Following the success of its inaugural Modernism in America Awards program in 2014, Docomomo US now invites submissions for the 2015 Modernism in America Awards. Awards will be presented in the following categories: Design, Inventory/Survey, and Advocacy. The 2015 Design awards will be given out in the areas of Residential, Commercial and Institutional or Civic architecture.
By Barbara Campagna
Buffalo has long been known as the home of iconic works of architecture by H. H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. But Buffalo’s architectural legacy did not end with the demolition of Wright’s ill-fated Larkin Administration Building in 1950. It has an incredibly rich modernist heritage, and some of that heritage is now under siege. As a way to begin to counteract misconceptions about Buffalo’s modernism and bring awareness to the rich sites that dot Western New York, I taught a graduate seminar, “Preserving Modern Heritage,” last spring in the University at Buffalo School of Architecture & Planning. The students’ semester long project was to choose a Buffalo Modern and document it for the Docomomo US Registry. Until this year, only two buildings in Buffalo were listed in the Registry, and one of those had been demolished in 1950! (The New York Central Terminal Railroad Station, an Art Deco masterpiece from 1929 and Wright’s 1906 Larkin Administration Building, demolished 1950, were the only two Buffalo buildings listed.) Seven modern sites were ultimately listed as part of the class, with several more in the wings for later this year.
Photo (above): Larkin Administration Building
By Miriam Kelly
While many modernist buildings are celebrated, the industrial buildings that inspired the modernist movement are less well known. In the shift to the post-industrial, these important buildings face challenges in common with many of America’s redundant industrial sites. This article considers three examples featured in Le Corbusier’s Vers une Architecture, highlighting their importance to the early modernists, how their significance is understood today and the contemporary reuse models that could help secure their future.
Photo (Left): Sculptural cylinders of the Marine ‘A’ Grain Elevator (1925) in Buffalo (Photo Credit: Miriam Kelly, 2013)
By Robert Hirsch
The origins of the Port
With a population of a quarter of a million, Gdynia is the twelfth largest city in Poland and home to one of several Polish ports on the Baltic Sea. Established after World War I, the city is a consequence of the then political and economic situation. Having regained its independence as a result of World War I, Poland had been given a short stretch of the Baltic Sea coast. With no seaports along the Polish coastline, the state authorities decided to build one. In 1920 a site was designated, not far from the small village of Gdynia, followed by the Polish Parliament’s resolution in 1922 to build the port. Divided into several construction stages, the modern port was ready in the late 1930s. The original small village had turned into a city. Gdynia was growing fast and in 1939 reached a population of 120,000. As it is often said, Gdynia was “built at American speed”.
By Julia Walker
The architecture of IBM has been enjoying a moment of high visibility. With attention trained on the preservation of Philip Johnson’s New York State Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens has come a resurgence of interest in Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames’s neighboring IBM Pavilion, the multimedia “information machine” that seems in retrospect to have been 50 years ahead of its time. Alongside the ongoing popularity of this monument, explorations of the company’s aesthetic history, such as John Harwood’s recent book The Interface: IBM and the Transformation of Corporate Design, 1945-1976 and the interactive exhibition “Think,” held at Lincoln Center in honor of IBM’s centennial in 2011, have helped solidify IBM’s image of as an early adopter of digital spectacle. Yet before IBM became an information machine, it operated out of its modest first home, the site called simply “Plant No. 1” in Endicott, NY. It was in Endicott that Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the chairman and CEO of International Business Machines from 1914 to his death in 1956, attempted to define the architectural image of such a business, combining the hand labor of manufacturing with the intellectual work of engineering.
While it might be hard to remember what the preservation field was like twenty years ago, our grassroots efforts have brought the preservation of Modern architecture into mainstream discussions. Back then, many would have called this architecture ugly, now it is featured on the front page of newspapers and in major architecture, travel and fashion magazines. These achievements have been made by the dedication of people such as yourself and our growing network of professionals, institutions, businesses and individuals. As we get ready to celebrate our 20th anniversary, renew your membership today and support our unified voice for Modern preservation.
In the weeks and months ahead, the Docomomo US Board of Directors and staff will engage in a series of fact-finding and research efforts to support this internal strategic plan. The first of these efforts includes a series of peer-to-peer discussions with like-minded preservation and cultural resource organizations. Docomomo US graciously thanks the Peter H Brink Leadership Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who administers the grant, for making these discussions possible. Additional research will include a membership survey to be circulated in the coming weeks.
By: Charlene Roise, President, Hess, Roise and Company, Historical Consultants, Minneapolis MN
Marcel Breuer and Associates had a unique opportunity in the 1960s when hired by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to design the Third Powerplant at Grand Coulee, a massive irrigation and hydroelectric project straddling the Columbia River near Spokane, Washington. The resulting structure is a significant design statement of the era, admirably displaying both the solid strength of reinforced concrete and the expressive forms that it can produce.
By Jessica Smith
This past June, the Docomomo US office traveled to Chicago for the 2014 AIA National Convention. Our time there yielded numerous conversations about the impact of the loss of Prentice Women’s Hospital, what's worth saving today, and the role that Docomomo US is playing in current efforts to save significant modern architecture. We rounded out our time with a heartbreaking visit to the demolition site of Prentice, and toured Chicago's finest architecture that, of course, included two Mies masterpieces, Crown Hall and Farnsworth House.