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preservation + restoration

Quote of Note | Martin Filler

“High among the unpredictable variables that endanger the survival of worthy buildings are the vagaries of taste. For example, by the late 1950s, Victorian architecture was held in such low esteem that Frank Furness’s splendidly oddball University of Pennsylvania Library of 1889–1891 in Philadelphia (pictured)–akin to a Venetian-Gothic armadillo–faced impending demolition. Although several commercial buildings by Furness fell to the wrecker’s ball around that time in order to satisfy narrow-minded city planners’ Georgian-only vision of the newly created Independence National Historical Park nearby in downtown Philadelphia, a parallel catastrophe on the Penn campus was averted thanks to the special pleading of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, among others including [Frank Lloyd] Wright, who after a 1957 walk-through of the Furness library proclaimed, ‘It is the work of an artist.’

The following year saw the founding in London of the Victorian Society, the pioneering group dedicated to preserving that long-derided style, and in 1966 a sister organization, the Victorian Society in America, followed suit even as urban homesteaders from Brooklyn to San Francisco were rediscovering the quirky charms of the diverse range of fanciful design subsumed under the portmanteau term ‘Victorian.’ By the 1980s there was widespread disbelief among a younger generation that there could ever have been such contempt for this delightfully imaginative mode.”

-Martin Filler on architectural preservation in the New York Review of Books

Restoration of Japan’s Hizuchi Elementary School Wins World Monuments Fund Modernism Prize

An architectural consortium’s restoration of typhoon-ravaged (and generally down-at-the-heel) Hizuchi Elementary School has cliched the 2012 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize, awarded biennially to an innovative architectural or design solution that has preserved or enhanced a modern landmark. The prize—$10,000 and a limited-edition Barcelona chair created by Knoll especially for the occasion—has previously gone to Bierman Henket architecten and Wessel de Jonge architects for their restoration of the Zonnestraal Sanatorium in the Dutch town of Hilversum and Brenne Gesellschaft von Architekten’s restoration of the former ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau, Germany.

Located on Japan’s Shikoku Island, Hizuchi Elementary School was designed by Japanese municipal architect Masatsune Matsumura and completed in the late 1950s. It’s a rare example of a modern structure that’s constructed primarily of wood and features dual-façade fenestration, a glass exterior hallway that runs the length of the school, and, taking full advantage of its riverfront site, a suspended outdoor reading balcony off the library and a floating staircase that protrudes over the Kiki River. After incurring serious damage from a 2004 typhoon, the school was at the center of a two-year debate over whether to demolish or preserve the structure. The meticulous restoration, carried out over three years, won the 2012 Annual Award of the Architectural Institute of Japan.
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Google Takes Street View Technology to Heritage Sites with World Wonders Project

You know Google Maps and the spiffy 360-degree navigation of Street View, but what if you want to get a closer look at Antarctica or dive into Australia’s Shark Bay? For that, you’ll want to consult the search giant’s new World Wonders Project, a cultural digitization platform created in collaboration with organizations such as UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund, and CyArk. The World Wonders website features an index of 130 places (and counting), ranging from Stonehenge and Rome’s Temple of Hercules to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In addition to panoramic views of the cultural sites, there are photographs, 3-D models, and videos.
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Eames House Is First Project for Getty’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative

The sight of crumbling modern architecture—buildings often conceived and built in a flurry of systematic optimism, zippy colors (or pure, grime-magnet white), and, less than enduring materials—can be soul-crushing, as can the laborious and costly process of restoring a modern marvel to its former glory. The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) in Los Angeles has committed to aid in this cause through the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, an international program announced this week. “This research-based initiative will increase knowledge for the field and develop new tools to assist practitioners to conserve the architecture of the modern era,” said GCI director Tim Whalen in a statement issue by the The J. Paul Getty Trust. They didn’t have to look far for the first project: the Eames House in Pacific Palisades. A GCI team will undertake investigative work and analysis to understand the current condition of the house, built in 1949 by Charles and Ray, along with its contents and setting. They’ll also assist the Eames Foundation in developing a plan for the house’s long-term conservation and care. Architect Kyle Normandin, formerly of NYC-based Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, has joined the GCI to manage the new initiative, which is overseen by Susan Macdonald.

And speaking of valiant efforts to thwart the growing threats to modern architecture, our sharp-eyed friends at the World Monuments Fund are now accepting nominations for the 2012 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize. The $10,000 prize will be awarded this fall to a design professional or firm in recognition of “innovative design solutions that preserved or saved a modern landmark at risk.” The deadline for nominations is July 31. Click here for full details.

Henry Urbach Named Director of Philip Johnson’s Glass House

Philip Johnson‘s Glass House will soon have a new leader manning the transparent and modern ship. Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that Henry Urbach will be taking over as director of the historic architectural landmark in New Canaan, Connecticut. Urbach most recently served as curator of architecture and design at SFMOMA, having taken leave from the position last spring to work independently, which included research work at the Glass House itself. Previously, he’d also run a popular gallery in New York for nearly a decade, the eponymous Henry Urbach Architecture. It is currently planned that he will take on the roll at the Glass House on April 2, replacing its current interim director, Rena Zurofsky, who had this to say about his selection:

I met Henry last spring and was struck by his energy and enthusiasm for the site. He seems to me ideal to lead the dedicated Glass House team into even more innovative and exciting programmatic terrain, and to push restoration programs on track. I congratulate Henry, and also Estevan Rael-Galvez, Vice President of Sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, on his astute choice.

C&G Partners Celebrates MLK Day with Debut of King Center Digital Archive Site

The design whizzes over at C&G Partners have many talents, but among the most mind-blowing is their ability to transform grayish-yellowish mountains of historical documents and artifacts into visually stunning, user-friendly exhibits and displays. Feast your eyes (and your web browser) on their latest archival triumph: a website for The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. A C&G team led by partner Maya Kopytman (working in collaboration with Chicago-based web development firm Palantir) created a site that builds on the graphic identity established for a related traveling exhibition that the firm completed last year. At the core of the site, which launched yesterday, is a new digital archive for The King Center Imaging Project, a JPMorgan Chase & Co.-backed initiative to “bring the works and papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. to a digital generation.” Browse the archive to pore over King’s handwritten notecards and telegrams or zoom in on a Flip Schulke photo of MLK enjoying lunch with his family in 1964, under the watchful gaze of Ghandi, whose image hangs on a wall above them. Next up: more meticulously scanned and eminently searchable letters, speeches, drafts, notes, and photos. The King Center Imaging Project digital archive will eventually contain about a million documents.

Ambitious St. Louis Arch Redevelopment Project Gets Scaled Back

It’s now been more than a year since landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh‘s was awarded the project to redevelop the area around St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, and more than ten months since the project suddenly doubled in estimated costs. Now, like with many ambitious building efforts, reality seems to slowly be creeping back in. Despite having just landed a $20 million grant from the government to help the redevelopment, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the organizers have already had to start scaling back the project’s grand scope, as well as starting to consider what they can feasibly have done by 2015, when the Arch celebrates its 50th anniversary. Perhaps most telling is that the paper reports the project has raised just $57 million thus far, which includes that $20 million grant. Given that the effort was expected to cost somewhere in the $600 million range, that’s a lot of ground to make up. The new, scaled back plans are expected to be released sometime in January.

Archeologist Argues Sex Pistols Graffiti As Important As Ancient Cave Paintings

Since Werner Herzog’s 3D film Cave of Forgotten Dreams was such a big hit earlier this year, should we now expect a follow up, wherein the adventurous director travels to the wilds of central London and dares enter a small apartment? If you’re a certain professor of archeology at the University of York, you apparently might consider it. The Telegraph reports that a handful of cartoons drawn by John Lydon (or Johnny Rotten) of the Sex Pistols have been discovered behind a cupboard in what are now offices. The archeologist in question is Dr. John Schofield who has compared the find with the cave paintings at Lascaux in France, or at the very least, perhaps even more important than the “lost early Beatles recordings” the BBC found in the mid-90s. In that case, Schofield is careful to remind that a producer at the time of that finding said the discovery was “like finding Tutankhamen’s tomb,” so his comparison to ancient cave paintings shouldn’t sound so absurd. That said, the Guardian‘s Johnathan Jones isn’t buying any of it. Writing that “archeologists should know better” and that anyone from that field who agrees with the importance of the find is merely doing so “to provoke their own profession” without really understanding that modern culture constantly “glorifies the immediate.” In a general sense, his argument seems to boil down to: why stoop to pop culture’s level when there’s legitimate, albeit less sexy, work to be done? Our personal addendum is that, while we genuinely like Lydon’s drawings, and realize their importance to the comparatively very recent history of music, isn’t it a bit premature to label something a major archeological find when the guy who drew them is still alive, and could likely redraw the same cartoons today?

More Issues, Delays for September 11th Museum


While the National September 11th Memorial was met record demand, received generally positive reviews, and has already had more than half a million visitors, that doesn’t mean the rest of the larger project is progressing along as smoothly. In a story nearly as old as when the rebuilding effort began, and a slowness you might recall 60 Minutes once called “a national disgrace,” there’s been yet another slowdown in the construction efforts on the Snohetta and Davis Brody Bond-designed museum portion. The Wall Street Journal reports that the two bodies overseeing the effort, the Port Authorities of New York and New Jersey, have “stopped approving new contracts and extensions of existing contracts,” all stemming from disagreements with the foundation behind the project, as well as financial issues, which have seemingly plagued the development from the very start. This latest series of hurdles seems to indicate that once again the opening of the museum will be pushed back from its original planned opening date next September.

We Told You So Edition: Dinosaur Auction Boom Continues


We don’t want to toot our own horns here, but we’d just like to remind you that we’ve been talking about the importance of dinosaur bone auctions and purchases for years now. Heck, we even went so far as to label 2009 “The Year of Dinosaur Sales.” So here we are at the very end of 2011 and Bloomberg, the very bastion of business and economic news, has published a piece about “the escalating demand for dinosaurs.” In the piece, they report that both prices and demand for all those dusty prehistoric bones has risen considerably, and that “the U.S. remains the world leader in mining luxury dinosaurs.” There’s also a lot of information about the growth of the dino auctions and an interesting profile on some of the people who do both the digging and the sales, but we think the really important takeaway from all of this is that we are clearly market visionaries who saw this budding financial opportunity coming years ago and therefore you should probably wire us all of your savings so we can invest in the next big boom. And just to show we mean business, our first hot tip is free: eco-friendly mega-yachts are going to be coming back in a big way. We’re certain of it (probably).