Library officials and developers hope to give Boston Public Library’s Philip Johnson-designed branch a facelift, but as the Boston Herald reported, local residents question who these proposed changes will really benefit. Standing besides Charles Follen McKim’s 1895 Beaux Arts masterwork on Copley Square, and across the street from the site of the recent marathon bombings, the mid-century monolith, which was completed in 1971, has been likened by many to a bunker or mausoleum and derided for its “greyness” and “bleakness.” With nearly half of Boston’s library users regularly visiting this branch, some think it’s about time for an upgrade.
As the chorus of criticism swells against MoMA’s plan to demolish the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, a pair of petitions have been posted urging the Modern to reconsider its demolition plans. Also, a crowd-sourced tumblr, #FolkMoMA, is soliciting ideas for reuse of Williams and Tsien’s building. With all the action online, will anyone be taking to the streets for some old fashioned picketing? Will anyone chain themselves to the bronze facade? Has all this worry actually left the bubble of the architecture community?
One of Moscow’s most iconic pieces of architecture, the cylindrical home of avant-garde architect Konstantin Melnikov built in the 1920s, is reportedly showing signs of structural damage caused by rumbling from neighboring construction projects and is in danger of being demolished. The New York Times reports that preservationists including Docomomo have sounded the alarm that cracks have been forming in the structure and its foundation. Russian preservation group Archnadzor has filed an appeal to President Vladimir Putin in an effort to save the structure from potential collapse.
Cincinnati’s 1938 Frederick and Harriet Rauh House by architect John Becker is a success story of preserving modern architecture. The house was nearly demolished for a McMansion several years ago, but the Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) initiated a restoration project in September 2011 and the revolutionary International Style abode is now complete after just over a year of renovation. The CPA will celebrate the renewal of the Rauh House by hosting a two-day symposium, “Preserving Modern Architecture,” taking place on April 24 and 25.
New York City’s financially-strapped Department of Education is seeking to cash in on a 99,000 square foot lot on 70th Street just west of Broadway, but a local elementary school and the legacy of one of America’s first Modernists stand in the way. If the Department gets its way, the three-story P.S. 199, designed in 1963 by Edward Durell Stone, will be sold to developers and replaced by a 340-foot-tall luxury residential tower in the already crowded Upper West Side neighborhood.
The slow and tortured demise of Chicago’s Prentice Women’s Hospital now has an official stamp: according to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern University was issued a demolition permit for the Bertrand Goldberg cloverleaf last Friday. Wrecking crews will be on site in a few weeks after asbestos abatement wraps up, and there are sure to be protesters around the construction fence.
Of course, as seems all too common, the city is also busy readying soldiers for the next preservation battle. The 1957 Edo Belli-designed Cuneo Memorial Hospital is targeted for demolition, but Uptown residents have reached out to Preservation Chicago for support seeking landmark status. The group listed the building on its 2012 list of seven most-threatened structures in the city. Add this to what happened to Prentice and it isn’t a good year to be a midcentury modernist hospital in Chicago.
Oklahoma City just cannot tear down its architectural landmarks fast enough! The city and its developer community have been trying to do away with John Johansen‘s famous Mummers Theater and now David Box, a local developer, wants to get rid of a unique geodesic dome built in 1958 on Route 66. The developer—who claims among other things that the roof leaks and “you can’t just call a normal roofer and say hey we got a geodesic dome here can you fix it”—will give anyone who wants the dome a $100,000 bonus to take it off his property so he can fill it in and “make it safe.” The structure was originally built to house a bank and has been declared eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and was designed by local architects Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson, and Roloff based on Buckminster Fuller‘s patented dome.
It has been clear since earlier this year that Richard Neutra’s Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg, PA was to meet the wrecking ball, but within the last week, bulldozers have officially destroyed the structure, according to Hanover Evening Sun, ending a more-than-three-year battle over what to do with the mid-century building.
Originally designed to house Paul Philippoteaux’s 377-foot painting of Pickett’s Charge, the rotunda is being torn down in order to restore the land on which it has resided since the 1960′s to it’s historic Civil War state. Bob Kirby, Superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park, expects demolition to be completed by late April but major efforts to restore the landmark site will not occur until after July 3rd, the date marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
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.
Despite once again turning out a crowd of supporters who contributed hours of impassioned testimony, many preservationists were unsurprised by an outcome that they chalked up to political determinism.
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.
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.