In the UK, the commissioning of buildings is in crisis. The government and the industry as a whole is short-sighted, putting too much emphasis on function and too little thought into what makes for a long-lasting, and in that respect sustainable, building.
What is it that prompts a person to own a classic car or a family to continue to use old silver when both involve so much hard work? Why not buy a new car or use stainless steel cutlery? By convention these possessions have reached the end of their natural life, they require careful maintenance and in many cases they don’t function as well they might – they are obsolete. Their continued use requires a conscious commitment – time and money – on the part of their owner. But then, in time, this responsibility stops being a burden and instead becomes a cause for satisfaction and enjoyment.
It is a question that could be asked of those who commission and use buildings.
In some projects, preservation isn’t just about retaining what’s there, but also about putting back an element that has been forgotten to history (not always, though). This was the case at the Stella Tower in Manhattan, where as part of the building’s recently completed condo conversion, JDS Development Group and Property Markets Group, along with architects CetraRuddy have reinstated the dramatic Art Deco crown of Ralph Walker’s 1927 design.
As preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics escalate, so do concerns regarding the preservation of the city’s heritage; and more specifically, according to Tomas Maier, Japan’s modernist architecture. The Bottega Venneta creative director recently embarked on an “urgent visit” to Japan in an effort to evaluate the city’s risk of loosing its modernist icons. With special consideration for the overlooked and threatened Hotel Okura, Maier believes that this Yoshiro Taniguchi-designed landmark is just one of many structures at risk of falling to “progress.”
Throughout its eight-century-long history, Chartres Cathedral has been consistently cited as one of the world’s greatest religious spaces, charming countless architects thanks to its dramatic interior combining brooding stone vaults and delicate stained glass windows. But this legacy is severely threatened, argues Martin Filler for the New York Review of Books, by a “foolhardy” restoration in its zeal for recapturing the past “makes authentic artifacts look fake.”
London-based Avanti Architects, along with Glasgow-based ERZ Landscape Architects and NORD Architects, have released the first image of their design to revitalize one of Scotland’s modern masterpieces: St Peter’s seminary. Designed by Gillespie, Kidd & Coia in 1966, and built on the former Kilmahew estate, the Category-A listed Brutalist structure was voted as the best modern building in Scotland by readers of Prospect Magazine in 2005. However, the building has been abandoned for the past 25 years, leaving it dilapidated and facing numerous problems.
Public art charity NVA is leading a £7.3 million initiative to rehabilitate the building and its surrounding landscape to create an art, heritage and educational site. The designs include a performing arts venue with a 600-person capacity, informal indoor and outdoor teaching spaces across the 144 acre site and over 4 kilometres of woodland paths. In addition, the site will contain a heritage exhibition and a locally-led productive garden.
Architecture institutions and architects are outraged by the Norwegian Government plans to demolish a unique part of Norwegian and international architectural history. Called the Y-block for its Y-shaped plan, the building in the Government Quarter in the centre of the Norwegian capital of Oslo was designed by the Norwegian architect and pioneer inventor Erling Viksjø in the 1950s together with the “H-block” or Highrise (1959) and was completed in 1969. The building is internationally well known for the extraordinary craftsmanship of its sandblasted concrete and the famous Pablo Picasso murals, “The Fishermen” and “The Seagull”.
Rest stops are a disappearing sight in North America. Brought by tight highway budgets, and the increasing number of off-exit fast food outlets and gas stations, these roadside oases may soon become extinct. Photographer Ryann Ford wants to make sure they’re documented before this happens. Her project, “The Last Stop” is a series of photographs taken of unique rest stops across the nation. A Kickstarter campaign has been started to fund Ford’s work, and the ensuing publication of her photographs. Learn more, after the break!
The Science Secondary School in Kinkplatz, Vienna is the work of late Modernist architect Helmut Richter. Considered to be his most iconic and enduring work, Richter’s school is now faced with partial demolition to make way for a conversion of the building’s use and architects from around the world are making an effort to prevent that demolition from happening. Influential individuals, from Zaha Hadid to Bernard Tschumi, have signed a petition voicing their dissent and demanding that Richter’s legacy be protected. See the details, and sign the petition, after the break.
New York City is home to a plethora of Postmodernist designs — from the impressive Sony Tower to the diminuative Central Park Ballplayers’ House — but most remain unprotected by traditional heritage registries. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is at the threshold of its 50th anniversary but has yet to recognize the architectural successes of 1970 up to the most recent eligible year for landmarking, 1984. The commission has been unnecessarily slow to recognize Postmodernist structures in New York City, say Paul Makovsky and Michael Gotkin writing for Metropolis Magazine, who argue that the absence of historical recognition for Postmodernism has come at a high cost, citing the recladding of Takashimaya Building on Fifth Avenue as a “wake-up call” for the Commission.
Preservationists are in a race to document and preserve some of Yangon’s most admired cultural icons. Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon is experiencing an all to familiar story: rapid development taking precedence over preservation. As the National Geographic reports, “Hulking monoliths of concrete and blue-plated glass are replacing fine old residential and government buildings…Although much has already been lost, many architecturally or esthetically significant structures have hung on. The question now is how long they will last.” Read the complete story, here.
The 2014 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize has been awarded to the Finnish Committee for the restoration of Alvar Aalto’s seminal Viipuri Library in Vyborg, Russia. “Designed by Aalto and constructed between 1927 and 1935 in what was then the Finnish city of Viipuri,” stated WMF in a press release, “the library reflects the emergence of Aalto’s distinctive combination of organic form and materials with the principles of clear functionalist expression that was to become the hallmark of his architecture.”
A quote from Barry Bergdoll and more images, after the break.
From Gaudí-designed pavilions in Barcelona, Spain to the Tenyuji Temple in Ogatsu, Japan, nine “at-risk” historical monuments will receive funding for preservation works, thanks to a $1.5 million grant from American Express to the World Monuments Fund (WMF). The nine sites were all included on WMF’s 2014 Watch list, and include Pokfulam Village in Hong Kong (SAR), China; the churches of Saint Merri and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette in Paris, France; the Farnese Aviaries in Rome, Italy; Tenyuji Temple, in Ogatsu, Japan; Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico; the Güell Pavilions in Barcelona, Spain; the House of Wonders in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania; Battersea Power Station in London, United Kingdom; and Sulgrave Manor in Sulgrave, United Kingdom.
This is the second portion of a $5 million, five-year grant from American Express to support WMF. “The longstanding support of American Express to the World Monuments Watch has resulted in preservation work at more than 150 sites in over 60 countries,” said WMF President Bonnie Burnham in a press release. “The sites on the 2014 Watch that will receive support are extraordinary places whose preservation will benefit both local populations and visitors from around the world.”
Read on after the break for a description of the sites.
The Spring House, also known as the Clifton and George Lewis II House, is the only private house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that was ever built in Florida. The design embodies the final and shortest stylistic phase in Wright’s career – the hemicycle style. The plan is characterized by concentric and intersecting circles, while the elevations are consistent with Wright’s other designs in how they accentuate the horizontal.
After the death of her husband in 1996, Clifton Lewis formed the Spring House Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the historic property and turning it into a public legacy. In order to restore and complete the house (some elements were never built, including a semi-circular pool on one of the terraces), the organization needs to raise $256,250, which will then be matched by the Division of Historical Resources to pay the $512,500 purchase price. To meet the Division of Historical Resources’ October 15th deadline, they have launched an IndieGoGo campaign with a target of $100,000. For more on the historical landmark and the organization’s fundraising efforts, keep reading after the break.
Moscow‘s Cultural Heritage Department has stepped in to save Vladimir Shukhov‘s historic 1922 Shabolovka Radio Tower, with a conservation order protecting its materials, architectural composition, structural elements and location. The news will be a relief to the many architects – including Tadao Ando, Elizabeth Diller, Rem Koolhaas and Thom Mayne – who agreed with Norman Foster that the tower is “a structure of dazzling brilliance and great historical importance”, and signed a petition urging for the structure to be saved.
Thanks to the conservation order, the neglected building will have to be repaired, and Moscow City Hall now hopes to collaborate with Russia‘s national government to organize an open international competition the restoration and re-purposing of the 160m tower.
Read on after the break for more on the Shukhov Tower’s proposed future
Lately, architects are sharing an increasing captivation with ruins. As our technologies for envisioning the buildings of the future become ever-more accurate – enabling us not only to walk through, hover over, and inhabit walls, but also to calculate exact quantities of materials, structural load capacities and costs – our fascination for ruin, a process that is governed by laws of nature and time in a manner that is spatially unpredictable and rarely uniform, has also seen a rise in popularity.
Blogs such as Ruin Porn, Abandoned America and Architecture of Doom draw from a recent sub-genre of photography, identified as ‘ruins photography’ or ‘ruin porn’. While buildings can go into decay for many reasons, these images tend to focus on urban decay, especially in cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Berlin, which saw a surge of industrialization in the last century that has since dwindled.
Over 50 Leading figures from architecture, art, film and fashion – Including Norman Foster, the director of London’s National Gallery Nicholas Penny, the director of the Guggenheim Foundation Richard Armstrong, and Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett, Michael Douglas, Julie Christie, Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton and Rob Lowe – have signed a petition pleading Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the Italian Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini to keep large cruise ships out of Venice.
The petition, created by the UNESCO-backed Association of the International Private Committees for the Safeguarding of Venice, says is a reaction to both the aesthetic intrusion caused by the cruise liners, but also what it believes is a “probable risk of catastrophe” due to the possible effects that such large ships could have on the fragile Lagoon surrounding Venice.
More on the cruise ship controversy after the break
“For the most part, the way urbanists view black neighborhoods (and other low-income neighborhoods and communities of color) are as problems that need to be fixed. At the heart of what I want to say is what can we as urbanists learn from these neighborhoods?” So asks Sara Zewde, a landscape architecture student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and this year’s Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Olmsted Scholar, in a fascinating profile on Metropolis Magazine. Read more about Zewde and her work here.