January 2011 E-News Brief

Docomomo International: Mexico 2010 Conference Student Workshops

The 3rd Docomomo Student Workshop took place in Mexico City as part of the 11th International Docomomo Conference “Living the Urban Modernity”, August 2010. The workshop was held in the studio of Luis Barragán, located directly opposite Casa Barragán, a World Heritage Site. The workshop, which started 5 days prior to the full conference, had a number of students from different Mexican universities as well as participants from Brazil, Chile and England. The student teams were configured in such a way as to mix nationalities, background and levels of proficiency as much as possible.

Students in Mexico

The area of study was the Colonia Cuauhtémoc, an urban sector of Mexico City established and built up in the 1930’s. This area is still largely residential and occupied by houses and other buildings that reflect the ideas and vocabulary of the Modern Movement as typical for the period. The specific case study was the Calzada Melchor Ocampo, a semi-circular piazza that is ringed by buildings designed by some of Mexico’s most important modern architects like Luis Barragán and Enrique del Moral. The major challenge was not just the restoration of the buildings, which are in relatively good condition but rather to resolve the complex urban condition: the piazza and the buildings are part of a particular urban condition, whereby the buildings and the outer roadways have been completely segregated by the on and off ramps of the Circuito Interior, the major vehicular ring road. The impact of this elevated highway, the resulting urban disconnection, and the contrast in scale were part of the elements the faculty encouraged the students to consider in their projects.

The workshop focused primarily on possible solutions for this complex urban configuration, the difficulty of accessing the park from the surrounding area and the creation/accommodation of a building for the Docomomo Mexico headquarters. The new building (or reuse of one of the existing ones) was to link a new space for the documentation, conservation and study of Mexican modernity in general with the modern heritage of the area specifically.

The students, divided in 4 teams, worked for 5 days on proposals for the project brief and the new Docomomo Mexico Building. Very different yet connected initiatives appeared in the four groups, with some achieving a more complete interpretation of the urban landscape, some creating a complete separation from the highway through architectural and infrastructural interventions, and others looking for a more nuanced approach to the site recognizing its urban evolution. However, some themes were common to most projects such as the need to minimize the intervention into the significant existing buildings as little as possible, the use of the conceptual idea of modernity as basis for the new designs, the uses of bridges and pedestrian connections, and the acceptance of the car as an integral part of the design and the urban evolution.

As with all previous Docomomo workshops, one of the most interesting aspect of the sessions were the discussions among the students in the teams and the exchanges between the different groups, where the ideas in common were tested, criticized and analyzed, which made the workshop a learning experience going well beyond the final designs that were produced. This is a key component of the workshops, and should be enhanced and improved even further in the future. The exchange of ideas and knowledge between people of various disciplines, backgrounds, countries and cultures that is the core of Docomomo and that will strengthen our advocacy and discipline and help in understanding
what and how to preserve modern architecture in a meaningful way.

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS: PREFAB UK ESTATE THREATENED

Excalibur, the largest surviving post-war prefab estate in Britain, is set to be demolished to make way for a modern housing development, despite opposition from residents and conservationists. The Lewisham council which oversees the South London estate has approved a redevelopment plan that would raze all but six of the original buildings, including a prefab church believed to be one-of-a-kind.

Excalibur prefab

Photo: BBC.CO.UK

The 187 bungalows that make up the estate were built between 1945 and 1946 as a solution to the post-World War II housing shortage in Britain. Erected from factory-fabricated components assembled at the site, the bungalows were based on an American typology developed by the Tennessee Valley Authority to house workers, most notably at Fontana Village which began construction at the start of WWII. While expected to last only ten to fifteen years, the Excalibur prefabs have survived for over sixty, carefully maintained by their occupants.

The six protected bungalows received Grade-II listing by English Heritage last year, based on having the least amount of post-construction modifications. Per English Heritage guidelines, buildings listed as Grade II are considered of special interest, and warrant every effort to preserve them. However, saving just a few of these houses negates the historic significance of the estate as a whole, as the non-listed buildings are subject to the decision of the local authority.

Resident James Blackender (pictured above) has led a campaign to save the Catford estate, but efforts to-date have been unsuccessful.

 

UPDATE: ORANGE COUNTY GOVERNMENT CENTER

Since 2004, Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in Goshen, NY (1963) has been threatened with demolition. Budgetary constraints delayed its demise and activity surrounding the Brutalist-style government complex had quieted down in recent years. However 2010 saw new developments, including an extensive financial analysis to justify replacing the building, conducted over six months by County Executive Edward A. Diana and his team. Funding for a $200,000 design and feasibility study was approved in October 2010, and a Request For Proposals recently completed.

Supporters of demolition argue that current maintenance costs are too high. Results of the analysis provided by the County Executive reveal that work done on the building over the past ten years has totaled approximately $350,000, or a mere $35,000 per year (source: The Warwick Advisor). With $200,000 slated for the feasibility study alone, in addition to substantial demolition and new construction costs, the total cost of replacing the Government Center would dwarf rehabilitation and maintenance costs considerably, weakening the county’s economic argument.

County Executive Diana provided this excerpt from the draft RFP to a local newspaper:

“The purpose of this Request for Proposals is to determine the most economical and efficient plan for the consolidation of various county departments and use of existing 24 acre parcel. The proposal shall include, but not limited to: the demolition of the existing Government Center, any options or alternatives that would facilitate the most efficient means of construction of a new Government Center Complex, the analysis of the necessary square footage and number of buildings to efficiently accommodate several additional county departments that are presently located off-site, the analysis of the cost renovating the existing Government Center and county owned and/or leased facilities; including estimates, and conceptual plans of new Government Center Complex. Parking requirements and traffic patterns, both vehicular and pedestrian, shall be an integral part of the planning process.”

While the Request For Proposals includes a clause allowing for rehabilitation of the existing structure, the intent of the county is clear. Firms will have 60 days to respond.

 

WANTED: WORLD MONUMENTS WATCH 2012 NOMINATIONS

wmwLaunched in 1996 and issued every two years, the World Monuments Watch calls international attention to endangered sites around the world.

DOCOMOMO US seeks recommendations for nominations from our members across the United States who wish to bring worldwide attention to local buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the Modern Movement.  Click here for selection criteria and eligibility requirements, and to view the 2010 Watch list.  Submit your suggestions to info@docomomo-us.org with the subject line "WMW".

 

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: MIAMI MODERN

Miami Modern at Amazon.comMiami Modern Metropolis
Paradise and Paradox in Midcentury Architecture and Planning
Allan T. Shulman, Editor. Published by Balcony Press, 2009.

This extensively illustrated book accompanied the exhibit Promises of Paradise: Staging Midcentury Miami, which was first mounted in the Bass Museum of Art in Miami and subsequently in Samuel P. Harn Museum in Gainesville in 2008. While the exhibit was managed by Ruth Grim of the Bass and co-curated by Allan Shulman and Tome Hine, the book was edited by Shulman, who is a practicing architect in Miami, a faculty member of the University of Miami School of Architecture and an active member of DOCOMOMO US/FLA. This lavishly illustrated work, which contains a series of essays about the various aspects of the development of Miami in the postwar period, is in many ways the culmination of a process of recognition and preservation of modern architecture in Miami that began as early as the 1970s with its Art Deco hotels. Not surprisingly the majority of the essays, several of which are the work of DOCOMOMO members Jean-François Lejeune, Anthony J. Abbate and Alice Friedman, highlights its residential and hotel architecture but also brings attention to the growth and open-spirited ethos of the region and some of its remarkable examples of its civic, religious, commercial and industrial architecture. Illustrated largely with photographs and images of the period the book, as did the original exhibit, offers an extraordinary insight in the development, growth and architecture of postwar Miami.

 

SAVE THE DATE!

Saint Peters Seminary

Saint Peters Seminary, Cardross, Scotland

Preserving Post-War Britain
March 2, 2011
6:00pm EST reception/6:30 EST lecture
American Institute of Architects New York Chapter
Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY

The heroic steel, glass, and concrete housing estates, office blocks, schools, and civic complexes built across Britain in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s by Alison and Peter Smithson, Stirling and Gowan, Sir Denys Lasdyn, Sir Basil Spence, Ernö Goldfinger, Powell & Moya, Gillespie, Kidd, & Coia, and other neo-Corbusians and Miesians have come to be ranked as unique contributions to the Modern Movement. But some that are endangered have been branded as obsolete, bleak reminders of the welfare state, and their protection has aroused fierce debate. 

Join AIA's Historic Buildings Committee and author Alan Powers for a lecture examining both the original reception of these buildings and the now often uphill battles with developers, government officials, and public opinion to save them, revealing the complex nature of architectural taste.

Visit the CFA website for more information.

 

MiMoMiMo in Miami: An International Conference on Mid-Century Modern Architecture
March 11-12, 2011
Miami, FL

Join DOCOMOMO US and Dade Heritage Trust at the MiMo Conference.  Miami Modern architecture, better known as MiMo, boomed after WWII, translating International Modernism into innovative designs with tropical exoticism, glamour and fun.  The conference will discuss MiMo in an international context, with an emphasis on Miami's newest historic designations: the Miami Marine Stadium, the Miami Bacardi Building, the Morris Lapidus District, North Shore on Miami Beach and the MiMo on Biscayne Historic District.  

DOCOMOMO US chapter president Theodore Prudon will deliver the keynote speech on Friday morning, March 11 at 9:00am EST at the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach.  Tours, presentations, and other special events are planned for both days.

Visit the Dade Heritage Trust website for more information, or email info@dadeheritagetrust.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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