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Preservation: The Latest Architecture and News

Demolition Begins on Lobby of Philip Johnson's AT&T Building

While the exterior of Philip Johnson’s iconic AT&T awaits its fate in an upcoming New York City landmarks designation hearing, demolition of its granite-clad interior lobby has already begun.

Citing the fact that the lobby had already been altered in the 1990s – including the removal of the “Golden Boy” statue – when the building switched tenants from AT&T to the Sony Corporation, the Landmarks Preservation Commission decided last month that the interiors were not deserving of landmark status.

Carmody Groarke's Transparent Pavilion Will Allow for the Preservation of Historic Hill House by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

London-based firm Carmody Groarke and the National Trust for Scotland have announced plans for a major project to conserve one of Scotland’s most important buildings: the Hill House in Helensburgh, designed by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The temporary pavilion will cover Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House for preservation work. Image Courtesy of Carmody Groarke The structure will be maximally transparent as to preserve the house's relationship to its context. Image Courtesy of Carmody Groarke Viewing platforms will allow the house to be seen from new vantage points. Image Courtesy of Carmody Groarke Hill House as it stands today © Flickr <a href='http://'>user hisgett</a>. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 + 4

Facing Major Renovations, Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building Gets Hearing for Landmark Designation

Facing plans for a major renovation that would significantly alter the street presence of the building, Philip Johnson’s Postmodern icon, 550 Madison (formerly AT&T Building) has now cleared the first stage in the process of becoming a designated New York City landmark.

Today, an application to schedule a hearing to landmark the building was approved unanimously by the city’s Landmarks and Preservation Commission (LPC). In a few months time, the LPC will hold a public forum for the building, followed by a deliberation on whether or not the tower deserves official landmark status.

Why the Restoration of the Southbank Undercroft Is a Landmark for Both Architecture and Skateboarding

The Southbank Undercroft, which lies beneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall along the River Thames in London, has been the subject of much debate in recent years following a proposed closure and redevelopment in 2013. Long Live Southbank, an organization born out of this threat of expulsion, gave the diverse community who call the space home a voice. After 17 months of campaigning, they were successful in ensuring the Undercroft was legally protected and fully recognized as an asset of community value. Since then, the group of activists has begun another groundbreaking journey.

In partnership with Southbank Centre, Long Live Southbank recently launched a new crowdfunding campaign to restore the legendary Undercroft. The restoration project will cost £790,000 and is set to open in 2018, improving Londoners’ access to free creative spaces in the heart of the City. These types of space are becoming increasingly rare and the restoration effort reflects a desire to celebrate the authentic cultural sites that make London the vibrant landscape it is.

© Nicholas Constant © Nicholas Constant © Nicholas Constant © Nicholas Constant + 11

Falling Masonry Kills Tourist in Florence's Deteriorating Basilica di Santa Croce

A Spanish tourist has been killed by a piece of falling masonry in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. As reported by The Guardian, the 52-year old victim was hit by "a piece of decorative stone that fell from a height of 20 metres (66 ft) as he visited the religious building with his wife." Reports suggest that the fragment was around 15cm by 15cm (6 by 6 inches) in size; according to Yahoo, the fragment "had supported a beam in the right transept of the Basilica."

Following the incident, the attraction has been closed to visitors indefinitely.

Call for Submissions: 2018 Fitch Funding

Since 1989, the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation has been in the vanguard of historic preservation practice and theory. The mission of the Fitch Foundation is to support professionals in the field of historic preservation, and to achieve this we provide mid-career grants to those working in preservation, landscape architecture, urban design, environmental planning, materials conservation, decorative arts, architectural design and history, and allied fields.

Iconic and Revered, Notre Dame de Paris Faces an Uncertain Future

Broken gargoyles and fallen balustrades replaced by plastic pipes and wooden planks. Flying buttresses darkened by pollution and eroded by rainwater. Pinnacles propped up by beams and held together with straps.

According to the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, the iconic Parisian cathedral is in "desperate need of attention." Perhaps more concerningly, the holy site and French national monument is also in "a worrisome state of preservation." Built of limestone—a material notoriously susceptible to erosion—the building is in an accelerating state of wear-and-tear, demanding renewed funding efforts and expertise to secure its immediate and long-term future. From the lead roof to the stone buttresses, the world-renowned gargoyles to the stained glass windows, every inch of the structure requires differing levels of attention.

How a Novel Saved Notre-Dame and Changed Perceptions of Gothic Architecture

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "It’s a Book. It’s a Building. It’s a Behavioral Intervention!"

A few years ago, while visiting, or rather exploring, Notre-Dame, the author of this book found, in an obscure corner of one of the towers, this word carved upon the wall:


These Greek characters, black with age, and cut deep into the stone with the peculiarities of form and arrangement common to Gothic calligraphy that marked them the work of some hand in the Middle Ages, and above all the sad and mournful meaning which they expressed, forcibly impressed the author.

Demolition is Underway on Alison and Peter Smithson's Robin Hood Gardens in London

Demolition has officially commenced on East London housing development Robin Hood Gardens, bringing to an end any chance of a last-minute preservation effort for the Brutalist icon. Designed by British architects Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972, plans for the site’s clearing and redevelopment have been in the works for more than five years, before government indecision and a spirited protest campaign led by architects including Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid, Robert Venturi, and Toyo Ito put those plans in doubt.

Bauhaus Among 12 Modern Buildings to Receive Conservation Grants from the Getty Foundation

The Getty Foundation has selected 12 significant 20th century buildings to receive 2017 grants as part of its Keeping It Modern initiative, which aims to advance the understanding and preservation of modern architecture through a focus on conservation planning and research. Since its founding in 2014, the program has supported the preservation of 45 projects from around the globe.

This year $1.66 million in grants were awarded to recognizable projects including the Walter Gropius-designed Bauhaus Building in Dessau; the Melnikov House in Moscow (the first Russian project to receive a grant); and Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper, Price Tower. 

See all 12 grantees below.

The Melnikov House. View from the courtyard. 2015. Photo © Pavel Kuznetsov. Image Courtesy of Getty Foundation Boston - City Hall Plaza. Image credit: Naquib Hossain/Dotproduct Photography. Image Courtesy of Getty Foundation View of MASP on Avenida Paulista, 2016. Photo: Eduardo Ortega. Image Courtesy of Getty Foundation Price Tower. Photo: Jessica Lamirand, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Image Courtesy of Getty Foundation + 13

Sydney’s Brutalist Sirius Building Saved from Demolition after Court Ruling

In a major victory for preservationists, one of Sydney’s few examples of brutalist architecture, the Sirius Apartment Building, has been saved from the wrecking ball after court ruled against the government’s attempt to deny it a place on the State Heritage Register.

Little-Known Floating Concert Hall Designed by Louis Kahn Faces Demolition

One of Louis Kahn’s most unique and lesser-known projects, the floating concert hall known as Point Counterpoint II, is at risk of demolition, reports the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Built from 1964 to ’67 as part of celebrations for the American Bicentennial, the 195-foot-long vessel has since been used as the waterborne home of the American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO), allowing the group to take their own venue places as far away as Paris, France and St. Petersburg, Russia. Along with circular doorways and portholes, the structure features a 75-foot-wide stage that can be opened and closed using a hydraulic lift system.

Summer School: MOYTIRRA 2017 Sketch design for deep-sea mining labour's housing

DINÂMIA’CET-IUL is delighted to announce the 1st Summer School on the Island of São Miguel in Azores.

“Moytirra 2017, Sketch design for deep-sea mining labour’s housing” includes Master-Classes, studio sessions and field trips, led by lecturers and researchers from ISCTE-IUL and University of Azores (Portugal), Northeastern and Dartmouth College (USA), Kuwait University (Kuwait) and University of Waterloo (Canada), with the support of local architectural offices. On 5th day, the final results of the workshop will be presented and discussed with the local community.

Iranian Case Study: Can We Build For The Future Without Forgetting About The Past?

Taking a taxi from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport into the city, one cannot help but look at the seemingly random distribution of buildings along the road; an array of mismatched concrete blocks, worlds away from the images of Sheik Lotfollah Mosque that typically adorn the covers of Iran travel guides. “My observations about architecture in Iran are like that of many other countries that have changed in terms of architectural characteristics; Iran has changed too,” says Tehran-based architect, M. Reza Karfar. “Now we are in a time where everything is mass produced and we are just using and using, but not making memories with anything. That sense of belonging will, of course, go away. You see a 50 or 60, or 200-year-old house that just gets demolished and replaced by a 4 or 5-story building, and in 5 years they will demolish that 4 to 5-story building too.”

Not to say that Iran should be an exhibit for tourists, only consisting of beautiful tiled buildings, but this fear of memories fading in disappearing public spaces is one that, despite the numerous historical sites preserved around the country, is noticeable in Iran’s big cities. And while the subject is particularly pertinent in Iran, as Karfar points out this phenomenon is not unique to just one country. As a result, Iran might offer something of a case study for other countries around the world.

Should Airbnb Help Save This High-Tech Gem?

This article was originally published by The Architect's Newspaper as "Why Airbnb should help save an architectural icon."

If I had to guess, I would say that it has been forty years since Columbus, Indiana, was the hot topic of cocktail conversations at design-related get-togethers in New York City. In those days, it was the supercharged patronage of industrialist J. Irwin Miller and his relationships with designers like Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard that spurred a wave of innovative and provocative architecture in the small Midwestern town. Columbus, with a population of 45,000, has a Robert Venturi fire station, a John Johansen school, a park by Michael Van Valkenburgh, and several buildings by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, including the younger’s iconic Miller House.

Why Moscow's Massacre of Mass Housing Is a Huge Mistake

The Moscow government has just launched the biggest demolition program in the city’s history. Its goal is to get rid of 8,000 5-story residential buildings constructed in the Soviet era—it is probably the biggest program of erasure of modernist architectural heritage in world history. The main assumptions of the plan, as well as the press comments following it, show that we have forgotten what modernism was about, and what the real values of this architecture are.

A few years ago I published an essay titled Belyayevo Forever, dedicated to the preservation of generic modernist architecture. I focused on Moscow’s microrayons—vast, state-funded housing estates built in the Soviet era. In the essay, I explained the spatial and cultural values these prefabricated landscapes had. I also speculated about how one would go about preserving architecture that completely lacks uniqueness. The essay ended with a provocative statement: we should put Belyayevo—the most generic of all Soviet estates—on the UNESCO heritage list.

© Max Avdeev © Max Avdeev © Max Avdeev © Max Avdeev + 13

Chicago Announces Controversial Plans to Replace Helmut Jahn’s Thompson Center with 115-Story Skyscraper

Chicago may be about to receive a new supertall skyscraper in the heart of the Loop – but it would require the demolition of one of the city’s most polarizing buildings, the James R. Thompson Center, designed by Chicago architect Helmut Jahn.

Owned by the state, the postmodernist Thompson Center and its colorful glass atrium have been the subject of both criticism and adoration since its opening in 1985. But wear on the building throughout the years has led to an estimated maintenance bill of $326 million, prompting the state government to find ways to rid itself of the potentially crippling costs.

Helmut Jahn's Alternative Proposal. Image © JAHN. Via Crain's 115 story skyscraper that could replace the Thompson Center. Image © Adrian Smith Gordon Gill Architecture. Via Crain's Thompson Center interior. Image © wikimedia user Tripp. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 Thompson Center from the street. Image © wikimedia user Primeromundo. Image released to public domain + 5

"Hardcore Heritage": How RAAAF is Redefining Historical Preservation

This article was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "'Hardcore Heritage': RAAAF Reveals Its Latest Experiment in Historical Preservation."

In the practice of historic preservation, there is often a temptation to turn a building into an object on display—meticulously restored, unchanging, physically isolated—in order to remove it from the flow of history. The multidisciplinary Amsterdam-based studio Rietveld-Architecture-Art-Affordances (RAAAF) situates itself in opposition to this method of dealing with architectural remnants. Instead, it proposes to make history tangible by altering these decaying structures in a way that makes their stories plainly visible. The practice has a name for this approach—"hardcore heritage."