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The Role of Tradition and Innovation in the City

This article was written by Rodrigo Bitencourt and Gláucia Dalmolin, and translated from Portuguese by Rodrigo Bitencourt.

The city and civilization are concomitant phenomena. The city can be seen as a receptacle that both accommodates and transmits civilization. In fact, as man differs from other creatures in his ability to learn indefinitely, his perfectibility (ants that lived six thousand years ago had the same features of current ants: they are confined to a narrow range of behaviors dictated by their genetic programs), he acquired the power to extrapolate nature and thus build in his own way, creating history. As every human life is unique and no one can predetermine how it will be carried out, it could be said that the human being bears a historical duality: the individual history, or education, and the collective history, or culture.

Fresh Bid To Save Robin Hood Gardens From Demolition

It has been reported that London's Robin Hood Gardens housing estate, which was thought to be finally condemned in March 2012, has re-entered a state of flux due to governmental indecision. The former UK Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, gave the housing scheme an immunity from listing certificate in 2009, meaning that no concerned party could bid for it to gain protected status under British law. This certificate, designed to ensure that the buildings would be swiftly demolished, has now expired. This has led the Twentieth Century Society (C20) to launch a new bid for the estate to be both saved and protected.

Artefacts Under Attack: What Has Been Damaged And To What Extent?

In an article for the Financial Times (FT), writer and historian Simon Schama examines world conflict zones and the efforts to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable architectural and cultural sites. If history is a measure, then Schama's study of William “Basher” Dowsing - an Englishman who, in the winter of 1643, "made it his personal mission to obliterate as much as he possibly could of sacred art in the churches and colleges of East Anglia" in the name of religion - is pertinent now more than ever.

'The Rom' Becomes Europe's First Listed Skatepark

English Heritage has awarded a Grade-II listing to "The Rom," a skatepark in Hornchurch on the outskirts of London. Built in 1978, the Rom was one of the UK's first wave of purpose-built skateparks, and probably the most complete example found in the UK today. The listing makes the Rom the first protected skatepark in Europe, and just the second in the world after Tampa's "Bro Bowl" was added to the USA’s National Register of Historic Places last year.

More on the listing decision after the break

© Played in Britain © Played in Britain © Played in Britain © Played in Britain

The Proliferation of "Cultural Genocide" in Areas of Conflict

In an article for the London Evening Standard, Robert Bevan examines one of the many often overlooked consequences of conflict: the destruction of monuments, culture, and heritage. With heightened conflict in the Middle East over the past decade an enormous amount of "cultural genocide" has occurred - something which Bevan notes is "inextricably linked to human genocide and ethnic cleansing." Arguing that "saving historic treasures and saving lives are not mutually exclusive activities," case studies from across the world are employed to make the point that with the loss of cultural heritage, most commonly architectural, the long term ramifications will resonate throughout this century.

Does Heritage Have The Power To Change Lives?

In a recent article for The Telegraph Jonathan Ruffer, a hedge fund manager turned campaigner for architectural heritage, discusses the significance of historic buildings in a time when they are "increasingly having to justify itself in the cold light of cost cuts." The notion of architectural "heritage" covers not only castles and stately homes but increasingly post-war and early contemporary structures. Speaking from a financier's point of view, Ruffler examines the "gulf" between public and private funding for restorative architectural schemes alongside the difficulty of mobilising large bodies to activate change. Arguing that "heritage has the power to change lives," the need for people to engage with their built heritage is more important than ever. Read the article in full here.

Architect Offers to Buy Paul Rudolph’s Endangered Government Center

Paul Rudolph’s threatened Orange County Government Center has new hope. According to a report by Architectural Record, New York City architect Gene Kaufman has offered to purchase the building and transform it into artist studios, though under one condition: Kaufman’s practice Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman must be commissioned to design the city’s new government building adjacent to the brutalist landmark. This news comes a week after an 18-3 vote secured plans to restore a portion of Rudolph’s building and return it to its former use. 

Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Research Tower to Be Restored

Partially credited to the spotlight cast by MoMA’s "Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal" exhibition, SC Johnson (SCJ) has agreed to restore their 15-story Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Research Tower as a museum and corporate office in Racine, Wisconsin. Wright’s only constructed taproot-core, the 1950s tower is “an inspiring example of cantilever construction with an inner core extending 50 feet into the ground that provides support for the 16 million pound structure,” described SCJ. “The taproot core bears a strong resemblance to the lily pad-like columns seen throughout SC Johnson’s Administration Building, another Wright-designed facility.” 

Four Post-War UK Buildings Given Heritage Status

Four post-war buildings, including the Spectrum Building by Norman Foster and Capel Manor House by Michael Manser, have been elevated to the Heritage List by the UK's Architecture and Heritage Minister Ed Vaizey. Upon announcing the news, the Minister commented that in spite of England's "fine and wonderful built heritage it's sometimes forgotten that we have many outstanding modern buildings too." His listings show that "architecture in this country is very much alive and well in the modern world."

Read more about the buildings after the break...

Turkish Parliament Passes Bill to Protect Historic Skylines

In an effort to protect Turkey’s historic skylines from uncontrolled urbanization, the Turkish Parliament has passed an amendment that would grant zoning authority to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization as well as set up an aesthetic architectural commission. 

More after the break...

Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center Still at Risk

Despite a 15-6 Legislature vote in February that ruled in favor of preserving Paul Rudolph’s brutalist landmark in Goshen, reports indicate that demolition is still being considered as an option. According to the Times Herald-Record, an ad hoc panel led by pro-demolition County Executive Ed Diana selected a team of architects and engineers to develop three options in 90 days for “renovating and replacing” sections of the 43-year-old complex. Though many thought the 18-month-long campaign ended with February's ruling, it is apparent that the heated debate is far from over. Ultimately, lawmakers must vote again on the project to authorize bonding for construction.

Adaptation of The Roman Ruins of Can Tacó / Toni Girones

  • Architects: Toni Girones
  • Location: Montornès Del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain
  • Architect In Charge: Toni Gironès Saderra
  • Area: 2500.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Sabem.com i Aeroproduccions, Aitor Estévez

© Aitor Estévez © Aitor Estévez © Aitor Estévez © Aitor Estévez

Thula Fort Restoration / Abdullah Al-Hadrami

  • Architects: Abdullah Al-Hadrami
  • Location: Thula, Yemen
  • Client: The Social Fund for Development, Thula Local Council
  • Area: 8754.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2011
  • Photographs: Cemal Emden

© Cemal Emden © Cemal Emden © Cemal Emden © Cemal Emden

Fashion Mogul Commissions OMA to Convert Venice Palazzo

Both Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright can be found on a lengthy list of architects who have tried to build in Venice and lost their battle to conservationists. However, OMA has broke through this barrier, as the practice was recently approved - after five years pending - to go forth with a renovation project of a 16th century palazzo for the fashion retailer Benetton near the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal.


More details and statements from the architect after the break...

Preservationists Prevail: Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist Landmark Spared from Destruction

Although preservationists continue to mourn the seemingly inevitable demise of Chicago’s Prentice Women’s Hospital, a solid victory for Brutalism has finally been confirmed. Lawmakers in Goshen, New York, have passed a proposal to renovate Paul Rudolph’s iconic Orange County Government Center, authorizing $10 million in design funding. The 15-6 vote was secured by the overwhelming evidence that an upgrade would be more cost effect than County Executive Ed Diana’s fallback plan to replace two-thirds of the building and preserving only the court section. In addition, lawmakers felt the pressure of a March 12 deadline that would risk losing up to $2.7 million in federal funds to repair water damage caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. 

More after the break...

Norman Foster’s Sainsbury Centre Listed

© Xavier de Jauréguiberry
© Xavier de Jauréguiberry

On the advice of English Heritage, architecture minister Ed Vaizey has listed Norman Foster’s first major public building: the 1977 Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, in the United Kingdom. According to BDOnline, the popular public art museum, which houses the collection of Lord and Lady Sainsbury, was granted grade II* protection for its innovative engineering, fine design, historic association, flexibility and group value. Its revolutionary design features an innovative, prefabricated modular structure that is cleverly designed to allow for subsequent extension. Vaizey described: “Norman Foster’s design for the Sainsbury Centre is recognized around the world as a high point of the British ‘high-tech’ movement and, by any standards, a modern classic.” Read Foster’s response after the break.

WMF partners with Google to Preserve World Heritage Sites

From the archeological areas of Stonehenge to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Google’s World Wonders Project is dedicated to digitally preserving and virtually sharing the World’s Heritage Sites. Users can explore some of the world’s greatest places through panoramic images, 3D laser scanned models, videos and informative text. Although Google World Wonders is a new and ongoing project, they already have more than 130 sites in 18 countries featured. The project is also an educational resource, allowing students and scholars to use the materials to discover some of the most famous sites on earth. A selection of free educational packages are available to download for classroom use. Google World Wonders is made possible through the partnership of Google, UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund and Cyark, with a shared mission to preserve world heritage sites for future generations. Start exploring here.