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Josep Lluís Sert's Martin Luther King Jr School: A Never-Loved Building That Never Stood a Chance

In architecture circles, it's a sadly familiar trope: a postwar modernist building by a celebrated architect is slated for demolition, and the only people to come to its defense are not the local community, but the architects and critics who can see past the weathered concrete to the ideals within. But despite this familiarity, it's rare to find a critic with first-hand experience as the user of the building in question, and rarer still for them to have experienced it with the unprejudiced eyes of a child. Such is the case with Alexandra Lange, who went to kindergarten at Josep Lluís Sert's Martin Luther King Jr School in Cambridge. In this article from MAS Context, originally titled "Never-Loved Buildings Rarely Stand a Chance: Josep Lluís Sert in Cambridge" and featuring photographs by Lee Dykxhoorn, Lange recounts her experiences of the school and laments its destruction. The latest issue of MAS Context focuses on the theme of "Legacy" - from the legacy we have inherited from our predecessors to the legacy we are leaving for the future.

It’s a detail too perfect, better suited to a novel. Architecture critic goes to kindergarten at modernist school. Years later, she returns to the city of her birth and discovers the school again, surrounded by construction hoardings, on the brink of destruction. Can she save it? Except that was me, and I was too late.

Classroom clerestory expression along Putnam Avenue, Cambridge, 2013. Image © Lee Dykxhoorn Classrooms open on exterior play space, Cambridge, 2013. Image © Lee Dykxhoorn Play area behind the school with entry ramp, Cambridge, 2013. Image © Lee Dykxhoorn Classrooms open on exterior play space, Cambridge, 2013. Image © Lee Dykxhoorn

CIAM 4 and the "Unanimous" Origins of Modernist Urban Planning

Held in 1933 on a ship in the Mediterranian, the fourth CIAM congress and Le Corbusier's subsequent Athens Charter (La Charte d'Athenes) are widely regarded as a defining period in Modernist urban planning, a moment when architects came to an agreement on what the future of our cities should look like. But how correct is this interpretation? Edited by Evelien van Es, Gregor Harbusch, Bruno Maurer, Muriel Perez, Kees Somer and Daniel Weiss, a significant new 480-page book, "Atlas of the Functional City - CIAM 4 and Comparative Urban Analysis" examines the congress in depth. In the following excerpt from the book's introduction, Daniel Weiss, Gregor Harbusch and Bruno Maurer examine the commonly accepted history of the congress, finding that support for the underlying principles of Modernism was perhaps not so unanimous after all.

Proposed Demolition of Josep Lluis Sert's King School Cambridge

Courtesy of Max Moore
Courtesy of Max Moore

At a time when sustainability is high on the agenda and construction costs continue to soar, many Cambridge residents are questioning a proposal to demolish a sound and respected school building to replace it with a new school one that will strive to be a “green facility”. The Martin Luther King Elementary School (1968-1971) was designed by Catalan architect Josep Lluis Sert (Sert, Jackson and Associate). As it stands today, the school compliments the many other buildings in Cambridge that Sert worked on while also teaching at Harvard University, including the Peabody Terrace Graduate Housing complex just across the street.

Read on to find out what the community is doing to save the building from demolition and why it can prove to be a more sustainable option for the city.

Architecture City Guide: Barcelona

Courtesy of Flickr CC License / SlapBcn
Courtesy of Flickr CC License / SlapBcn

This week, with the help of our readers, our Architecture City Guide is headed to Barcelona. We recently featured an engaging video where Wiel Arets half jokingly said Barcelona is fantastic but boring. He continued to say as soon as Sagrada Família is finished Barcelona is done; there is nothing left to do there (10:50). Arets can say what he wants about Barcelona supposedly being boring, but our city guide doesn’t reflect this. Barcelona is filled with fantastically expressive architecture that springs from its proud Catalan culture. It was impossible to feature all our readers suggestions in the first go around, and we did not even come close to including some of the most iconic building such as Casa Milà. Thus we are looking to add to our list of 24 in the near future. Further more there are so many fabulous buildings on the drawing board or under construction, i.e. the projects in the @22 district, we’ll most likely be updating this city guide for quite awhile, regardless of Sagrada Família’s completion.

Take a look at our list with the knowledge it is far complete and add to it in the comment section below.

The Architecture City Guide: Barcelona list and corresponding map after the break.

Architecture City Guide: Boston

For this week the Architecture City Guide series headed to the city of Boston including neighboring Cambridge just across the Charles River Basin. This area has an overwhelmingly large amount of modern architecture in a small radius, and our list reflects just that. What buildings do you want to see added to our Boston list, share them with us in the comment section below.

The Architecture City Guide: Boston list and corresponding map after the break!