December 2011 E-News Brief

PEAVEY PLAZA IN PERIL

Contributed by Charlene Roise

Minneapolis is home to important and trend-setting examples of Modernist design. Some properties are being well cared for, while others have been insensitively "updated" or worse. Among the successes is the Ralph Rapson-designed Riverside Plaza (originally known as Cedar Square West), now undergoing a $130 million historic tax credit rehabilitation. On the flip side is the Nicollet Mall, created by Presidential Medal of Arts recipient Lawrence Halprin. A "remuddling" of this pioneering and influential pedestrian mall has essentially eradicated its character-defining features. Next up for similar treatment is Peavey Plaza, created in the mid-1970s as a terminus to an extension of the original (and wildly successful) Nicollet Mall.

Peavey Plaza being enjoying during warmer months. Photo: Charlene Roise

The plaza shares a downtown block with the contemporary Orchestra Hall. The construction of the hall, the founding of the Guthrie Theater, and an expansion of the Walker Art Center propelled Minneapolis’s arts scene to national prominence during that period. Unfortunately, Peavey is the next target for a blitz of reconstruction that has destroyed or damaged those Modernist icons.

Here is some brief (and important) background information. The plaza takes its name from the Peavey Company, a local grain merchant that provided critical funding to launch the project. In the 1970s, the City of Minneapolis, the site’s owner, hired innovative New York landscape architecture firm M. Paul Friedberg and Partners to draft plans for Peavey Plaza. "The plaza’s design evolved from the objective of making this space a stimulating and provocative urban space which can be programmed and changed by the activity taking place within it...and which can also serve as a tranquil space of a more contemplative nature," according to a "backgrounder" piece distributed by the City.

The plaza was an immediate success, and it remains popular and active today. Charles Birnbaum, president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation and a national authority on mid-twentieth- century landscapes, has identified Peavey as the most important extant Friedberg work of this period and the progenitor of the park plaza. It has already been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and Birnbaum believes it merits consideration in the future as a National Historic Landmark.

Peavey Plaza in winter. Photo: Charlene Roise

Over the decades, Minnesota’s weather extremes and a limited commitment to maintenance and programming have led to a decline in the condition of the plaza. In 2010, the city embarked on an ambitious public process to hire a landscape architect for the plaza’s renovation. The winning team was led by Thomas Oslund, a prominent Minneapolis landscape architect, and included Friedberg, who still has an active landscape architecture practice, and Birnbaum.

The process of planning the plaza’s future, however, has been flawed. Friedberg and Birnbaum have effectively been excluded from most of the design process, and public participation regarding the future of this well-loved space has been given lip service, at best.

The city is now promoting a new design that eviscerates Friedberg’s historically significant design, offering in its place an odd collection of new elements including a new water feature (a miniature rendition of the video fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park), a kinetic sound-light sculpture, and a single lawn-bowling court (one that pales in comparison to the courts in a pub across the street). While the promoters claim that the new design strengthens the plaza’s visual relationship to Nicollet Mall, a proposed pergola and wall accomplish the exact opposite. In fact, the design appears to control access, perhaps to close off the space for private events. It will also deter the homeless who pass time there, as well as the workers from neighboring office buildings who enjoy the chance to take their bag lunch outdoors.

Both the process that created the new design and the design itself have been questioned by many, but the momentum of city officials, the Minnesota Orchestral Association (which is renovating the adjacent facility), and well-capitalized local businesses has been hard to fight. The budget for the city's Peavey Plaza project keeps rising, though, and a major donor for the project has not been announced, giving hope for efforts to rehabilitate the plaza in a way that does not destroy the essential elements of the Friedberg design.

Charlene Roise is president of Hess, Roise and Company, Historical Consultants.

UPDATE: PRENTICE HOSPITAL

Currently on view at The Art Institute of Chicago is Bertrand Goldberg: Architecture of Invention, a retrospective of the architect’s work. The exhibition runs through January 15, 2012, and features over 100 original architectural drawings, models, photographs, and little-known examples of his graphic and furniture design.

But while the Institute celebrates this great architect, the fate of Bertrand’s Prentice Women’s Hospital (1975) is still uncertain. As Landmarks Illinois reports, “We are indeed still in a holding pattern.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel has informed Northwestern University they must have a plan in place before they are permitted to demolish the building, but how extensive that plan needs to be is unknown. As time slips by without resolution there is growing concern that Northwestern University will fail to properly mothball the building over the winter, a tactic that could cause damage to the structure. While the reuse study released by Landmarks Illinois in April 2011 helped officials understand there are viable reuse opportunities, the biggest challenge is convincing NWU, an institutional powerhouse that continues to take the stand that the building does not meet their needs and will not consider reusing it unless the administration tells them they have to. Click here to download the full Landmarks Illinois Prentice Women's Hospital reuse study (PDF).

Readers are encouraged to join over 1000 supporters and follow SAVE PRENTICE on Facebook at www.saveprentice.org. Additional information including letters of support and links to press coverage can be found at the Prentice section of Landmarks Illinois’ website.

Previous coverage of Prentice Hospital in Docomomo US e-news:
http://docomomo-us.org/june_2011_enews_brief#PRENTICE
http://docomomo-us.org/april_2011_enews_brief#PRENTICE

SAVE PAN AM WORLDPORT

Circa 1961. Photo: Jon Proctor courtesy of Save the Pan Am Worldport

As reported in last month's e-news, the 1960 Pan Am Worldport (now Delta Terminal 3), is slated for demolition to make way for the expansion of Delta Terminal 4. Lisa Turano Wojcik, daughter of the late Emanuel Turano, FAIA (formerly of Ives, Turano, and Gardner and one of the principal architects of the Pan Am Worldport), is an advocate for Save the Pan Am Worldport and shares this account:

Delta Airlines is the current owner of a famous landmark at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York: the former Pan American World Airways Worldport terminal, now simply called T3. Delta has been planning for years to demolish T3, citing the structure is not only in great disrepair, but that it is also obsolete for use with today’s much larger aircraft and current airport security measures.

Many oppose the total destruction of this historically and architecturally significant building, specifically the portion called the "Saucer" or "Rotunda." We believe that Terminal 3's rotunda is an iconic piece of American heritage and aviation history. It exemplifies the epitome of inventiveness that characterized mid twentieth century architecture. This great building represents modern American design at its best. It symbolizes the post-World War II period when our nation was at its height in innovation and the economy was booming. This time was the peak of great change in culture, art, architecture, and engineering.

The terminal, originally known as the Pan Am Terminal was designed in the late 1950s by the architectural firm of Ives, Turano, and Gardner in association with architect Walther Prokosch of Tippets-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton. The principal architect, Emanuel Turano, won an award of excellence from the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) for the design. The terminal was built in 1960 as a showcase for international jet travel and is particularly famous for its four-acre cantilevered "flying saucer" roof.

Worldport ushered in the Jet Age with the Boeing 707, and later also introduced the world to the magnificent Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. The building launched the Beatles’ British Invasion when they arrived there. The "Flying Saucer," as it was affectionately called by fans of aviation and mid-century modern architecture, has been featured in many feature films, TV shows, and magazine shots for its unique elliptical, futuristic design. Worldport briefly appeared in the James Bond film Live and Let Die and in the opening sequence of The Family Man, starring actor Nicolas Cage. In the film That Touch of Mink, Doris Day boarded a Pan Am flight out of the Worldport. The Saucer was featured on the cover of Life magazine several times and is now featured throughout the television series Pan Am.

Last year, Delta Air Lines and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey announced a $1.2B redevelopment project at JFK International Airport to expand Terminal 4. On August 4, 2010, The New York Times reported that Delta planned to move international flights to Terminal 4 by mid 2013, following the construction of nine additional gates in Concourse B. Delta's domestic flights continue to operate out of Terminal 2. Complete demolition of Terminal 3 is expected shortly after the move, and the space will be used for parking planes.

Growth in air traffic is inevitable, and the resulting demand for modern, efficient, and secure airport facilities is essential. Yes, the current facility at Terminal 3 has outlived its usefulness in this regard. However, preservation advocates say the main Worldport structure can be saved by some creative planning and foresight. Saving at least part of Worldport's contribution to America's aviation and architectural history can include an altered redevelopment plan, restoring the Flying Saucer’s rotunda and using it as part of the connector in the planned walkway between the existing T2 and the new T4 expansion. The new walkway would give Delta Air Lines an instantly recognizable identity at JFK. It can also house upscale restaurants and pubs, duty-free shopping, a unique Delta Skyclub, and a magnificent view of the airfield. This would make it a useful, revenue-generating part of the terminal, an additional justification for preservation.

T3 in October 2011. Photo: Edith Bellinghausen

Additionally, reinstalling the Milton Hebald Zodiac sculptures that once adorned the screened entrance to the terminal would both restore the façade’s original architectural integrity and increase the structure’s historical significance.

The famous gull-winged TWA Flight Center (Eero Saarinen, 1962) has been granted protected landmark status, spared from the chopping block and undergoing restoration. The 1960 Worldport was unfortunately not given the same protection as a New York City Landmark, nor deemed eligible for National Register of Historic Places because of the additions and alterations made to the original saucer structure over time. There is great concern that Terminal 3 will meet the same fate as the equally distinguished "Sundrome" Terminal (1969), which was was unceremoniously demolished in October 2011 despite pleas from Henry Cobb, partner of the globally award-winning architect I.M. Pei.

Kalev Savi, a Systems Engineer in Sydney, Australia, with former ties to Pan Am Airlines, is heading up a preservation effort. He has created a petition at Change.org addressed to Richard H. Anderson, CEO of Delta Airlines, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and Chairman Robert B. Tierney of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. You can help by signing the petition, and by following this concerned group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PanAmWorldport. With the success of this effort, T3 Worldport will no longer be seen as an aging, outdated facility, but a revitalized icon that will continue to intrigue and attract the traveling public just as it did at the dawn of the Jet Age.

The United States was arguably at its best during the 1950s and 1960s. Americans did some pretty amazing things. The Worldport is one of them. During those decades, we wowed the world with our accomplishments and our inventive American way. This building represents America at its best, and it is a great example of that wow factor. We need to save it so we can remember who we were and what made us great.

- Lisa Turano Wojcik

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY ACQUIRES LAPIDUS ARCHIVE

Archives of the late architect Morris Lapidus (1902-2001) have been acquired by the Syracuse University Library, joining the works of contemporaries Marcel Breuer, William Lescaze and Richard Neutra.

Lapidus is strongly connected to South Florida, where the hotel designs that defined his career were realized in such iconic works as the Fontainebleau Hotel (1954) and Eden Roc Hotel. He was an early advocate of structural concrete, which allowed for the curved motion-like forms of his designs.

Collaborator and architect Deborah Desilets gifted the archive to the library, which includes a large collection of photographs dating to the 1920s, conceptual drawings, manuscript drafts of Lapidus' written works and correspondence with his long-time friend, mystery writer Ellery Queen.

FBI BUILDING THREATENED?

The future may be uncertain for the J. Edgar Hoover Building (Charles F. Murphy and Associates, 1974), home to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and one of several Brutalist buildings in Washington, D.C.

In November 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report resulting from an assessment of existing conditions at the FBI Headquarters. According to the assessment, "the FBI’s headquarters facilities—the Hoover Building and the headquarters annexes—do not fully support the FBI’s long-term security, space, and building condition requirements." The report goes on to recommend three options for the Bureau: (1) modernize the Hoover Building, (2) demolish the Hoover Building and construct a new headquarters on the existing site, and (3) acquire a new headquarters on a new site.

As reported by the Washington Post, space problems stem primarily from the growth in agency staff since September 11, 2001. Additionally, security has became a more serious concern post-9/11. However, demolishing the building and constructing a new facility on the site is not likely to solve either issue. The current site consists of 2,800,876 square feet of space for 7,090 employees, which conforms to District of Columbia height limits of 107 feet along Pennsylvania Avenue and 160 feet along E Street. Security concerns cited such as proximity to public roads affect every government building in the District, yet we do not hear talk of moving these other agencies or demolishing their historic buildings.

Many government buildings dating to the late 1960s through the 1970s were constructed in the Brutalist style, resulting in a commanding presence. As trends in city planning have changed, detractors of these concrete structures criticize them for their monumental size and seeming lack of compatibility with their surroundings. Other Brutalist works facing uncertainty include Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center (1967), and Boston City Hall (Kallmann, McKinnell & Knowles/Campbell, Aldrich & Nulty, 1969).

It is hoped that the FBI will act on the GAO's first recommendation and look at ways to adapt the Hoover building to contemporary needs, saving another Brutalist icon from destruction.

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: 

LINE, SHADE AND SHADOW: The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings
Lois Olcott Price, author
Oak Knoll Press, HES & DE GRAAF & the Winterthur Museum; New Castle, Delaware. 2010.

Building in modern times involves many more trades and offsite fabricators requiring much greater coordination. This would not have been possible without developments in drawings and graphic reproduction technology making multiple copies available. Lois Olcott Price’s book does the evolution of drafting and its tools, papers, drawings and, for more recent times, reproduction methods. Aside from sketching the evolution of processes, the final chapter of the book is dedicated to preservation of drawings and the maintenance of collections.

 

Holiday Book List

Gift Books

Docomomo US has also assembled a list of all the books reviewed this year, plus a few bonus items that we recommend for the architecture and design enthusiasts on your gift list (or for your own personal enjoyment!) Best yet, every purchase originating from the Docomomo US website is a small gift to us, via our partnership with Amazon Associates.

Visit our Holiday Book List at www.docomomo-us.org/2011_holiday_book_list

UPCOMING EVENTS

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: 
12TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE DETERIORATION AND CONSERVATION OF STONE
Columbia University
October 22-26, 2012
New York, NY

The Scientific Committee will be pleased to receive abstracts relevant to any and all issues of stone conservation. For additional themes and more information download the flyer here (PDF)

Delivery address: gw2130@columbia.edu (George Wheeler)
Please indicate Abstract for 12th Stone Conference in the subject line of the e-mail.
Due date for abstracts: JANUARY 15, 2012  


PALM SPRINGS MODERNISM WEEK
February 16 - 26, 2012
Palm Springs, CA

Modernism Week is an exciting 11-day celebration of mid-century design, architecture and culture in Palm Springs, CA, home to some of the best examples of 20th century architecture in the United States. The festival includes architectural tours, films, lectures, parties and more. Organized by Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, the Palm Springs Modern Committee, the Palm Springs Historical Society, and the Architecture and Design Council of the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Visit www.modernismweek.com for more information and to reserve tickets. 

EAHN 2012
May 31 - June 3, 2012
Brussels, Belgium

The European Architectural History Network (EAHN) Conference will be taking place in Brussels, Belgium from May 31-June 3 2012. For more information please visit www.eahn2012.org

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.

 

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