What is it? Modernism and public art at Baltimore’s public schools

By Eli Pousson, Director of Preservation and Outreach for Baltimore Heritage, with contributions from Ryan Patterson, Public Art Administration for the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.

Baltimore’s public schools are home to over 120 public art commissions—most of these works tied to a local boom in school building construction during the 1960s and 1970s. While some are the work of nationally known modern artists and designers, like Michio Ihara, Gyorgy Kepes, and Harry Bertoia, others are the work of artists, architects and designers with a regional practice or local following; some of whom had few commissions outside of Baltimore, or no public work outside of these midcentury school buildings.

Musings on Isamu Noguchi’s Hart Plaza

By Jenny Dixon, Director
The Noguchi Museum

Detroit’s first ideas for a vast urban plaza at the terminus of Woodward Avenue and fronting on the Detroit River were laid in 1924, when the Detroit branch of the American Institute of Architects commissioned Eliel Saarinen to design it. The project was never fully realized. Perhaps Isamu Noguchi knew of this history when he responded to the invitation by the City of Detroit to submit plans for the Horace E. Dodge & Son Fountain at that same location just shy of fifty years later.

Upgrading the Mechanical Systems in Louis Kahn’s Richards Building

By Matthew S. Chalifoux, AIA, Principal
EYP Architecture and Engineering, Washington, DC

Louis I. Kahn’s Alfred Newton Richards Medical Research Laboratory (Richards Building) at the University of Pennsylvania holds a unique place in the history of 20th century culture as one of the most influential buildings of the post-war era. Designed 1957-58 and completed in 1961, the Richards Building received international attention for its design before it was even completed, garnering a solo exhibition of the design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but its considerable functional shortcomings have been the target of much venom for over fifty years.

Aluminum Finishes in Postwar Architecture

By Thomas C. Jester

The twentieth century witnessed an explosion of new materials and assemblies for construction. Avant-garde architects who subscribed to the tenets of Modernism embraced reinforced concrete and glass to create remarkable new buildings. If concrete and glass were the first two critical material legs of the stool for Modern architecture, metals were the important third leg.

Breuer Buildings Threatened

With all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the opening of the newly renovated Met Breuer in New York this week, Docomomo US is following recent developments concerning two other important Marcel Breuer buildings: the Central Public Library (1980) in Atlanta, Georgia and the Pirelli Tire Building (1970) in New Haven, Connecticut. Nearly a decade after the earlier calls for Atlanta Central Public Library demolition and replacement, local officials are currently recommending a smaller Central Library contrary to the request of a bigger building in the proposal from 2008. Consistant deferred maintenance and reduced circulation at this downtown location make it a likely target for development, closure or demolition.

Houston: Uncommon Modern

By Nonya Grenader

HOUSTON: UNCOMMON MODERN
AIA Houston ArCH Center, Nov. 24, 2015, Feb. 19, 2016 (Panel Discussion and Catalog Release, Feb. 15)

“Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings, I mean not museum-piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation…but also a lot of plain, ordinary old low-value buildings…”
- Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Beyond Modernism: A question and a challenge

By Theodore Prudon, FAIA

The upcoming fourth Docomomo US National Symposium carries the title: Beyond Modernism. This choice of title is a reflection of a discussion that has been taking place in Docomomo US and its various chapters for some time about what constitutes modernism to us and whether there is an approximate end date to what architects, buildings and styles we study and advocate for.

Postmodern Procedures

This past December, Princeton University’s School of Architecture hosted a two day and cross generational conference titled “Postmodern Procedures.” The event opened with a keynote address by award winning architect Denise Scott Brown, RIBA, Int. FRIBA and brought together fourteen of architecture’s leading professionals and educators to discuss not only the historical significance of postmodernism but its impacts on architecture today.

The Atrium Effect

By Charles Rice

This article is excerpted from Charles Rice’s newly-published book Interior Urbanism: Architecture, John Portman and Downtown America (Bloomsbury). The book uses Portman’s architecture, and in particular its famous ‘atrium effect’, as a lens through which to reconsider key issues of the 1960s and 70s: the expansion of a commercial imperative in architecture and urban development; growing social and economic instability in cities; and debates about the form and role of public space.

Brutal/Heroic

By Mark Pasnik, Michael Kubo, Chris Grimley

This article is excerpted and adapted from Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (The Monacelli Press, 2015) which examines Boston's unparalled concetration of concrete architecture built in the postwar decades, an era that initiated the city's wholesale transformation through powerful and often controversial policies of civic intervention. 

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