Columbus Update: Civic Inspiration at the Right Scale

By Richard McCoy

The last time Docomomo US checked in on Columbus, Indiana, T. Kelly Wilson gave us an update on the establishment of the Indiana University Center for Art+Design (IUCA+D) and his efforts to leverage the design heritage and seven modern National Historic Landmarks in the community to create a ‘laboratory for design’ and to teach a new generation of students how to work at the intersection of art and design in the middle of America -- “Notes on Columbus, Indiana” (August 2013 Newsletter). 

Photo (left): Entrance to Columbus City Hall. Photo Courtesy Hadley Fruits

Mid-Century Modern Structures: Materials and Preservation 2015 Symposium

Image: Priory Chapel of St. Louis Abbey. Photo by Michael Allen, Flickr, March 10, 2015.

The Friends of NCPTT, the World Monument Fund, the American Institute for Architects St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial are partnering for a jointly organized symposium on the preservation of Mid-Century Modern Structures. The meeting will be held at the Drury Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, April 14-16, 2015. A public lecture will precede the meeting on Monday evening, April 13 at Washington University in St. Louis.





Docomomo US/Philadelphia: Lower Merion Windshield Survey

On Saturday, March 28, 2015, from 10 AM to 1 PM (rain date 2/29/15, same time), the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Docomomo US  is seeking volunteers to help conduct a windshield survey of the neighborhoods of Lower Merion Township to create a list of buildings in the community that were built after the 1920s and before 1970 and that can be characterized as examples of the Mid-century Modern Style.

By definition, a windshield survey is a broad-based visual investigation to identify those buildings, sites, structures, or objects that fit the category of what is being investigated. Mid-century Modern is a term used to describe architectural, interior, product and graphic design that represents mid-20th century developments in modern design, architecture and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965.

Date information
Saturday, March 28, 2015 10:00AM

The first international style skyscraper built in the United States was the PSFS Building, completed in 1933, designed by George Howe and William Lescaze, and located in downtown Philadelphia. After its construction, the region became home to many buildings designed in the Mid-century Modern style by many architects and designers that have become widely known for their work, including Marcel Breuer, Pietro Belluschi, Louis Kahn, Vincent Kling, George Nakashima, Richard Neutra, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Buildings designed by well-known Mid-century Modern architects have been identified throughout Lower Merion, but there are many other buildings from this period not known. To assist the Township in determining just how many examples of the style exist in the community, the windshield survey is being conducted to identify and generate a list of properties for further study.

The survey will be conducted in two-person teams (a driver and an observer). Volunteers are asked to arrive at 9.45AM at the parking lot of the Wynnewood Shopping Center, located at 50 East Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood, PA 19096, (opposite the Wynnewood train station; which is served by the Paoli/Thorndale Line Regional Rail), for an organizational meeting prior to the start of the survey. Volunteers with cars will be paired with those without to create the two-person teams. Maps, survey sheets, and instructions will be provided to each team to canvass properties within assigned neighborhoods from the public right-of-way. Teams will return to the Wynnewood Shopping Center parking lot to turn in their completed survey sheets and maps. Docomomo welcomes volunteers to help research the Mid-century Modern buildings identified during the windshield survey.

To learn more about the event, or to sign up for the survey, please contact Lonnie Hovey at, cell phone 215-219-3755, or Carl Dress at carl(AT), cell phone 610-908-5622.


Watergate: Washington D.C.'s Town within a City

"We wanted to do something different"

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of a landmark in urban planning: Washington, DC’s town within a city known as the Watergate.

By Gary Parker

Too big. Too tall. Too modern. Too different. 

Everything about the Watergate, the town within a city on the banks of the Potomac, was revolutionary. Hard to imagine now, when the brass ring of urban building is the grand mixed-use project (like the dazzling CityCenterDC – a 21st-century version of the Watergate). 

Berkeley Art Museum Vacates Brutalist Building

By Lacey Bubnash

On December 21, 2014, the Berkeley Art Museum1permanently closed its iconic Modern building in preparation for a move to a nearby new building in 2016. Considered by many to be the Bay Area’s most remarkable example of Brutalism, the structure was known for its unfinished concrete forms and cantilevered interior galleries that radiate out around a large, sky lit atrium. Although the building is a local landmark and listed on the National Register, its intricate concrete forms pose seismic safety risks, leaving a future for the building unclear.

Photo (left): View of skylights over atrium. Credit: Mary Brown, DOCOMOMO US/NOCA.

The Tyrone Guthrie Theater

By Jane King Hession
All images are courtesy of the Ralph Rapson Papers (N187), Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis.
When it debuted in 1963, the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre put Minneapolis on the national cultural map and ushered in a new era in American regional theater. The opening night performance of Hamlet by the talented repertory company riveted the audience, but the Guthrie’s new modern building dazzled as well. Designed by architect Ralph Rapson, it was like nothing anyone had seen before. 
Photo (left): The Tyrone Guthrie Theatre with original screen. Photograph by Warren Reynolds.

The Modern Theatre

By Meredith Arms Bzdak
The twentieth century brought new forms of drama and successive waves of technological advancement to the world of theatre. Architecturally, by mid-century, it also brought experimentation. The theatres and performing arts spaces designed and built in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s represent a range of Modern styles, from Neo-Expressionism to Brutalism. By definition, many of these theatres are now historic, having reached fifty years of age. Some have been recognized for their outstanding historical or architectural significance (Jorn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House, completed in 1973, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007) and a handful are world renowned as important cultural landscapes (New York City’s own Lincoln Center), but many more are misunderstood or underappreciated. In fact, pieces of this heritage are increasingly threatened. 
Photo (left): The Morris Mechanic Theater in Baltimore, Maryland

Portland’s Epidemic of Teardowns

By: Liz Waytkus

Real estate in Portland, Oregon, like most places in the country, is at a premium right now. While good for sellers it has created a reverse incentive in Portland for tearing down older modest homes and maximizing lot coverage. As hundreds of these homes come down one by one, thanks to a hot real estate market and a fortuitous demolition loophole, neighbors and neighborhood associations are stepping in to save as much as they can, rallying to close the loophole and preserve each neighborhood’s character and heritage.

NOLA World Trade Center Update

By Keli Rylance

After previous efforts for redevelopment and a series of talks failed earlier this year, a five-member selection committee representing the city has reviewed qualifications from 11 potential developers and narrowed the field to five. At stake is Edward Durell Stone’s 33-story monument to the city’s foreign commerce, the World Trade Center of New Orleans. Begun in 1959 and partially occupied by 1966, the NRHP-listed building has been vacant since 2010.

Ontario Place, Toronto

By: James Ashby and Michael McClelland
All Images courtesy of Zeidler Partnership Architects

Designed as an inclusive space for public entertainment, education, culture and recreation, Ontario Place is an internationally renowned, urban waterfront park in Toronto. With its integrated environment of parkland, lagoons and megastructures, Ontario Place crystallized avant-garde ideas in architecture and urbanism of the 1960s. Partially closed since 2012, the entire park will soon be the site of a major rehabilitation project. In this context, it has recently been officially recognized as a cultural heritage landscape of provincial significance.


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