar program to update park services across the country—at the Gettysburg Battlefield site. The rotunda was designed specifically to house the 1883 panoramic painting of the Battle of Gettysburg by Paul Philippoteaux. Modern architecture preservationists and Civil War buffs clashed over the future of the building, which resulted in legal action that required the National Park Service to conduct a review of the demolition and explore alternative solutions. But when Paul Philippoteaux’s painting was relocated to a new visitor center, the fate of Neutra’s building seemed sealed. The National Park Services released its report this past September and determined that there was no other alternative but to tear the building down. The Gettysburg Foundation will pay for the $3.8 million demolition.