August 2011 E-News Brief

THREATENED: RICHARD NEUTRA'S KRONISH HOUSE

Richard Neutra's Kronish Residence, threatened with demolition, has received a brief reprieve to give preservationists a chance to devise a plan to save the residence, while the City seeks to draft a historic preservation ordinance.

Temporary fencing surrounds the property. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein

Secluded in the canyons of Beverly Hills, the 1955 Kronish Residence was one of the largest Neutra residential projects. Built for tract developer Herbert Kronish and his new English bride, the design included unusual requirements such as mirrors on the ceiling of Mrs. Kronish’s dressing room. Rare Carrara Glass (a pigmented structural glass) lines the walls of the master bath, and there are many other unique features.

The original listing characterized the property as a “tear down” with no mention of the Neutra design, and after several months on the market, the owners had decided to remove the structure and sell as an empty plot of land. The home, along with another hundred or so Neutra-designed properties, has no official landmark or historic property designation.

Inside the property. Photo: Curbed LA

Beverly Hills is devoid of a preservation ordinance, and offers no legal protection for its historic structures. In recent months the city has witnessed the loss of several historic buildings including John Lautner's Shusett House and the Beverly Hills Friars Club, designed by Sidney Eisenshtat.

Following a Beverly Hills City Council meeting on the evening of August 2, owners agreed to delay their destructive plans until October 10, 2011. In a groundbreaking -- and promising -- action, the Council also asked the Planning Commission to draft a historic preservation ordinance for the city.

Architect and son Dion Neutra has started a campaign to re-imagine Kronish as a Neutra Library, and is currently seeking donations for the project. Read more about the efforts underway at Dion Neutra’s blog: http://neutra.org/kronish.html

Docomomo US will continue to report news of the Kronish Residence as it develops.

Related links:
Los Angeles Conservancy coverage of Kronish House
Los Angeles Times slideshow of the homes of Richard Neutra

TOUR DAY: OCTOBER 8-10, 2011

The fifth annual Docomomo US Tour Day is just two months away! With more than 30 tours in 20 states, and new tours still being added, Tour Day is bigger then ever. In addition to our national partners, the Society for Architectural Historians, the Philip Johnson Glass HouseNational Trust for Historic Preservation and Archtober, this year we are excited to be working with a number of new local organizations to bring modern architecture tours to more people around the country. Details and registration are now available. Please check the website for tour dates, reservation requirements, meeting times and places.

Here are a few newly added tours:

*Palm Springs Modernism Week will host its most popular event, the “Modernism Double Decker Architecture Bus Tour”. A fun open-air double decker bus tour of Palm Springs, California provides a guided look at iconic mid-century modern architecture by some of the most renowned architects of the period. Combined with striking natural beauty, visitors will understand why Palm Springs has been a glamorous destination and celebrity outpost for over 90 years.

*ModernPhoenix joins Tour Day with a guided architectural bus tour including exclusive access to five of Phoenix’s most loved mid-century modern properties and neighborhoods. Homeowners, architects, and interior designers will be present to discuss process, materials, and history. (Note this tour will be taking place on October 16, 2011 to coincide with National AIGA Conference events in the region.)

*The Chicago Chapter Society for Architectural Historians (CCSAH) will be hosting a tour of “Edward Dart: Houses of Worship.” A guided tour of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, IL will be lead by Father Beckett Franks.

These tours, along with many more exciting events ranging from new locations to past Tour Day favorites, will be taking place on and around the Columbus Day weekend. Tours are currently taking reservations and some events are limited. Sign up today and reserve your spot.

Visit www.docomomo-us.org/tour_day_2011 for details about tours in your region as well as frequent updates on all events planned for Tour Day 2011!

ADVOCACY SPOTLIGHT: CAPE COD MODERN HOUSE TRUST

Docomomo US intern and Columbia University Historic Preservation student Kaity Ryan reports from her experience this past spring at the Cape Cod Modern House Trust:

     When I first read about the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, I was struck by the innovative yet logical concept behind their model. The Trust was started when a group of Modern houses sited within the bounds of the Cape Cod National Seashore fell into disrepair and were slated for demolition due to lack of maintenance funding. Recognizing their architectural importance and historical value, a group of local advocates created the Cape Cod Modern House Trust and initiated an agreement with the National Seashore. The intention of the Trust is to restore all seven of the Modernist houses owned by the National Seashore and reconfigure them as educational and cultural resources. The Kugel/Gips House (Charles Zehnder, 1970) in Wellfleet was the initial house restoration executed under the agreement. Kugel/Gips serves as a home-base of sorts for the Cape Cod Modern House Trust; providing a space for meetings, house tours, Trust-sponsored events, and the artist and scholar residency program. For select weeks, the house is rented to visitors to generate a revenue stream to sustain the Trust.

     This May, I was afforded the opportunity to live in the Kugel/Gips House as a scholar-in-residence, researching the local architecture as well as the Cape Modern House Trust’s model first-hand. While the house museum is an important tool for historic preservation advocacy, the number of closures due to lack of funding and visitation in recent years reflects the need for preservationists to think more creatively in terms of viability. The Cape Cod Modern House Trust presents such a model. Certainly, welcoming visitors to live in a preserved house comes along with its own set of criticisms – the main concern being potential for visitors damaging the structure - yet if the visitation volume is kept to a minimum and the caretaker ensures that visitors are mindful of the fragility of the house, the Cape Cod Modern House Trust’s model is one that can be replicated as a viable model for preservation.

Photos: Kaity Ryan

INTERNATIONAL VIEWS: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY SOCIETY

The Twentieth Century Society is a British organization dedicated to safeguarding the heritage of architecture and design in Britain from 1914 onwards. The Society’s prime objectives are conservation, to protect the buildings and design that characterize the Twentieth Century in Britain, and education, to extend the public's knowledge and appreciation of them. Founded in 1979 as the Thirties Society in response to the need for a conservation focus on structures built after 1914 (where the Victorian Society, founded twenty years earlier, concludes its scope), it was re-named The Twentieth Century Society in 1992 with the broader mission to create understanding and appreciation of the best of all kinds of buildings erected in Britain in the 20th century.

Author and architectural historian Alan Powers, Chair of the Society, contributes this update:

Preston Bus Station

     Recessions normally give breathing space to buildings threatened by development. The period up to 2008 was increasingly hectic, and post-1945 buildings were especially under threat owing to the development value of their sites. In several cases, such as the Commonwealth Institute (RMJM, 1962) in Holland Park, buildings protected by listing suffered attrition from the concessions made by the authorities established to make this protection real. In others, English Heritage, the government’s expert advisers on listing, recommended major civic buildings such as the Birmingham City Library (John Madin, 1974) or the Preston Bus Station (BDP, 1969) for protection, but the government refused. It was hard not to hear the developers’ money talking off stage. Both of these are large concrete structures, and both still standing in 2011, as the redevelopments proposed for their sites may or may not go ahead. Both have become national news stories, with local defenders whose enthusiasm has provoked the standard responses of ‘brutalist monstrosity’.

     Journalists are often part of the problem, since many of them only see one story where modernist heritage is concerned – the one that goes ‘these crazy people want to keep this rubbish.’ This story came out in the high-profile campaign over the Robin Hood Gardens flats in the East End of London, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson in 1968-72. The Twentieth Century Society challenged the decision not to list and has published a book recording the building and the campaign. It still stands and is fully occupied by people who enjoy living there, even though the building needs refurbishment.

     Architecture of the 1920s and 30s tends to be less problematic. A large number of the famous London Underground stations have recently been listed, while campaigns are afoot to win lottery money for Lubetkin’s Dudley Zoo (1937) in the West Midlands. The Twentieth Century Society has played a key role in helping both these campaigns, while continuing to run its programme of events and issue publications, including the series Twentieth Century Architects in association with RIBA Publishing, now comprising six titles since 2009 and more to come.

To learn more about the Twentieth Century Society, visit their website at www.c20society.org.uk

RECAP: 9TH ANNUAL DOCOMOMO BRAZIL CONFERENCE

The 9th Annual Docomomo Brazil Conference: Interdisciplinary experiences in documentation and preservation of recent heritage took place this past June in the capital city of Brasília.

Opening session

The conference served as a platform for contributions from several fields of knowledge committed to the documentation and preservation of cultural properties, such as Geography, History, Restoration, Arts, Economy, and Law. From these fields, 120 papers ranging from experiences of documentation, experiences of preservation, and reflections on recent heritage were distributed. Over 400 participants attended the conference, representing countries from around the world including Argentina, England, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, and the United States.

A tribute to Brazilian architect José Galbinski began the proceedings. Keynote lecturers included Docomomo International President Ana Tostões (IST, Universidade Técnica, Lisboa),

Docomomo International President Ana Tostões

Docomomo US President Theodore Prudon (Columbia University, NY), Mário Mendonça (Universidade Federal da Bahia, Salvador), Luis Mauro Freire (Escola Da Cidade, São Paulo), Cyro Correa Lyra (National Monuments, Rio de Janeiro), Alfredo Gastal (National Monuments, Brasília), Alfonso Corona Martínez (Universidad de Belgrano, Buenos Aires), and Jorge Silvetti (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA). Alfonso Corona Martínez and Jorge Silvetti, along with Docomomo Chile President Horacio Torrent were panelists on the special round table Brasília and the modern monumentality, chaired by Docomomo Brazil President Carlos Eduardo Dias Comas.

Activities also included an international pre-conference with the theme What to consider as recent heritage? Readings of dwelling space and perspectives of comparative studiesCine Brasília, a workshop* led by Theodore Prudon producing a chart of guidelines for the preservation of the landmark movie theater designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1958; momotours – twelve guided tours to buildings ranging from well-known modern monuments by Brazilian architects to outstanding works by foreign authors; a movie premiere; and the release of Docomomo International Journal 43, dedicated to Brasília.

L-R: Horacio Torrent, Docomomo Chile; Carlos Eduardo Dias Comas, Docomomo Brazil; Jorge Silvetti, Harvard University; Alfonso Corona Martínez, Universidad de Belgrano, Buenos Aires

The conference was organized by the Docomomo Brasília Chapter and the School of Architecture and Urban Design (Universidade de Brasília), together with the Docomomo Brazil Chapter and with financial support of the National Council of Science and Technology Development (CNPq). Conducted by local Docomomo members Danilo Matoso Macedo, Sylvia Ficher, Elcio Gomes da Silva and Andrey Schlee, it was achieved thanks to the dedication and teamwork of over 20 collaborators and 30 undergraduate students.

-contributed by Danilo Matoso Macedo

*See next month's Docomomo US E-News Brief for a report on the Cine Brasília workshop from participant Cristina Pastore.

CHAPTER UPDATE: DOCOMOMO US/NOCA ANNOUNCES WEBSITE LAUNCH

Docomomo US/NOCA is pleased to announce the re-launch of their website www.docomomo-noca.org. This project has been over a year in the making and a special thanks goes out to designers Ted Perez + Associates of Venice, CA, who donated the design of the site to the chapter.

Chapter President Gretchen Hilyard credits her Docomomo peers, reporting, "We drew a lot of inspiration from other chapters' sites (especially Docomomo WEWA) and are hoping that we might be able to encourage other chapters to create their own sites as part of all of our shared mission to increase awareness about Docomomo and advocacy for the protection of modern resources."

Great work Gretchen, and congratulations on the launch!

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: BOMBOOZLED

Bomboozeld: How the U.S. Government Misled Itself and its People Into Believing They Could Survive a Nuclear Attack
Susan Roy
Published by Pointed Leaf Press, New York, June 2011
 
Fascination with 1950’s pop culture continues to grow, and as the word “atomic” is appended to everything from burgers to magazines and television shows reliving the era, the “underground” architecture and buildings deserve attention. Susan Roy’s book explores not only the literature and advertisements dealing with the nuclear threat of the period, but also the subterranean structures many families constructed in their back yards. Stylized bunkers feature domes, cupolas and concrete block rooms, the latter often shown with extensive and traditional interiors including family pictures and Christmas trees. This book is a stark reminder of the dark side of midcentury modern.
 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Fitch Mid-Career Grant
Fitch Mid-Career grants of up to $15,000 are awarded annually to one or two mid-career professionals who have an academic background, professional experience and an established identity in one or more of the following fields: historic preservation, architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, environmental planning, architectural history and the decorative arts. The James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation will consider proposals for the research and/or the execution of the preservation-related projects in any of these fields. Applications are due SEPTEMBER 15, 2011.

Docomomo International Conference
August 2012 Espoo, Finland

Docomomo Suomi/Finland will host the 12th Docomomo International Conference in Espoo, Finland in 2012. The conference will be held in cooperation and with the support of the City of Espoo and Espoo City Museum.

Call for papers is now open - deadline is OCTOBER 15, 2011.

 John Lautner Turns 100
July 16 - November 13, 2011
Los Angeles, CA
and Marquette, MI

In celebration of what would have been John Lautner’s 100th birthday on July 16, 2011, the series will showcase Lautner’s extraordinary body of work while informing and inspiring the public about the importance of preserving it. Click here for a full schedule of events.
  
 

The Glass House: Conversations in Context
Through November 17, 2011
New Canaan, CT

Join a leading mind in architecture, art, landscape, history, design, or preservation and experience the Glass House campus through an entirely new lens. Listen to a personal narrative, interpretation, or inspiration by a special guest while walking the site with an intimate group of visitors. Continue the dialogue during a reception at the Glass House following the tour. For a full list of hosts and to buy tickets, visit the Glass House website.

SCUP Campus Heritage Symposium
November 3 - 4, 2011
Washington, DC

This symposium brings together together renowned experts to discuss the state of campus heritage planning in light of the lessons learned from Getty Foundation-funded research on 86 campuses.

The intimate, one and a half day event is designed for professionals engaged in planning related to campus heritage, cultural landscapes and the importance of mid-century campus buildings.

For more information and to register, visit the SCUP website.

 

Second Wave of Modernism II:
Landscape Complexity and Transformation
November 18, 2011
New York, NY

Today designers are returning to modernist sites with new motivations, attempting to balance the complex values of natural and cultural systems. To investigate this significant evolution of professional practice, three groups of thematic presentations have been assembled that will collectively explore landscape transformations at residential, urban and metropolitan scales.  Presented by the Cultural Landscape Foundation.

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