Neutra, Richard J.

Painted Desert Visitor Center

Added by info, last update: February 4, 2015, 1:03 pm

Location
One Park Road Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028
United States
35° 3' 55.5732" N, 109° 46' 53.5368" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Landscape (LND)
Secondary classification: Administration (ADM)
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

The Painted Desert Visitor Center was listed to the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing building in the Painted Desert Community Complex Historic District in 2005.The Painted Desert Community Complex was listed as a National Treasure in 2014.

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The Painted Desert Visitor Center, part of the Painted Desert Community Complex, is located within the Petrified Forest National Park. The Complex includes administration offices, maintenance facilities, visitor services, and employee housing. The twenty-four acre complex was designed by Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander, as part of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 initiative. The goal of Mission 66 was to revitalize the National Parks and to provide services for the increased number of visitors arriving at the parks after World War II. The program included park improvements such as widened roads and enhanced visitor amenities, as well as a new building typology, the visitor center. Visitor centers centralized a wide range of park services in one location. Interpretation, visitor information, park offices, and service facilities were consolidated under one roof, with the intention of controlling what, how and when visitors experienced park resources. Mission 66 visitor centers utilized mid-century modern architectural styles, a drastic departure from the rustic park architecture of previous decades. The modern designs were meant to symbolize progress and change within the National Parks. The simple, low lines of Mission 66 visitor centers were designed to visually recede, revealing the natural or historic landscape of the park. The location of the visitor center within the park created a deliberate flow of visitors and a specific interpretation experience, where the visitor center was the “viewing platform” from which the park resource was first encountered.

The Park Service commissioned Neutra and Alexander to design the Painted Desert Community Complex. Neutra and Alexander divided the complex into four main areas, the Commercial Area, the Industrial Area, Recreation Area, and Residential Area (National Register of Historic Places 3). The design focused on the use of modern materials, climate considerations, and the integration of the landscape into the interior of the buildings (Low 75). The Visitor Center was located in the Commercial Area. For the Visitor Center, Neutra and Alexander designed a specific, sequential visitor experience, which began as the visitor entered the lobby. Large glass windows provided views to the central plaza, encouraging visitors to go out and explore the landscape. Visitor information and services were located at a central information desk with restrooms adjacent. Next, visitors followed a specific interpretation path, which began with exhibits in the lobby, then continued out into the plaza, with outdoor exhibits. This, again, was intended to draw the visitor out into the park landscape (Kinsley 58).

Dates: Commission / Completion:Designed/Commissioned: 1958-1960 Construction and Completion: 1961-62
Architectural and other Designer(s): Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander
Others associated with Building/Site: Original and Current Owner: United States National Park Service
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Since its initial construction in 1961-62, minor alterations have changed the original design of the Visitor Center. On the exterior, the first major change to the building was altered paint colors. The original color scheme for the Complex was accents of blue, gold, rust and yellow on white or tan buildings. In 1976, all buildings in the Complex were painted brown, making them less visible in the landscape. (National Register of Historic Places 10). Additionally, the flat roof of the Visitor Center was replaced with a shallow pitched roof. This pitched roof was extended over the terrace on the North elevation, altering the character of the terrace and the visual appearance of the I-beam “spider legs”. The terrace on the east façade was enclosed in 1987 to create more interior space. This too altered the appearance of the unique i-beams. A tint was added to some windows on the second floor, and in some places the original stucco is lost (Gorski and Lovato 86). In the central plaza, all of the original plantings planned by Neutra and Alexander have been lost due to lack of irrigation. This destroys the lush view from the lobby that Neutra and Alexander originally designed (Low 141). In addition, the exterior exhibits have been removed, truncating the specific visitor flow that Neutra envisioned. The window wall in the lobby was meant to create a continuation of exterior and interior, drawing the viewer out onto the plaza (Kinsley 58). The major change to the interior of the visitor center was the addition of a theater in the east end of the lobby in 1975. The theater wall interrupts the wall of windows, obscuring the view to the central plaza. Other changes to the lobby include the relocation of the information desk (National Register of Historic Places 10). Throughout the building, many of the original finishes have been changed. The flooring in some rooms was replaced and is now inconsistent throughout the building. Wood paneling was added to some of the office walls, and door hardware was removed or changed sporadically (Gorski and Lovato 86-87).
Current Use: The Painted Desert Visitor Center continues to serve as a visitor center within the Petrified Forest National Park. The Visitor Center includes an information desk, bookstore, theater, and a computer center for interactive interpretation of the park. Park offices are located on the second floor.
Current Condition: Due to continued occupation and maintenance by the National Park Service, the visitor center is in good condition. In 2014, the building’s foundation was re-shored to correct ongoing structural problems. The Painted Desert Community Complex was recently designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2015, the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Modern Phoenix and the Arizona Preservation Foundation will develop a plan for restoration of the complex, intended to restore the original Neutra and Alexander design.
General Description:

The Painted Desert Visitor Center is one of twenty-three structures within the Painted Desert Community Complex. The Complex is surrounded by the flat, expansive landscape of the Painted Desert. It is isolated along the park road, with no other nearby structures. The Visitor Center is a two-story, concrete block building, which was meant to be public’s first point of contact with the park. The rectangular shape of the building and the original flat roof contributed to the low, horizontal feeling of the entire Painted Desert Complex. The exterior of the building is characterized by long expanses of concrete block. The building has two primary facades, one oriented west toward the parking lot, and the north façade, facing the central plaza. The west façade, the first that visitors encounter, includes a large storefront window wall and covered walkway. A cantilevered terrace visually separates the first and second levels. On the second level, a band of aluminum frame windows faces the parking lot. The terrace wraps around the building to the north. On the north elevation, a large glass window wall on the first floor creates a view from the lobby to the central plaza. The plaza is the focal point of the Painted Desert Complex. Neutra designed the Visitor Center to define the southern edge of the plaza (National Register of Historic Places 16). The large windows draw visitors out onto the plaza, encouraging them to interact with the landscape. On the second floor, the terrace and band of aluminum frame windows continue, although with fixed transoms. Neutra’s iconic “spider legs” support the roof and project down to the first floor (National Register of Historic Places 17). The terrace originally continued to the east elevation, but was enclosed in 1986. The east elevation adjoins the Complex residence building, which also frames the central plaza. The south façade is a long expanse of concrete block, punctured by three doors to the restrooms and administration offices. On the interior, visitors enter the first floor lobby from the main entrance on the west elevation. The open plan includes an information desk and exhibits. A theater was added to the east end of the lobby in 1975. Public restrooms are accessed from the south façade entrances only. In addition to the lobby and public restrooms, the first floor includes storage and administration spaces. A stair from the lobby leads to the second floor, which is comprised of a double-loaded corridor of administration offices.

Construction Period:

The Painted Desert Community Complex had structural issues even before construction
was completed. Cracks began appearing in concrete block walls throughout the complex during the construction period. A soil investigation revealed inadequate footings and incorrectly compacted fill. In addition, steel reinforcing was inaccurately placed. These errors were likely the result of unclear documents from Neutra and Alexander, as well as careless work by the contractor. Repairs were made shortly after construction was completed in 1962 (National Register of Historic Places 13-14).

Original Physical Context:

The Painted Desert Visitor Center is located in the Petrified Forest National Park, 93,533 acres of semi-desert and badlands located in northeastern Arizona, on the Colorado Plateau. The Visitor Center is one of twenty-three buildings within the Painted Desert Community Complex. The Complex includes administration offices, maintenance facilities, visitor services, and employee housing. The Visitor Center borders the central plaza, the focal point of the Complex (National Register of Historic Places 15). The Complex is isolated, situated along the park road with no other nearby structures.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The Painted Desert Visitor Center is constructed of modern materials and material systems typical of mid-century modern designs and a hallmark of the Mission 66 program. The building materials include concrete block, stucco, some steel framing, aluminum frame windows, and commercial storefronts on a concrete slab foundation. “Spider leg” i-beam supports, iconic in Neutra’s designs, are located on the north elevation (National Register of Historic Places 17).

Social:

The Painted Desert Visitor Center was constructed as part of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program. The program was designed to revitalize and modernize the park system by 1966, the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service. In the years following World War II, increased visitation coupled with decreased funding had left the parks in poor condition. Visitors faced traffic jams, congested attractions, long lines, and deteriorating buildings. The ten-year program began in 1956, with a number of initiatives aimed at alleviating overcrowding and modernizing the National Parks. The most notable result of these initiatives was a new building typology, the visitor center. The Mission 66 program constructed over one hundred new visitor centers, which revolutionized the way visitors experienced a park. Visitor centers centralized a wide range of park services in one location. Interpretation, visitor information, park offices, and service facilities were consolidated under one roof, with the intention of controlling what, how and when visitors experienced park resources.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The Painted Desert Visitor Center is a representative example of Nuetra’s public work, and the last remaining Neutra designed building in the National Park System. Like all Mission 66 visitor centers, the design emphasizes a relationship between the building and the landscape, attempting to disappear, with simple, low horizontal lines. This is a drastic departure from previous National Park rustic architectural styles, which were meant to blend, rather and fade, from the landscape. National Park rustic architecture drew on its surroundings to suggest a specific idea, like pueblos in the southwest or hewn log buildings in the mountains. Mission 66 modern architecture rejected this idea, instead focusing on disappearing within the landscape, rather than attempting to add to it. This was accomplished with simple, sparse modern materials such as stucco and concrete block. The buildings were a tool for the park service to control the flow of visitors and their interpretive experience, a viewing platform from which the park was first encountered and understood.
Historical:

The Painted Desert Visitor Center has historical significance as part of the larger Mission 66 program, but did not obtain canonical status or architectural notoriety in its own right. It is not a well-known Neutra design, although it is a rarer example of his public work.

General Assessment:
The Painted Desert Visitor Center is significant for its association with the Mission 66 program and as a representation of the work of Neutra and Alexander. The complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 as a nationally significant work of architecture. The complex is one of only two Mission 66 projects Neutra and Alexander designed. It is illustrative of Neutra’s neighborhood planning theories, which groups buildings of different functions around a central plaza. The complex also embodies Neutra’s ideas about modern architecture in the landscape. Neutra believed that man-made objects could never compete with nature, and should therefore be completely different, and stand out in the landscape. This aligned with the Mission 66 program theory that park architecture should not try to blend with the surroundings. The Painted Desert Visitor Center contributes to the overall significance of the Painted Desert Community Complex, with many of Nuetra’s unique architectural elements, such as i-beam “spider leg” supports. In addition, the Painted Desert Visitor Center is an embodiment of a new building typology. Before Mission 66, visitor services and information were rarely centralized within National Parks. The design and location of the Painted Desert Visitor Center symbolizes the Park Service’s ideas about visitor experience and interpretation strategies during the Mission 66 era.
Documentation
Text references:

Gorski, Andrew, and Michael Lovato. Maintenance Guides for the Treatment of Historic Properties,
Petrified Forest National Park. The University of Arizona and National Park Service Desert
Southwest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, 2005.

Kinsley, Rebecca. “Mission 66: Where are we now? The Preservation and Re-use of Mission 66
Visitor Centers” M.S. Thesis, Columbia University, 2013.

Low, Sandy. Design Principles for Site Development in Our National Parks Based Upon Historic
Precedents and Current Needs. Las Vegas: University of Nevada, 2009.

National Register of Historic Places Report, Painted Desert Community Complex Historic District.
Petrified Forest National park, Apache County, Arizona, National Register #20050415.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Rebecca Zeller / November 25, 2014

U.S. Consulate, Karachi, Pakistan

Added by fmorale3, last update: August 20, 2012, 12:07 pm

U.S. Consulate, Karachi, Pakistan
Location
Abdullah Haroon Road
Karachi, S
Pakistan
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Administration (ADM)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

Application for listing as a “Heritage Building” by a group of concerns citizens and architects affiliated with the IPA, Institute of Pakistani Architects, and others is underway. It was submitted in June 2012 to the Chief Secretary, Government of Sindh/ex-officio Chairman of the Heritage Advisory Committee.

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The Pakistan embassy followed the FBO design brief for embassies/consulates that was both a delicate and daunting task: The new outposts were to be legibly American and convey strength, yet not be too assertive or flamboyant; the design should be Modern, excellent, and worthy of peer acclaim, but not too radical, befitting a dignified American presence; and it should be secure and robust, but not too costly let it alarm the American tax payer (Loeffler 45). Programmatically, the embassies were “much like the headquarters for a small corporation.” They included extensive, flexible office space for consular needs; staff and executive/ambassadorial offices; special facilities open to the public on occasion or for related government agencies such as the United States Information Agency (USIA) and the United States Information Service (USIS)(Arts and Architecture 31). Other requirements specific to Pakistan included a controlled service yard and parking area; a substantial water storage tank; an electrical generator; and “extensive warehouses to harbor American Governmental employees from neighboring countries and possibly their families and belongings in case of emergency” (South Africa Architectural Record).

More subtle aspects of the brief encouraged a “sympathetic, regional expression of our own architectural thinking” (Architectural Record 187) in designs that to some degree acknowledged the host country’s architectural traditions, climate, and culture. Neutra, who consistently argued that buildings could be very Modern but yet accomplish such a sympathetic response, integrated features specific to lslamic worship practices, discussed below in the description and significance portions of this fiche.

Dates: Commission / Completion:First letter contacting architects from Henry J. Lawrence, Deputy Director, Foreign Buildings Operations (FBO), June 8, 1964 requesting signed contract. (Richard and Dion Neutra Papers) Contracts finally signed most likely circa March 1955. Completion and Inauguration: Dedicated 1961.
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architects: Richard J. Neutra and Robert E. Alexander, Architects and Planning Consultants
Others associated with Building/Site: Original owner(s)/patron(s): Purchased by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Foreign Building Operations, in 1948. The FBO was the predecessor to the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. Consulting engineer (s): Parker, Zehnder and Associates (structural engineers of several Neutra and Alexander designs, including the Cyclorama Center, Gettysburg Pennsylvania, 1961.) Building contractor (s): Unknown: "A Pakistan-British contracting firm with local supervision by a representative of the State Department." Name(s): Horace A. Heldreth, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan (May 1953-May 1957); James M. Langley, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan (Jun 1957-July 1959); William M. Rountree, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan (August 1959-February 1962) association: Diplomatic Staff.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): While the complex appears to be largely intact, it has experienced changes in use. Embassy functions, including the Ambassador and key staff, were relocated to Islamabad in 1966, while Consulate-related personnel, such as visa, economic and commercial staff and those dealing with the public, remained. The remaining staff moved from the main building to the warehouse after 2002 and left the property permanently in 2011. In about 1985, shatter-resistant film was added to the windows and many if not all exterior doors were replaced with steel security units. Degradation to the garden setting, landscape, and hardscape has occurred. There have been some changes to the interior, primarily seen in additional interior walls. However, many key character-defining features are extant. These include extruded soffits that hide lights for upper wall/ceiling washing; extensive ribbed wood paneling, and custom-detailed stair details. Date(s): 1999 (encasement of steel fence); 2002, reinforcement of warehouse. Circumstances/ reasons for change: After the capital of Pakistan was shifted from Karachi to Islamabad in 1960, in 1966 the U.S. Embassy was reassigned to its status of U.S. Consulate, retained until January 2011 when the Consulate moved out of the property completely. In 1999, the sole barrier, a steel picket fence in front of the primary elevation, was encased in concrete, the driveway closed, so that the sole remaining entry was from Brunton Road. After the 2002 bombing and at a cost of $10 million, the Embassy staff moved from the four-story main building to the newly “hardened” one-story warehouse behind it, which was considered to be more difficult to access from the street given its protection on the east by the main building. In 2006, the Office of Overseas Buildings Operations acquired a new site for a new consulate office and housing complex, now completed, commissioned, and occupied ("Obituary For A Consulate Office Building"). Effects of changes: Based on available photographs, the complex retains design integrity of exterior features. Persons/organizations involved: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, and Real Estate.
Current Use: Of whole site: For sale/vacant.
Current Condition: Intact
General Description:

The complex is an L-shape in footprint. It occupies an eccentrically shaped site bounded by Brunton Road on the south and Abdullah Haroon Road (also known as Victoria Road in some locations) on the east. The roughly diagonal north property line intersects Abdullah Haroon Road to form a “prow” defined by this intersection, helping to establish strategies for building footprints and orientation. The complex comprises a long, sleek, four-story main building that is rectangular in massing. This main building stands in front of and is connected to a large one-story warehouse by an interstitial two-story building between the two, originally housing the cafeteria, a reproduction and distribution space and a small “motion picture room.” According to the site plan, the total square footage for the property is 116,288 square feet, including the 91,108 square-foot office building; the 16,000-square-foot warehouse; the 4,180-square-foot interstitial building; and the 4,000-square-foot secured service yard and covered garage bays, occupying the southwest quadrant of the lot. The larger setting was characterized by a broad lawn and extensive landscaping along the northern and eastern sides of the property, as well as an area between the vehicular service court and the main building on the property’s south side.

The east-facing principal entrance is located at the point the east property line angles away from Abdullah Haroon Road; the point at which the building is asymmetrically divided into a larger volume, devoted to office and administrative staff, and a smaller volume serving ambassadorial and executive functions. The entrance was accessed by a broad C-shaped driveway carved out from the northeast corner of the site, curving around an eccentrically shaped reflecting pool aligned with the road. Aligned with that major civic artery, this larger volume also contained the offices for the USIA and pressroom, which featured a full-height translucent glass wall topped with operable clerestories. In the angled plan, the main lobby dividing forms an acute angle, wider on the east, permitting the rectangular, smaller executive wing to the north to be orthogonally oriented to Club (formerly Collector) Road.

Elevated one story, this wing cantilevers north, supported by a long central pier aligned north-south. The pier is flanked on either side by a one-story perpendicular wall composed of a sandwich of poured concrete between perforated concrete block masonry. This wall screens a private, densely planted area; a large angled reflecting pool; and a patio below the elevated cantilever, a portion of which extends beyond the north-facing perforated wall. The water of the pool overflows into a channel that continues under the broad terrazzo steps to emerge beyond the steps into a tile-lined channel parallel to a landscaped planter running along the glass wall of the main interior lobby. The water channel terminates at the northern flank of the broad steps leading to the principal entrance, in turn separated by the driveway by the eccentrically shaped pool along Abdullah Haroon Road noted earlier. Thus, the various bodies and channels of water appear to percolate through the complex, and helping to unify the overall composition as well as introducing a microclimate and acoustical tempering.

The dramatic entrance features an elongated porte-cochere of seven large gold anodized aluminum beams with a thin metal roof, supported by seven steel cables aligned with seven gold anodized aluminum vertical ribs dividing six full-height sections of glass windows. The western, narrower end of this angled lobby led to areas for general public functions such as such as the library and later, the “American Center,” devoted to public diplomacy programs. A short run of terrazzo steps leads down to the terrazzo patio and reflecting pool, where it joins a covered walkway leading to the warehouse area. Of note in this area is a signature Neutra trademark: this is an exterior light strip flush to a walkway ceiling and located at the far edge of the soffit. This asymmetric placement not only illuminated the path of travel, but also afforded a greater expanse of viewing radius at night for inhabitants inside a glass wall of a building, exemplifying Neutra’s concept of “bio-realistic” architecture responding to primal human needs of “flight or fight.”

The fenestration of the main building accentuates the structure’s strong horizontality and monumental presence. Both east and west elevations are characterized by a series of three continuous lengths of windows running the entire façade, with a fourth, at ground floor level, terminating at the entrance. The windows are fronted by operable metal louvers with insect screens.

A two-story interstitial building links the primary building to the low, earth-toned warehouse. The north-facing primary façade of this intermediate structure appears to be characterized by three bays of floor-to-ceiling glass window walls, sheltered by a broad, thin-shelled concrete roof that extends beyond the building envelope. A single strip of louvered windows, aligned with the ground floor windows on the rear (west) elevation is present on the rear (south) elevation of this smaller structure.

The warehouse roof echoes the building’s division into nine bays. Configured as a rectangle in plan, it is aligned with Abdullah Haroon Road. In contrast, its angled northern wall is parallel to the north property line. The roof comprises nine thin-shell concrete roofs; each vault steps back sequentially on the north moving from east to west. The foot of the eastern most roof vault curves into the largish reflecting pool terminating the angled main lobby, symbolically integrating the warehouse to the larger composition. The water element, seen in various pools and channels that percolate through the public area, also serves as important symbolic gesture, beginning with the curved reflecting pool originally located at the angled northeast “prow” of the property.

Behind and south of the warehouse, the large service yard and court, protected by a seven-foot-tall concrete block wall running the entire west side of the property, is accessed through a sentry station from Brunton Road. The service yard was characterized by a gasoline pump station in the center of the yard, covered garages, and a loading dock.

It is likely that Neutra designed the landscaped setting and gardens, given the careful hierarchy of plantings and his telltale drawing of landscaping on the site plan. Tall, dark shrubs located in front of the warehouse opened out to an “American” lawn, a long swath of grass-like ground cover in front of the warehouse labeled “Embassy Park.” The area was dotted with a few palm trees and mid-height plantings at the originally low perimeter wall on the north and a similar treatment was accorded for the primary elevation.

Construction Period:

Main office building: reinforced concrete; warehouse barrel vault roofs: thin-shell concrete; warehouse walls, concrete block. Hollow clay tile, ceramic tile, terrazzo, glass, steel window mullions; gold-anodized aluminum ribs at porte-cochere, operable metal louvers with metal insect screens. Masonry materials mixed, formed, or poured on-site. Interior: plaster walls.
The budgeted cost was $1,000,000, comparable with other embassies. Much of expenditure was not from an outlay of American dollars but foreign postwar credits owed to the U.S, allowing the U.S. Treasury to obtain equipment, materials, and labor in exchange for the debts of a particular country. To Robert Alexander’s consternation, foreign currency, which tended to fluctuate erratically was also used to pay architectural fees for American firms working abroad.

Original Physical Context:

The formerly empty lot eccentrically shaped and 1.10 hectares in size, is bounded on the east by the north-south Abdullah Haroon Road (formerly Victoria Road) and Brunton Road on the south. The lot is located in downtown Karachi in a prestigious area developed by the British in the 19th century. Now considered a financial hub, the area is populated today with government buildings, financial institutions, foreign consulates, and the famous Sind Club, founded in 1871 as an elite European gentleman’s club and designed in the Indo-Italianate style popular throughout the British Empire in the mid 19th century). Set back from Abdullah Haroon Road about 60 feet, the former Embassy stands across the road from the expansive Frere Park and Frere Hall, the town hall designed in the High Victorian Gothic style and erected in 1865 during the British Raj period (1858 – 1947, the year of Pakistan’s independence. The Hall was reopened in 2011 after a bomb attack on the Consulate in June 2002, the first of others that culminated in 2006 with a bombing that killed Pakistani and American diplomatic staff.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The property embodies the FBO’s directive for embassies abroad, to assert American standards of design and technology while acknowledging local traditions. The primary and interstitial buildings of reinforced concrete reflect methodology standard for large-scale buildings engineered in the U.S. at the time of construction. Parker, Zehnder and Associates was a well-respected and published engineering practice and the “go-to” firm for Neutra and Alexander; the engineers were simultaneously working on the firm’s much more daring steel design for the Cyclorama Building at the Gettysburg National Military Park, completed in 1962 (American Steel Construction). White in appearance, it is not known whether the (peeling) white paint seen on the primary structure in recent photographs is original or if the building’s concrete employed lighter tones integral to the mix. In contrast to the engineering of the primary and intermediate glass-and-concrete buildings, the warehouse was low-tech, with walls of an earthen-coloured concrete block with hollow clay tile infill used for the open arches. The block, tile, and terrazzo were locally procured and mixed on site. As Annabel Jane Wharton remarked in Building the Cold War, “Making the Modern abroad was, after all, not so easy. Indeed, the effort required in the realization of a monumental Modernity where none had previously existed was nothing short of heroic. Basic building materials were difficult to obtain in Europe after World War II; they were completely lacking in the Middle East” (Wharton 7) Co-architect Robert Alexander “complained loudly to the FBO that the concrete mix at Karachi was being watered down by the local contractor. He even warned of a possible building collapse (which fortunately never occurred), but he could do nothing to correct the problem because his firm had no contract to provide supervision and his complaints were dismissed.” (Loeffler 145) Thus, within the period of significance based on its completion in 1961, the Embassy represents the attempt of the State Department to insert and to some extent integrate an American construction paradigm into the local Pakistan building and craft culture.

While visiting Karachi, Alexander discovered the “ready availability of cylindrical [metal] molds for casting concrete vault forms, and was determined to utilize such forms in an effort to counter what he believed to be Neutra’s overly stark design of the main administration wing” (Hines 245). Indeed, at first glance the composition suffers somewhat from how these disparate pieces of the complex are integrated, although its overall disposition is one of a fairly subtle weaving together of elements and functions. In any case, the conflicting ideas and goals of the two architects, each individually well established, proved insurmountable. Founded in 1949 and confined to large-scale projects, the partnership ended at about the time the Embassy and Cyclorama were completed.

Social:

Postwar American embassies were intended to embody American values in a Modern presence that demonstrated technical, rationalized prowess. While large-plate glass was long used for American and European building exteriors for a variety of reasons (not least the desire to establish cutting-edge corporate identity), glass was often employed in embassies to support the transmission of idealistic values, especially the transparent democratic process of a young nation unfettered by autocratic historicism or older colonizing regimes. At the primary entrance, glass is deployed with a largesse atypical for the surrounding urban fabric. At night, it performed as a “shining beacon of light.” (Glass, usually in far higher quantities, was also used for Hilton International Hotels. These “little Americas abroad” were also monumental expressions of Modernism designed by prominent architects. However, with far fewer security concerns, solidity and mass could be suppressed in favor of space, lightness, and openness, facilitating the promotion of capitalism, consumerism, and sophistication along with democracy.)(Wharton)

Embassies were also to respect local cultures. This paralleled Neutra’s conviction that Modernism, especially his Modernism, could accomplish this through sensitive responses to the needs of all the users involved with a building. For example, he “conceived of the outdoor area [below the cantilevered portion of the executive wing] as a prayer floor for the large number of Moslemic [stet] employees of the embassy, with an ablution pond and a fountain … Mr. Neutra felt it necessary to demonstrate visibly in his design the courtesy of his country to the staff of the Moslem faith and took it upon himself to discuss religious details with the Bar Mulvi, the highest church dignitary of West Pakistan.” (South Africa Architectural Record) Neutra employed a similar approach with regard to user needs at the university laboratories and library at the Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, East Pakistan, 1963.

The concern for establishing an American identity abroad while respecting a host culture is virtually unchanged today. The following is a quote from the eleven Guiding Principles for “Constructive Diplomacy: The US Department of State's Overseas Building Program,” published May 2011 under Adam E. Namm, Acting Director, Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, United States Department of State.

A portion of the “Design” principle reads: “Buildings are to be welcoming while representing dignity, stability, innovation, humanity and openness. Ostentation is not appropriate. Designs will be cost effective, employing an economy of means and methods. The design will be responsive to its context, to include the site, its surroundings, and the local culture and climate. The design will make use of contextually appropriate and durable materials."(Namm 2011)

The emerging concern for the larger setting, whether contemporary or historic, is reflected in the Principles as well: The grounds and landscaping will be as important as the architecture and together are to be conceived as an integrated whole. The grounds will be viewed as functional and representational space, and will be sustainable, include indigenous plantings and incorporate existing site resources, such as mature trees.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Historical:
General Assessment:
Like many of the overseas buildings commissioned in an ambitious postwar program by the Bureau of Foreign Building Operations (FBO), predecessor of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO), Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan was intended to “represent American architecture abroad and to adapt itself so deftly that is welcomed, not criticized, by its hosts”(Architectural Record). With Modernism as its aesthetic medium, the new complexes communicated American global status, democratic values, and strength through its engineering, architectural, and construction prowess. The FBO created an Architectural Advisory Board consisting of leading figures in architecture to select architects for these prestigious commissions, including Ralph Rapson and John Van Der Meulen; Harrison and Abramovitz; Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill; and Edward Durrell Stone. While Modern architecture, especially the International Style (in contrast to Frank Lloyd Wright’s approach to modernity) was rooted in European social, communitarian and egalitarian ideals, nonetheless, Modernism was perceived to be “recognized as an American asset abroad, especially since expressions of grandiosity were out of place and “modern architecture was, by definition, less solid than spatial, and less massive than planar” (Loeffler 121). Like the main administration building in Karachi, many American embassies and consulates abroad were raised on stilts above glazed open spaces. Appearing to float, they embodied élan and a political identity that was decidedly forward looking. Even better, these subtle instruments of propaganda proffered a sharp contrast to what the Soviet Republic was doing: “At a time when the USSR was housing itself abroad in classically detailed masonry buildings that looked to the distant past for inspiration, the United States offered a striking contrast—radically modern buildings of steel and glass” (100). The former U.S. Embassy, Karachi, Pakistan, is one member of this distinguished group of postwar embassies. While each piece of the composition is not flawlessly integrated with the whole, the very disparity of the pieces underscores the attempt to seriously address a host of conflicting concerns under difficult circumstances. Additionally, the contours of the lot itself; water as a functional and symbolic feature that specifically responds to the host country’s cultural and religious values; and thoughtful landscaping all serve to unify the composition on a larger scale. Like its colleagues, tectonic Cold War ambassadors all, the Karachi complex embodies an optimism, an openness, and a frankness of purpose. These qualities are intimately associated with mid-century America. They were tectonically rendered in ways no contemporary embassy by any government would dare to express today. These projects thus represent an important period of significance in American and world history.
Documentation
Text references:

Architectural Record, May 1955: 187.

Arts and architecture, March 1953, 31.

Loeffler, Jane C. The Architecture of Diplomacy: Building America’s Embassies. New York: Princeton Architectural Press/ Adst- Dacor Diplomats and Diplomacy.

Mulcahy, Frank. “Buildings Show Design Influence of Southland.” Los Angeles Times 23 Nov. 1958

“Obituary For A Consulate Office Building.” A Skeptical Bureaucrat.Blogspot.19 Jan 2011. 10 Mar 1012. http://skepticalbureaucrat.blogspot.com/2011/01/obituary-for-consulate-o...

Richard and Dion Neutra Papers UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library, Special Collections.

South Africa Architectural Record Vol 47, No 3-4, March April 1962.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Barbara Lamprecht, 2012

Kaufmann Desert House

Added by admin, last update: August 31, 2012, 3:18 pm

Kaufmann Desert House
Location
470 West Vista Chino
Palm Springs, CA 92262
United States
33° 50' 42.5184" N, 116° 33' 10.7928" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Residential (RES)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The building was commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr, the Philadelphia department store owner who had commissioned Wright to building Fallingwater about a decade earlier. The home served the Kaufmann family as a winter residence.

Dates: Commission / Completion:Commission unknown, completion 1946(e), restoration 1994-1998(e).
Architectural and other Designer(s): Richard J. Neutra, architect
Others associated with Building/Site: Marmol & Radziner, Santa Monica, California, architects for restoration
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s):
Current Use: The house is currently owned by Brent Harris.
Current Condition: Excellent
General Description:
Construction Period:
Original Physical Context:
Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:
Social:
Cultural & Aesthetic:
Historical:
General Assessment:
Widely regarded by historians as one of Richard Neutra's masterworks, the Kaufmann Desert House was commissioned by patron Edgar Kaufmann as his winter residence. The dramatic low pinwhaeel structure appears as a series of floating planes with a focus on true inside/outside living. This is facilitated by large retractable steel and glass doors and outdoor radiant concrete pads.
Documentation
Text references:
Authoring
Recorder/Date: Brent Harris, November 2, 1998

Lovell Health House

Added by admin, last update: July 23, 2014, 5:49 pm

Location
4616 Dundee Drive
Los Angeles, CA
United States
34° 7' 5.7036" N, 118° 17' 16.4148" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Residential (RES)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:
Dates: Commission / Completion:Commission unknown, completion 1929(e).
Architectural and other Designer(s): Richard Neutra, architect
Others associated with Building/Site:
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s):
Current Use: Private Residence
Current Condition:
General Description:
Construction Period:
Original Physical Context:
Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:
Social:
Cultural & Aesthetic:
Historical:
General Assessment:
The three-story, steel-framed structure is a pioneering example of modern technology applied to the creation of a residential environment. Walls spanning between the shop-fabricated, lightweight frame are sprayed concrete over an insulation backing and combinations of standard window units. Through its dramatic hillside site and exposed structural system, the house is a recognized monument to the International Style.
Documentation
Text references:
Authoring
Recorder/Date: DOCOMOMO US Register committee, July 1999
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