March 2012 E-News Brief

EVENT : THE FITCH COLLOQUIUM - Why Preserve Public Housing?

Following World War II, the United States and Europe sought to address the dire need for public and affordable housing through
new building. The decades after war saw the development of many innovative design, construction and social arrangements. This
legacy represents an important part of our collective architectural and cultural heritage but its preservation is plagued by many
practical and social issues. By bringing together American and International experts, the Fitch Colloquium seeks to create a
dialogue about the preservation of these buildings, which are at the intersection of social, physical, cultural and architectural

Fitch Colloquium
Docomomo US cordially invites you to join us for the annual Fitch Colloquium at Columbia University on Saturday, March 31, 2012. Speakers for the event include Jean-François Briand (French Ministry of Culture and Communication), Arquiteto Flavia Brito do Nascimento (IPHAN: Instituto do Patrimonio Historico e Artistico Nacional, Brazil), Andrew Dolkart (Columbia University), Joseph Heathcott (The New School), Dirk van den Heuvel (Department of Architecture, TU Delft), Abderrahim Kassou (Association of Architectural Heritage of the 20th Century, Morocco), Elizabeth Milnarik (Independent Scholar), Levan Asabashvili (Ilia University, Republic of Georgia), Theodore H. M. Prudon (Docomomo US), and Diane Watters (Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments, Scotland).The Fitch Colloquium is free and open to the public. 8.5 AIA/CEUs will be available. Click here for more information or to RSVP email: rsvp(at)

The Fitch Colloquium is organized by the Columbia University Historic Preservation Program and co-sponsored by Docomomo US.
The Fitch Colloquium is made possible by the generous support of the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation, the
Netherland-America Foundation, Preservation Alumni, and Prudon & Partners.



Michael Graves Portland BuildingPostmodernism is stepping into the preservation limelight. The past two years have witnessed a number of illuminating events on the style including the designation of Michael Graves’ (1982) Portland Public Service Building; the recent Institute of Classical Architecture & Art’s Reconsidering Postmodernism conference; the publication of Reinhold Martin’s Utopia’s Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again; the installation of Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970?1990 at the Victoria & Albert Museum; as well as Yale School of Architecture’s Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment exhibition. With all of this recent attention, it begs to argue, is this a signal of a growing trend indicating a preservation effort or is it an affection for postmodernism and a celebration of the early stages of a Classical Revival? And will it bear any effect on efforts to preserve the modern movement?

The Reconsidering Postmodernism conference presented figures central to the emergence of postmodernism and the event included architects Michael Graves, Robert A.M. Stern, and Demitri Porphyrios, with scholars Reinhold Martin, Barry Bergdoll, and Mark Wigley, and writers Paul Goldberger and Tom Wolfe. With such a diverse list of speakers, the conference presented many viewpoints (and agendas) at work, yet its cast of characters – not surprisingly given how recent its architecture still is – failed to produce a coherent message regarding postmodernism; in itself a compelling reason for Reconsidering it.

In London last year, the V&A show encapsulated the movement’s multivariate nature in a more comprehensive way, incorporating much of the social and political history of the 1970s through mid?80s. Yet Martin’s Utopia’s Ghost posits that ‘[t]he place on the contemporary map occupied by the legacies of architectural modernism is hardly fixed, and architecture’s postmodern turn has yet to be fully historicized (Reinhold Martin, Utopia's Ghost : Architecture and Postmodernism, Again, (Minneapolis: Minnesota Press, 2010), xii.).’ In that case, should advocacy embrace postmodernism or is it still too soon? The recent National Register designation of Michael Graves Portland Public Service Building while less than 50 years old indicates that the preservation field is engaging with this generation of the built environment. Long viewed as a bastion of the postmodern movement, the Portland Building epitomizes much of the ideologies synonymous with that era.

While conferences, exhibitions and literature are important to the discourse on the subject, the National Register listing of the Graves’ building places postmodern squarely in the realm of what we consider historic and architecturally significant. The Portland Building, at just thirty years of age, likewise owes a great debt to the many preservation campaigns that came before it including those  of the Modern Movement and, with some irony,  the very battles and philosophical debates around the preservation of Modern architecture will better inform and equip advocates of postmodernism. The dialogue established through concern for Modern architecture will inevitably provide a platform for successive generations of recent past architecture, including works such as Charles Moore’s Piazza d’Italia (1978) and Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s AT&T/Sony Building (1984). Yet here lies the question, are we ready to take on the efforts to preserve postmodernism and should Docomomo be one of the leaders of this charge?

Photo: Michael Graves' Portland Building, Courtesy joevare via Flickr
Photo: Charles Moore's Piazza d'Italia, Courtesy of Elyse Marks

-Contributed by Kaity Ryan, Docomomo ISC/E+T Intern and Historic Preservation Master's Candidate at Columbia University


Architecture and preservation groups in Orange County and in the State of New York are calling for an “all hands on deck” on behalf of the embattled Paul Rudolph designed Orange County Government Center in Goshen, NY. With the legislative vote on the bond issue to replace the existing center with a new one set for April 5th, Docomomo US along with Docomomo US New York/Tri-State, the Paul Rudolph Foundation, the Taxpayers of Orange County and the World Monuments Fund are doubling their efforts to get the word out about the threatened state of this important and National Register-eligible complex.

In the coming days, the groups are planning a multi-prong effort to highlight the economic realities and financial implications of the plans proposed by the County Executive Ed Diana. The proposal, now in its third and once again revised version (first reduced from $136.4 and to $114 million previously), the current price tag of $75 million for the new government center plan – considerably reduced in size and only 22,000 square feet larger than the current building – calls for demolition of the historic Rudolph structure in favor of a new retro-Federalist complex.

Among the arguments expected to be covered is the un-clarity of how the renovation costs for the current Orange County Government Center were developed and the preparation of more precise and factually-based costs of the proposed project as well as its fiscal, economic and environmental implications. None of which are addressed or are glossed over. It is somewhat surprising that in these fiscally and financially challenging and environmentally sensitive times, the only option is demolition, new construction and more spending. Furthermore, additional small but significant revenue streams and grant opportunities from state entities such as the NYSERDA's (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) Existing Facilities Program that are available to offset the cost of energy improvements have not been discussed nor has there been other financing options. In contrast, our Governor, Andrew Cuomo, recently highlighted cost-effective restoration efforts of the state capitol building and his newly launched "Path Through History" initiative to highlight the state's rich history. 
Docomomo US and partner organizations plan to continue to advocate for the renovation of the existing building and communicate additional developments. In the meantime, people are asked to consider signing the Taxpayers of Orange County petition that will be submitted at the April 5th vote and to contract your local and state government officials.


As a Historic Preservation student I’ve taken multiple architectural history courses and have gained a general knowledge of many different styles. These are the most important courses to take in order to do basic documenting, advocating, or preserving a structure. However, one semester is often not enough to learn everything about a style and often styles or time periods get overlooked.  One of these periods for me is the Modern Movement.

As an intern at Docomomo US, I’ve been learning so much about the Modern Movement through e-mails, articles, and various conversations. I’ve absorbed new terminology and discovered new modern architects. Although I’ve always had an appreciation for the modern movement, I have grown to really notice and love the way modern architecture is incorporated with classical styles. With that I will be writing about my modern discoveries in and around by my hometown of Princeton, New Jersey.

Many towns of New Jersey carry a long history, with some going back to the revolutionary war. The architecture, especially in Princeton, mainly consists of colonial and classical revival, and Italianate. I’ve lived in this area all my life and always adored the historical and old feeling I get as I walk around town. On the Princeton University campus I get a sense of its history through the Georgian Architecture in Nassau Hall, and Romanesque in Alexander Hall. But after walking around in the past couple weeks, I’ve notice its modern additions.  

One of my favorites is Spelman Hall, a dormitory designed by I.M. Pei. It was built in 1973 with precast concrete, steel and big glass windows for the common rooms. The apartment like complex is laid out in a linear fashion and consists of eight triangular modules. Each module is interconnected through a series of walkways. Being such a modern and severe building, it doesn’t seem to quite fit in the Gothic style area of campus. But as you walk through the windy the pathway, Pei did achieve harmony with the landscape.

After taking a closer look, Princeton University greatly incorporates modern architecture with its famously known gothic revival, gray stone buildings.  Other fascinating examples include the Tap Rooms addition to the Italianate Prospect House, Robertson Hall, and the Architecture Building. Without learning about modern architecture through interning at Docomomo US, I would have passed by these buildings and never fully appreciated the beauty they bring to the campus. I hope in the coming months you will join me in my journey of discovering more of the modern movement in New Jersey.

Photos: Spelman Dorms, I.M. Pei (1973) and Prospect Hall, University Physical Planning and Warren Platner (1968)

-Contributed by Francine Morales, Docomomo US intern and Historic Preservation Master's Candidate at Pratt Institute

Docomomo US is pleased to announce the launch of the newly designed Docomomo US website. Along with its updated look and its clean feel, the front page of the website now links directly to Register updates, social media sites and our first ever calendar. While it is still a work in progress, we are enthusiastic that this updated functionality will increase our local, national and international connectivity and our outreach on issues important to all of us. There may still be a few more surprises in store, but we hope you will agree that this is an exciting improvement.

Miami Marine Stadium, a graffiti-covered Modern landmark abandoned since 1992, may soon find new life as a result of efforts by local activists to save the historic stadium, designed in 1963 by Cuban-American architect Hilario Candela, FAIA.

Miami Marine Stadium is located on Virginia Key, south of Miami Beach, overlooking Biscayne Bay. Originally built for powerboat racing, various competitions were held at the stadium, which has also served as a concert venue and site for religious services. Following the damaging effects of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the stadium was shuttered and has stood abandoned and deteriorating ever since. In 2009 the South Florida landmark was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered List, and most recently the non-profit group Friends of Miami Marine Stadium has strongly advocated for the iconic poured concrete structure to be saved. 

In February it was announced that the Miami City Commission voted in favor of partnering with Friends of Miami Marine Stadium to restore the landmark as part of the Virginia Key master redevelopment plan. Per the agreement, Friends has six months to develop and present a plan for rehabilitation to the Commission, and two years to raise the appropriate funds, estimated at $30 million. While there is still much work to be done, these initial steps represent a commitment to the preservation of Modern architecture in South Florida, and could potentially serve as a model for other threatened sites.

Photo:Spillis Candela DMJM Archives


Liberty HallDublin, the capital city of the Republic of Ireland, has fewer high-rise buildings than most of its European counterparts. Even so, advanced plans are under way to demolish the city's first and currently tallest sky-scraper, Liberty Hall.  Ireland's largest trade union SIPTU owns the site and is working with Gilroy McMahon Architects on the replacement which has just been granted permission from Dublin City Council.

There has been considerable opposition to the destruction of buildings in Dublin from earlier times, Georgian in particular. But architecture from the last 100 years is afforded less protection and support.
Going back a century or so, the Northumberland Hotel previously stood on this site by the River Liffey between the Customs House and the city centre.  The Irish Citizen Army was housed here when it was defending workers against the authorities during the 1913 Lockout and it played a central role in the 1916 Rising. During this time, the hotel was the first target of a British gunship known as the Helga, while it was on its way upriver to shell the GPO. Following this, the building was patched up and became the headquarters of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union
By the end of the 1950s the building had fallen into disrepair, so the union decided to replace it with a new building and the architect Desmond Rea O’Kelly was commissioned. In recent years he admitted to being greatly influenced in his design by a picture he had seen of Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax Factory in Wisconsin. Construction began on Liberty Hall in the early 1960s and “Ireland's first sky-scraper” was completed in 1965 to much awe and excitement. 
Canopy DetailIn its original form, the building presented most of its 16-stories simply, as a slender stack of alternating layers of light and dark capped by a distinctive zig-zag copper roof.  The concrete floor-plates were tiled with white mosaic which contrasted with shaded office interiors visible through transparent glass.  This impression inverted at night when the illuminated offices on each story appeared to float above the other as the unlit mosaic disappeared against the dark sky.  By day, the original glazing allowed you to see sky through the corners of the building.  Creating a lightness of effect that architectural historian Ellen Rowley compares to “a skeleton that’s draped in a glass garment”.
A large explosion from a car bomb left outside Liberty Hall in the winter of 1972 blew out most of the glass.  When this was being replaced however, a reflective silver film was added to all the windows, taking away the delicate translucent effect.  This plastic has since discoloured unevenly and has partially peeled off in many places.  Further to this, the sparkling white mosaics on the floor-plates were later daubed with a putty that has since gone a dirty grey.
Since these changes to the facade, Liberty Hall has fallen from grace somewhat in the eyes of the public, and in 2006 the Union advertised for expressions of interest from architects to work with them on a replacement building.  Liberty Hall's architect Desmond Rea O’Kelly, spoke about the future of the building during a public talk at the time, saying “You needn’t worry.  I’m not going to shed any tears.  But would they kindly leave it alone until I'm gone!” his wish was granted, he passed away in February last year.
Present day photo courtesy of Paul Tierney and the 1965 photo of Liberty Hall courtesy of Brenda Rea O'Kelly
-Contributed by Paddy Cahill, Docomomo Ireland. Cahill is an independent documentary director based in Dublin.  To watch his half hour documentary about Liberty Hall visit



Mid-Century BMid-Century By the Bayy The Bay: A Celebration of the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s and 1960s
Heather M. David
San Jose, CA: CalMod Books, 2010
192 pages with many illustrations mostly in color

Interest in mid-century design and architecture has not only come with a desire to preserve its vestiges but also – as is so often the case – with a nostalgia for an era gone by. Heather David’s book seeks to convey the special spirit and uniqueness of the San Francisco Bay Area at that time. The images, which by and large are of the period, are organized by subject or building typology. The accompanying descriptions provide a background on the project illustrated as well as its current status, which, in most instances, is not very positive. However, the book makes an enjoyable journey through the past making a case for the preservation of that heritage. 



City of MiragesCITY OF MIRAGES: BAGHDAD, 1952-1982
February 22 - May 5, 2012
New York, NY

The history of modern architecture in Baghdad has been relatively underexplored and is still not well known. Though specialists in Iraq, and in exile throughout the world, have already undertaken detailed analyses of the topic, many of these studies have been difficult to access throughout Europe and the United States. The destruction of war has also made it impossible to recover the complete modernist record of Iraq. While it is not the definitive work on the subject, City of Mirages tells a story about Baghdad and the architects who were invited to participate in the making of its modern image--a story that is vanishing, and whose last witnesses and participants disappear day by day. Click here for more information.

CandelaFÉLIX CANDELA: 1910–2010
through March 31, 2012
New York, NY

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery's first exhibition in 2012 offers American audiences, for the first time, a comprehensive look at the architectural career of "the wizard of concrete shells"—Félix Candela. Regarded as one the greatest Spanish-born architects of the 20th century, Candela is celebrated for his feats of architectural engineering that transformed concrete into visual poetry. Click here for more information.

April 18-22, 2012
Detroit, MI

Detroit will serve as both a welcoming host and a subject of study. While Detroit’s recent history has been one of deindustrialization and outmigration—common to many cities in the Midwest—its past includes a commitment to good design seen both in the products of the automobile industry and in the buildings connected to it. Twenty-two tours explore Detroit and its environs, including Eero Saarinen’s GM Technical Center and his work at Cranbrook, Mies van der Rohe’s Lafayette Park, Minoru Yamasaki’s buildings, modernism in Ann Arbor, and Detroit Modern. Visit for full conference program.

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 click here.

Docomomo International ConferenceDocomomo 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. Visit the conference website for conference program and registration information.

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