Nine projects have been announced as winners of Docomomo US’ 2017 Modernism in America Awards, honoring projects within the United States that highlight and advocate for the restoration of postwar architecture and landscapes.
Now in its fourth year, the Modernism in America Awards were founded to celebrate "the people and projects working to preserve, restore and rehabilitate our modern heritage sensitively and productively. The program seeks to advance those preservation efforts; to increase appreciation for the period and to raise awareness of the on-going threats against modern architecture and design."
Design Award of Excellence
The Commercial Design Award of Excellence is given for the restoration of the former Bell Laboratories, which has been transformed into Bell Works, the two-million-square-foot mixed-use “metroburb”, located in Holmdel, New Jersey. Designed by world-renowned modernist architect Eero Saarinen and constructed in stages between 1959-1982, the enormous mirrored glass-enclosed structure (the first of its kind) was home to Bell Laboratories, later known as AT&T, Lucent, and ultimately Alcatel-Lucent. Within its walls, researchers made a number of monumental discoveries, including the development of the cell phone and fiber optic technology. Rumblings of demolishing the site after Alcatel-Lucent vacated the building sparked concern from architects, historians, and design professionals around the globe.
After acquiring the famed building in 2013, Somerset Development, along with Alexander Gorlin Architects - with the aid of public-private collaboration - began a multi-faceted approach of reviving and reinvigorating the space as a “dynamic, collaborative workplace of the future, complete with a blossoming ecosystem of technology, traditional office, retail, dining, and hospitality.”
Speaking on behalf of the jury, architectural historian Robert Nauman noted, “This is an adaptive reuse project on a grand scale. Instead of merely turning this into office space, Bell Works re-envisions this corporate headquarters building as a mixed use, self-contained town center incorporating retail and shopping and dining options, health and wellness uses, a hotel and conference center, educational facilities, an upscale spa and public facilities.”
Nauman continues by pointing out, “social gathering areas were established, and the entire project was envisioned and completed with an eye toward sustainability, including a solar roof. This is an ambitious project that has reconfigured what was once the largest vacant commercial building in the country into a dynamic urban center.”
Yale Center for British Art
New Haven, CT
The Civic/Institutional Design Award of Excellence is awarded for the restoration of the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. The Yale Center for British Art and its collection are the gift of philanthropist Paul Mellon. After nearly forty years since its opening in 1977, the Yale Center faced escalating conservation pressures. In response, Amy Meyers, the Center’s current director, commissioned a detailed conservation plan for the building titled Louis I. Kahn and the Yale Center for British Art: A Conservation Plan and published in association with Yale University Press. This pioneering document, the first of its kind in the United States for a building completed after World War II, identified the Center’s most culturally significant attributes, established policies for the future care of the building, and formed the basis for the building conservation project. The project was phased strategically as the majority of construction was completed in a ten-month period in 2015. In selecting the project the jury noted, “The renovation of the Yale Center for British Art is a case study for how to approach the preservation of modern architecture appropriately. The complex, multi-phase project paves the way for future projects through its thoughtful conservation plan and publication of those findings detailing elements of the building that were once hidden and sensitively bringing the building into the 21st century.”
The Bubeshko Apartments
Los Angeles, CA
The Residential Design Award of Excellence is given for the restoration of the Bubeshko Apartments. Located in Los Angeles, California the Bubeshko Apartments is one of the few realized and intact multi-family dwellings designed by Rudolph M. Schindler. Designed for mother-and-daughter Anastasia and Luby Bubeshko, Schindler’s vision was that of a “Greek hillside” – a framework for individuated apartments, each with a direct connection to the outdoors, that work collectively. Though the financial viability of the project presented a challenge, the new owners sought to sensitively restore the complex in the original spirit of both the architecture and life of the buildings. Speaking on behalf of the jury, Justin Davidson said, “Restoration of the Bubeshko Apartments is interesting not only because of what was done but because of what was not done. Instead of transforming the complex into luxury condominium pods, the owners and restoration team gave careful consideration to both the original intent of the architect and original owners thus insuring this unique addition to the cultural life of Los Angeles will be admired and enjoyed for years to come.”
Heroic Project & Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston
An Advocacy Award of Excellence for is given to the Heroic Project and subsequent book Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston. The project is an eight-year research initiative into the concrete architecture of Boston from 1960 until 1976. It developed into a wide-reaching advocacy effort that has included exhibitions, design studios and research seminars, lectures and interviews, tours, landmark preservation campaigns, and culminated in the publication of the acclaimed book Heroic (Monacelli Press, 2015). In selecting the project, the Docomomo US Board of Directors commented, “Through carefully crafted public outreach, engagement and a beautifully designed book, the Heroic Project brings awareness and new appreciation to the significance and beauty of a style that is often demonized. By celebrating the artistry and design of concrete architecture in Boston and beyond, the Heroic Project redefines Brutalist architecture locally, nationally and internationally.”
Save the Reactor Campaign
The Advocacy Award of Excellence is given to the Save the Reactor Campaign. The Docomomo US Board of Directors commented, “The role and impact of nuclear science during the Cold War is starting to be forgotten and thus the sites associated with the period are increasingly threatened as younger generations have little sense of this important period in our nation's history. Though the Nuclear Reactor building on the campus of the University of Washington was ultimately demolished, it is important to recognize Historic Seattle, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and Docomomo US/WEWA’s collaborative education and advocacy efforts that epitomize issues that Docomomo US and its Chapters and colleagues continue to encounter.” Results of the dispute will be precedent-setting as the Washington State Supreme Court is expected to rule on the bearing of local preservation ordinances over state institutions of higher learning who claim exemption.
Citations of Merit Winners
The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
Grand Island, NE
The jury awards a Citation of Merit for the conservation of the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer designed by Edward Durell Stone. The open plains provided Stone and his son, landscape architect Edward Durell Stone, Jr., with a blank canvas resulting in a quintessential example of New Formalism that became one of Stone’s most unique works in terms of setting and integration between building and landscape. Speaking on behalf of the jury, Barbara Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BC+C stated, “the project showed sensitivity to the original concept, restoration of significant features and materials while balancing new interventions that were needed to make the building and site more efficient and useful for the present day.” Theodore Prudon added, “the museum is an important example of regional modernism and played a significant part in the progressive history of Grand Island, Nebraska.”
American Enterprise Group
Des Moines, IA
The jury awards a Citation of Merit for the restoration of the American Enterprise Group national headquarters building. The venerable building was designed by Gordon Bunshaft and completed in 1965. Upon opening the building was featured in LIFE magazine and deemed “the talk of the Midwest,” The American Enterprise Group received an Honor Award for Architecture from the American Institute of Architects in 1967. In response to aging materials and systems, the owner and restoration team approached the renovation with “the hope that its work would be nearly impossible to detect – a testament to the consideration given to the building’s defining features.” The jury commented, “A great example of the rich heritage of modern architecture across the United States, this is a loving rehabilitation of a beautiful example of commercial architecture designed by a renowned architect, that is still serves as the home of the original company.”
Boston University School of Law
The jury awards a Citation of Merit for the innovative approach to the conservation of the concrete of Boston University’s School of Law Tower and thoughtful addition of the Sumner M. Redstone Building. Speaking on behalf of the jury, Mark Pasnik, AIA commented, “This is a powerful example where the architects acted as preservation advocates, successfully changing the University’s and public’s perception of a building, while bringing significant details back to life in a way that reinvigorates the entire School of Law complex.”
Vincent G. Kling Mid-Century House
The jury awards a Citation of Merit for the restoration of the Smith Residence designed by Vincent G. Kling. Celebrated as one of Philadelphia’s most notable architects and better known for his commercial and institutional projects, Kling completed the Smith Residence in 1960, one of the few examples of his residential work. The jury notes, “The project highlights an important and lesser-known dimension to Kling’s professional career. The project is sensitively realized and its inclusion in a well-needed future monograph dealing with Kling’s work underscores the importance of this house in discussions of midcentury modernism and domestic space in Pennsylvania.”
The 2017 Modernism in America Awards will be awarded on the night of Friday, October 6, 2017 at the Design Within Reach Third Avenue Studio in New York City. Learn more about the award and this year’s winners, here.
News and project descriptions via Docomomo US.
Docomomo US has announced the winners of its 2016 Modernism in America Awards, which honor projects around the country that highlight and advocate for the restoration of postwar architecture and landscapes. The Modernism in America Awards is the only national program that celebrates "the people and projects working to preserve, restore and rehabilitate our modern heritage sensitively and productively.