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

Erasmus University Rotterdam Restarts Campus Heart with Modernized Grounds

City Terrain, International
Monday, November 11, 2013
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(Courtesy Powerhouse)

The new campus heart of Erasmus University Rotterdam provides a contemporary space for student gathering. (Courtesy Powerhouse Company & DeZwarteHond)

This month, a newly opened public campus center brought the brutalist Erasmus University Rotterdam Woudestein Campus back to life. In a collaborative effort by several Dutch architectural firms, three projects have been realized at Woudestein to create a contemporary on-campus heart for student gathering. Integrating existing grounds of several elevations, the sustainably built center provides multi-level student resources and is the first phase of a university-wide redevelopment master plan, which will extend into 2015.

Continue Reading After the Jump.

Five Paul Rudolph Buildings Under Threat in Buffalo

East, Newsletter
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
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Paul Rudolph's Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo, New York (Kelvin Dickinson / Flickr)

Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo, New York (Kelvin Dickinson / Flickr)

2013 has proven to be a difficult year for post-war concrete architecture. While some iconic structures have managed to emerge from the maelstrom of demolition attempts unharmed, including M. Paul Friedberg’s Peavy Plaza in Minneapolis and (tentatively) the Paul Rudolph–designed Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York (the fate of which still remains uncertain), others have been less lucky.

John Johansen’s daring Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama and, more recently, Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Woman’s Hospital in Chicago have all been doomed to the wrecking ball. Despite architectural historian Michael R. Allen’s claim that the demolition of the Prentice’ Woman’s Hospital would be Modernism’s “Penn Station Moment,” the trend still pushes on.

The next in line to fight for its survival is a set of Paul Rudolph buildings in Buffalo, New York. Tomorrow, November 6, at 8:15 a.m., the Buffalo City Planning Board will convene to decide the fate of five buildings included in Rudolph’s 9.5-acre Shoreline Apartment complex.

Continue reading after the jump.

Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center Gets Reprieve, Vote Points To Renovation

East
Monday, February 11, 2013
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(Tom Stoelker / AN)

(Tom Stoelker / AN)

Concrete architecture from the 1970s hasn’t been faring well of late, but while Bertrand Goldberg’s expressionist Prentice Hospital seems destined for the wrecking ball, Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York has been spared. In a 15-6 vote, the members of the Orange County Legislature backed a resolution to renovate the building, defeating efforts by County Executive Edward Diana who has pushed for demolition of Rudolph’s dynamic and puzzling structure. The arguments hinged on cost more than on architectural merit, but even so, architecture fans will be relieved that this unique building will be spared.

Dispute Could Doom John Johansen’s Iconic Mummers Theater

Southwest
Friday, May 11, 2012
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John Johansen's Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City. (Courtesy of Farooq S. Karim)

John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City. (Courtesy of Farooq S. Karim)

John Johansen’s iconic Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City may be demolished in the next year. Built with a $1.7 million grant from the Ford Foundation, the so called “Brutalist” building was closed in 2010 due to flooding and a local Oklahoma City group has been trying to purchase it for a downtown children’s museum.

Read More

Rudolph Lives! At Least For Now.  Rudolph Lives! At Least For Now The perplexing yet bewitching jumble of concrete boxes known as Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York has been granted a reprieve. The county legislature voted 11 to 10 against a bond issue which would have funded the demolition of the Paul Rudolph designed building. Preservationists and architects have been following the project closely, and have made compelling arguments against the demolition and in favor of renovation. No word yet on whether the county will move to renovate the building, which suffers from leaks as well as damage from tropical storm Irene.

 

Fate of Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in the Balance

East, Newsletter
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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Yesterday's committee vote approved replacing Orange County Government Center. (AN/Stoelker)

Yesterday's committee vote approved replacing Orange County Government Center. (AN/Stoelker)

Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center moved a tentative step closer to demolition yesterday after a subcommittee of the county legislature approved $14.6 million to finance the design of a new $75 million complex. With the subcommittee vote cleared, a full vote by the legislature is expected on May 3. But committee chair Michael Pilmeier’s vote breaking a four to four split hints that the plan may not have the two-third majority of the legislature needed to proceed.

Read More

South Street Seaport Preservationistas: Oh no! PoMo Don’t Go!

East, Newsletter
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
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Detail of the model presented by SHoP at yesterday's Landmarks hearing. (AN/Stoelker)

Detail of the Pier 17 model presented by SHoP at yesterday's Landmarks hearing. (AN/Stoelker)

The PoMo aficionados were out in force at yesterday’s Landmarks Preservation hearing for the new proposal for South Street Seaport’s Pier 17. It would seem that just as debate on the value of 1970s Brutalism shifts into high gear, the 1980s PoMo crowd is revving its engines. As preservationists and developers whacked it out, some larger questions about context and neighborhood integration arose.

Read More

A Brief History of Old Buildings Going Futuro On Film

West
Monday, August 30, 2010
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UCSD Geisel Library/ Snow Fortress, one of several older buildings pegged for the future in movies

Talk of William Pereira’s Geisel Library, the well-known symbol of UC San Diego, has been abuzz online because of its Snow Fortress doppelganger in Inception, which has so far totaled close to half a billion dollars in ticket sales.  Built in the late 1960s, this textbook example of Brutalism perfectly encapsulates the hostile, uncommunicative theme of Inception. Critics of the style say Brutalist architecture disregards the history and harmony of its environment. Thus, the Snow Fortress, featured at the film’s climax, is a symbol of disregard for preordained fate. Read More

Brutalism On the Small Screen

East
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
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Quick! Name that Building!

That’s right, it’s time for another round of our favorite game. You can probably name the architect, thanks to the ribbons of his signature corduroy concrete, to say nothing of the cantilevered passageways and swooping staircases. So it’s Paul Rudolph. But which of his masterworks? It’s not a famous one, so you’ll probably never guess. Okay, you got it. It’s the Hurley Building of his Government Service Center in Boston. It’s an impressive star turn for an architect whose buildings haven’t faired so well of late. And yet it’s good to know that when those Madison Avenue Fatcats still need a structure to shoot on that screams hip futurism, Rudolph’s the go-to guy. Dude’s still got it. Read More

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