Restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia Rotunda Underway

East
Monday, January 28, 2013
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The University of Virginia Rotunda. (Patrick Morrissey / Flickr)

The University of Virginia Rotunda. (Patrick Morrissey / Flickr)

No one really knows what Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda, modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, representing the enlightened human mind, and standing at the head of the University of Virginia’s Academical Village lawn in Charlottesville, VA, looked like originally. The structure burned in 1895, the result of an electrical surge from a local streetcar line, and records of the original design are not complete. Over the years, various generations have rebuilt and restored the structure according to their own interpretations of Jefferson’s design and to the needs of the time. Now 40 years after the last major renovations took place for the nation’s bicentennial, UVA has covered the Rotunda in scaffolding and begun the latest round of improvements to the once-crumbling structure.

Continue reading after the jump.

Foster’s Exterior Changes Green-Lighted at the New York Public Library

East
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
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Rendering of Foster + Partners' proposed renovation of the New York Public Library. (Courtesy Foster+Partners / dbox)

Rendering of Foster + Partners’ proposed renovation of the New York Public Library. (Courtesy Foster+Partners / dbox)

Preservationists who have waged a battle against Foster + Partners’ planned renovations of the New York Public Library received bad news Tuesday: The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the library’s application for changes to its Beaux-Arts exterior, mostly on the side facing Bryant Park, in a six-to-two vote.

The $300 million renovation calls for removing seven floors of stacks beneath the famous Rose Main Reading Room to accommodate a large workspace and the collections from the Mid-Manhattan and the Innovative Science, Industry, and Business Libraries. This might be a major step forward for the library, but the approval process is not yet over. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Landmarks Commission can only vote on changes proposed to the landmarked exterior—the decision about the stacks is out of their hands.

Minneapolis’ Embattled Peavey Plaza Lands on National Register

Midwest
Monday, January 21, 2013
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Peavey Plaza's fountains have fallen into disrepair.

Peavey Plaza’s fountains have fallen into disrepair. (Keri Pickett)

Peavey Plaza, downtown Minneapolis’ celebrated modernist square completed in 1975, fell into disrepair—two of its three iconic fountains are no longer operational, and its sunken “garden rooms” have helped harbor illegal activity. Landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg’s plaza became the focus of a high-profile preservation battle two years ago, with The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) leading the charge to rehabilitate Peavey and city officials pushing for demolition.

Now TCLF has announced the plaza has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The “park plaza” style Friedberg forged is evident in Peavey’s blend of hard concrete squares and American-style green spaces. It joins 88,000 sites of architectural heritage on the list, only 2,500 of which have significance in landscape architecture.

Preservationists sued the city last year to contest city council’s claim that there were “no reasonable alternatives” to demolition, hoping to win protection under Minnesota’s Environmental Rights Act.

Abandoned Power Plant on the Hudson River to Become Hotel, Convention Center

East, Newsletter
Monday, January 21, 2013
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Glenwood Power Plant in Yonkers. (June Marie / Flickr)

Glenwood Power Plant in Yonkers. (June Marie / Flickr)

It has been nearly five decades since the Glenwood Power Plant in Yonkers, New York closed its doors, but developer Ron Shemesh has plans to transform this four-building complex on the Hudson into a hotel and convention center. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Shemesh, a plastics manufacturer from the area, bought the property from investor Ken Capolino for $3 million. The project will be costly, however. Mr. Shemesh will need to raise around $155 million to redevelop the plant. In December, the Mid-Hudson Economic Development Council gave Mr. Shemesh a small economic boost with a $1 million grant to preserve the sprawling complex.

A few photos of the interior after the jump.

John Johansen’s Mummers Theater May Not Be Doomed After All

Southwest
Friday, January 18, 2013
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John Johansen's Mummers Theater was renovated into the Stage Center in the 1990s. (Courtesy Elliott+Associates Architects)

John Johansen’s Mummers Theater was renovated into the Stage Center in the 1990s. (Courtesy Elliott+Associates Architects)

There is some good news coming out of Oklahoma City where the effort to save the late John Johansen‘s iconic 1970 Mummers Theater has taken a positive—if tentative step—towards preservation. AN last wrote about the theater on May, 11, 2012 when a recent flood in the building seemed to doom an effort by a local group to purchase the facility and turn it into a downtown children’s museum. We’ve kept up with the preservation effort periodically over the past year and always heard that its was a hopeless cause and would soon be destroyed and replaced by a new building. But the building which Johansen himself said “might be taken visually as utter chaos” has a compelling joy in its elevation and plan that makes it unique and certainly the most important structure in Oklahama City.

Continue reading after the jump.

A Battle Lost for Neutra’s Gettsyburg Cyclorama Building

East
Friday, January 11, 2013
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Photograph of Richard Neutra's Gettysburg cyclorama building. (Lawrence S. Williams Photography/Courtesy Docomomo)

Photograph of Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg cyclorama building. (Lawrence S. Williams Photography/Courtesy Docomomo)

After years of litigation, preservationists have lost the battle to save Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg cyclorama building, an iconic example of modern architecture from the 1960s. The bulldozers could raze this circular visitor center as early as February, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The National Park Service commissioned the glass and concrete building as part of its Mission 66 initiative—a billion-dollar program to update park services across the country—at the Gettysburg Battlefield site.  The rotunda was designed specifically to house the 1883 panoramic painting of the Battle of Gettysburg by Paul Philippoteaux.

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Prentice, Back in Court, Wins Just Another 30 Days

Midwest
Friday, January 11, 2013
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Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago. (ChicagoGeek/Flickr)

Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago. (ChicagoGeek/Flickr)

Cook County Judge Neil Cohen swatted down Friday a lawsuit preservationists filed to save Prentice Women’s Hospital, but ordered an extension of the threatened Goldberg building’s stay of demolition for another month.

Preservationists sued to overturn a decision by the Chicago Commission on Landmarks that ultimately denied protection for Prentice in November, asserting the commission violated its own rules of conduct by considering economic concerns over architectural merits.

Continue reading after the jump.

Obit> Lenore Norman, 1929-2012

East, Newsletter
Friday, December 28, 2012
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The Villard Houses on Madison Avenue were one of Lenore Norman's first projects at the Landmarks Preservation Commission. (Andrea Puggioni/Flickr)

The Villard Houses on Madison Avenue were one of Lenore Norman’s first projects at the Landmarks Preservation Commission. (Andrea Puggioni/Flickr)

Lenore Norman, a pioneer of historic preservation, died at 83 years old in her home on the Upper West Side on December 21st. She spent over 4 decades working tirelessly to preserve some of New York’s most iconic buildings and historic districts. Ms. Norman first stepped into her role as the executive director of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in the mid-1970s—a time when the idea of landmark preservation was fairly new and unpopular among some New Yorkers.

“The whole idea of preservation was not something that people really understood, and of course, all of the larger institutions and buildings, for the most part, fought it,” said Ms. Norman in an interview for The New York Preservation Archive Project.

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U of C addition updates old seminary for modern economics department

Other
Thursday, December 13, 2012
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University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute (courtesy ann beha architects)

University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute (courtesy ann beha architects)

The University of Chicago’s ongoing development is a balancing act of preserving its collegiate gothic badge of architectural honor and making bold contemporary bounds ahead. One project that maintains that equilibrium with grace is Ann Beha Architect’s conversion of the University’s old Theological Seminary into a new economics building.

The area surrounding the site at 58th and University is on the preservation watch list, so the new steel-and-glass research pavilion along Woodlawn Avenue is likely to ruffle a few feathers. But most of the work treads lightly on the site. Glass infill will create a new entryway between the seminary building’s two main wings.

While historic facades remain throughout much of the building, designers hope a new staircase will improve vertical circulation. And a 90-seat classroom anchors an expansion below grade that improves access to existing space, drawing in light from openings to a new loggia above. Placed atop a terra cotta base, the modern addition jives tastefully with the former seminary.

MAS Proposes 17 Midtown East Landmarks to Avoid “Out With The Old, In With The New”

East
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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Yale Club.

Yale Club. (Courtesy MAS)

In response to the New York City Department of City Planning’s proposal to rezone Midtown East, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) has asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to give landmark status to 17 buildings in the 78-block area concentrated around Grand Central Terminal. It is a last ditch effort to preserve several prominent structures—with styles ranging Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival to Neo-Gothic and Mid-Century Modern—before Midtown gets the green light to raze old structures and erect new (and taller) buildings that provide modern features for tenants who “want open space plans” wrote the DCP in its proposal. The New York Times described the re-zoning as part of the Bloomberg administration’s vision to re-vamp midtown and turn it into a more competitive business district.

Some notable buildings that have made MAS’ list include the New York Health & Racquet Club in Gothic Revival Style, the Graybar Building with Art Deco accents, the Neo-Gothic Swedish Seamen’s Church, and the Yale Club noted for its neo-classical façade.

Check the full list after the jump.

UPDATE: Preservationists Sue to Save Chicago’s Prentice Hospital, Win Temporary Protection

Midwest
Thursday, November 15, 2012
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Old Prentice Women's Hospital, now the subject of a legal battle. (Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Estate of Bertrand Goldberg/ Strawn.Sierralta with Plural Design)

Old Prentice Women’s Hospital, now the subject of a legal battle. (Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Estate of Bertrand Goldberg/ Strawn.Sierralta with Plural Design)

A bizarre parliamentary maneuver two weeks ago granted and subsequently revoked landmark status for Bertrand Goldberg’s embattled Old Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, leading some to speculate about legal recourse for a coalition of preservationists who have fought owner Northwestern University’s plans to demolish the building. Today members of that coalition took their battle to court, alleging the Commission on Chicago Landmarks “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority.”

Continue reading after the jump.

Kimmelman: Have your Prentice and Build It, Too

Midwest
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
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Options exist beyond demolition and preservation as-is. (Courtesy Studio Gang, Jay Hoffman)

Options exist beyond demolition and preservation as-is. (Courtesy Studio Gang, Jay Hoffman)

New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman waded into the controversy embroiling Chicago’s old Prentice Women’s Hospital Wednesday and wound up soliciting a unique solution from Jeanne Gang that has already garnered praise from the coalition of preservationists fighting to save the building from demolition.

Noting the “familiar” tone of the dispute between landowner Northwestern University, who wants to demolish Prentice to make way for up to 500,000 square feet of medical research facilities, and preservationists seeking landmark status for the distinctive 1970s Bertrand Goldberg structure, Kimmelman called for a third approach: incorporate old Prentice into a new design on the site. As the pendulum begins to lean towards demolition, with 42nd ward Alderman Brendan Reilly saying he supports Northwestern’s decision, the critic asked Gang what she thought.

Read More

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