Another Brutalist Wonder Bites the Dust: Johansen’s Mechanic Theatre

Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore (photo: Edward Gunts)

Despite pleas for preservation from some of the nation’s top architects, demolition work has begun on  a nationally significant example of “Brutalist” architecture in north America, the 1967 Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland, designed by the late John M. Johansen.

A  yellow backhoe with a spike-like attachment began chipping into the theater’s concrete exterior earlier this month, ending any chance that the building could be saved. One local preservationist was able to salvage the original letters from the  building, but nothing else. Read More

Peek Inside Ellis Island’s abandoned hospital before it opens for tours next week

East, Pictorial, Preservation
Friday, September 26, 2014
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Ellis Island's South Side Hospital Complex. (Henry Melcher / AN)

Ellis Island’s South Side Hospital Complex. (Henry Melcher / AN)

In the early 20th Century, the sprawling, 29-building Public Health Service hospital on the south shore of Ellis Island was the biggest federal hospital in the country—and possibly its most state-of-the-art. The comprehensive medical institution treated over one million newly-arrived immigrants ill with diseases like tuberculosis, measles, trachoma, and scarlet fever.

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Iconic works by Paul Rudolph to be celebrated in Sarasota, Florida

Architecture, East, On View, Preservation
Thursday, September 25, 2014
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Umbrella House after restoration. (Bill Miller)

Umbrella House after restoration. (Bill Miller)

In 1948, Paul Rudolph was residing at the American Academy in Rome. He had traveled there to study classical architecture, but was instead spending his days designing modern houses for Sarasota, Florida. In fact, Sarasota, according to Timothy Rohan who has recently published a monograph on Rudolph, made a huge impression on the architect and defined his work for the rest of his career. He had moved there to apprentice and work for the local architect Ralph Twitchell, who in the 1940s helped create a style of modern house that eventually became known as the Sarasota school.

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Northwestern University completes demolition on Old Prentice Women’s Hospital

An empty site at 333 E. Superior St., where until recently Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital stood. (Robert L Vogelzang via The Chicago Architecture Blog)

An empty site at 333 E. Superior St., where until recently Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital stood. (Robert L Vogelzang via The Chicago Architecture Blog)

Old Prentice Women’s Hospital—the cloverleaf-shaped Bertrand Goldberg building that Pritzker Prize winners petitioned to save—has been fully demolished. Read More

Preservationists taken by surprise as demolition begins on Wexler’s Palm Springs Spa Hotel

Architecture, News, Newsletter, Preservation, West
Thursday, September 4, 2014
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Palm Springs Spa Hotel (Julius Shulman)

Palm Springs Spa Hotel. (Julius Shulman)

As preservationists steam, demolition teams working in the desert heat have begun to tear down Donald Wexler’s famed Spa Hotel in downtown Palm Springs. The hotel was closed in early June by its owners, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.  To add insult to injury, the demolition has begun with the hotel’s most famous element: it’s elegant, concrete-vaulted colonnade. Read More

HGA Updates a Minneapolis Landmark

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HGA's Nelson Cultural Center, clad in slate shingles and art glass, complements the historic Turnblad Mansion. (Paul Crosby Photography)

HGA’s Nelson Cultural Center, clad in slate shingles and art glass, complements the historic Turnblad Mansion. (Paul Crosby Photography)

Slate-clad addition to the American Swedish Institute evokes contemporary Scandinavian design.

Minneapolis-based architecture, engineering, and planning firm HGA faced a tall order when the American Swedish Institute asked them to design an addition to the building known locally as “The Castle.” The turreted Turnblad Mansion, constructed in Minneapolis’ Phillips West neighborhood in 1908 and home of ASI since 1929, lacked the kinds of multi-purpose spaces required by ASI’s cultural and educational programming—and was suffering wear and tear from a steady stream of visitors. “The project was about creating a front door that was more welcoming and inviting than the existing building, that can help protect the mansion and allow it to be used as a house museum,” said project architect Andy Weyenberg. At the same time,  “the mansion remained the focal point,” he explained. “It will always be the identity of ASI. Everything we did, we wanted to respect the mansion and keep it as a centerpiece.” HGA’s intervention honors the primacy of the Turnblad Mansion while updating ASI’s image with a contemporary facade inspired by Swedish building methods and materials.

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Marlon Blackwell Puts on a Clinic with Vol Walker Hall

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Marlon Blackwell Architect's Steven L. Anderson Design Center embodies the recent history of architectural technology in its massing and materials. (Timothy Hursley)

Marlon Blackwell Architect’s Steven L. Anderson Design Center embodies the recent history of architectural technology in its massing and materials. (Timothy Hursley)

University of Arkansas  addition celebrates the future with a contemporary rewrite of Neoclassicism.

As head of the architecture department and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, Marlon Blackwell was uniquely qualified to oversee the renovation and expansion of the school’s home, Vol Walker Hall. To unite the school’s landscape architecture, architecture, and interior design departments under one roof for the first time, Blackwell’s eponymous firm designed a contemporary west wing to mirror the east bar on the existing Beaux-Arts style building, constructed in the 1930s as the university library. But the Steven L. Anderson Design Center—which tied for Building of the Year in AN‘s 2014 Best of Design Awards—is more than a container for 37,000 square feet of new studio, seminar, and office space. It is also a teaching tool, a lesson in the evolution of architectural technology writ in concrete, limestone, glass, steel, and zinc.
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Moscow’s Shukhov Tower won’t be dismantled after all

THE SHUKHOV TOWER. (COURTESY RICHARD PARE)

THE SHUKHOV TOWER. (COURTESY RICHARD PARE)

One of Russia’s most distinctive pieces of architecture—the 1920s-era Shukhov Radio and Television tower in Moscow—has skirted what appeared to be its imminent death.

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Los Angeles’ grand Spring Arcade coming back to life

View of the Spring Arcade's cleaned up three-level arcade (BRC Advisors)

View of the Spring Arcade’s cleaned up three-level arcade (BRC Advisors)

Another symbol of downtown Los Angeles’ transformation is the ongoing renovation and rebranding of the Spring Arcade Building. Modeled after the great Beaux Arts arcades of Europe, the space has long been a grubby home for non-distinct shops. The Arcade—actually two 12-story towers connected by the skylit, glass roofed, three-level arcade—was built in 1924 by architects Kenneth McDonald and Maurice Couchot. With its Spanish Baroque entryway, it originally contained 61 shops, and later added a Venetian-style bridge across its center. It now contains space for 21 shops and restaurants and still contains the landmark KRKD radio towers on its roof.

Continue reading after the jump.

Eavesdrop> Mantilini Mess: Morphosis landmarking stirs debate in Beverly Hills

(William Veerbeek / Flickr)

(William Veerbeek / Flickr)

 

 

One of Morphosis’ earliest projects, the Beverly Hills restaurant Kate Mantilini (1986), is now up for landmarking by the city of Beverly Hills. We hear that Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse is obsessed with getting this done, but ironically the restaurant’s owners are not so happy about it. The rumor mill says they’re afraid of being locked into a design forever. Especially one from the 80s. Imagine if someone told you that you had to keep your 80s hair for the rest of your life?

Detroit’s infamous theater-turned-parking garage sold at auction

Detroit's crumbling Michigan Theatre has fallen into disrepair since its 1926 construction. (Hermann Schleicher-Roevenstrunck via Flickr)

Detroit’s Michigan Theatre has fallen into disrepair since its 1926 construction. (Hermann Schleicher-Roevenstrunck via Flickr)

Detroit’s Michigan Theatre remains iconic, but not for the reasons that made it so during its early 20th century heyday. Now the opulent 1926 concert hall holds parked cars instead of theater-goers. Will it remain a symbol of Detroit’s struggle to recover from long-term disinvestment, or could it become emblematic of the city’s resilience?

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Detroit “Reanimate the Ruins” Ideas Competition Tackles Historic Packard Automotive Plant

1st-Place-2

The competition winning proposal, Cross the Plant, by Vincent Lavergne.

In 2009, vandals pushed a dump truck through a hole in the wall on the fourth story of the abandoned Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit. (Of course there’s a video.) It’s a level of dereliction and decay that’s frankly common to North America’s foremost basket-case city, but it’s made a bit more poignant by the fact that the plant (built in 1907 and closed in the late ’90s) was once an icon of Detroit’s command over automotive technology and the automotive industry. The 3.5-million-square-foot facility was designed by Albert Kahn to produce luxury cars, and was the first of its type to use a reinforced concrete structure.

But now it’s time for some more creative thinking about how to use the Packard site.

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