Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative / The Getty

Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative / The Getty
© Flickr – User: An Amateur. Used under Creative Commons

For architecture students, the Modern Movement is typically the most recent and most defined architectural style movement that history classes focus on. We appreciate the architects and artists of that time and respond to their buildings and ideas with reverence. Despite our appreciation for the buildings that came out of this era, conservation methods are meeting new challenges in conserving these buildings that have not aged well as they have reached their 50-year heritage protection eligibility. This is where the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI) comes in. A “comprehensive, long-term, and international program” that is part of the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). CMAI aims to enhance conservation methods that in response to these aging buildings and create a knowledge data base of training programs and publications that reflect the advancement of these strategies.

More on the GCI and its initiative after the break.

The buildings of the modern era challenged the GCI’s present conservation methods because of the innovative construction methods and materials that set these buildings apart from their predecessors. In order to close this knowledge gap, the CMAI is due to complement GCI’s efforts of research and technique development to make these conservation efforts effective. To begin, the Getty Research Institute has compiled a bibliography on the conservation of modern architectural materials entitled Conserving Twentieth-Century Built Heritage: A Bibliography and is asking input from professionals in the field to further develope and reassess this already extensive collection. Comments and suggestions are also very welcome;

© Flickr - rpa2101. Used under Creative Commons

Tim Whalen, director of the Getty Conservation Institute, says that CMAI was established to provide a systematic approach and support for organizations already advocating for protection and preservation of buildings.  The efforts are geared toward improving the practice of conservation. The CMAI has a list of goals and activities that it will pursue in identifying and addressing viable conservation efforts:

© Flickr - rpa2101. Used under Creative Commons

  • Defining Scope: Involves identifying key questions, issues and problems that are relevant to a range of building types and geographic areas.
  • Scientific Research: Research and develop a strategy of approach for materials and techniques associated with each.
  • Model Field Projects: Apply methods and approaches to assess the outcomes and demonstrate their viability.
  • Education and Training: Offer continued training and education programs to keep practitioners up to date.
  • Key Resources: Create a database of research, methods and practices, and assessments of field projects through publications.
  • Public Programming: Incite a public forum to discuss and relate to a professional audience in the conservation of modern architecture through workshops and lectures.
  • The first field project set to launch will be the Eames House in Pacific Palisade, built in 1949 by Charles and Ray Eames, reports LA Times Blog. The house was initially built as a case study campaigned by Arts & Architecture magazine to develop a style and system for postwar living. Case Study No. 8, as it was called then, has become respected and valued as a work of modernist architecture. Susan McDonald is head of field projects for GCI and will oversee the the program which will be funding preservation-related research. There is already a foundation for preservation of the house since 2004.

    © Flickr – Stephen Canon. Used under Creative Commons

    While contents of the house are on exhibit in LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) until June 2012, the Eames Foundation is assessing the wear on the house, its materials and the repair required to conserve the house. It will address issue of the building envelope, living room flooring, steel frame windows and interior fabrics, all with the intention of developing a long-range strategy for continued efforts of conservation, maintenance and display. Project architect Esher GuneWardena Architecture has been engaged to oversee the current work.

    © Flickr – Stephen Canon. Used under Creative Commons

    LA Times Blog points out the challenges with the Eames House in particular and modern homes in general is that they were designed with an impermanence in mind – temporary solutions for housing in the post-war.  Even into the 70s and 80s architects continued to practice this strategy, pushing flexibility and temporariness and making the preservation of “modern buildings tricky from both technical and philosophical points of view”. GCI hopes to use this field project to advance current knowledge on conservation, to provide a database for technical expertise and advice, to gain knowledge on climatic and environmental impact on the architecture, to assist the Eames Foundation in their conservation efforts and to disseminate acquired information from the project.

    © Library of Congress

    Recently, ArchDaily also reported on another modern building that was newly renovated, the ASM International Headquarters, supported by the Chesler Group and renovated by Dimit Architects.


    via The Getty Conservation Institute; LA Times, New Getty initiative aims to boost preservation of modern architecture, March 21, 2012.

    Photos via Flickr users An Amateur, Stephen Canon, rpa2101 licensed by Creative Commons.

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    Cite: Irina Vinnitskaya. "Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative / The Getty" 09 Apr 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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