November 2010 E-News Brief


DOCOMOMO US TOUR DAY 2010 was a huge success and topped more than 1000 participants this year!  Of the twenty three tours, Tour Day 2010 covered fourteen states and received an unprecedented amount of press and coverage before the big weekend.

Houston Mod  Our friends at Houston Mod enjoyed a
  fantastic Tour Day and had perhaps the
  largest turnout with more than 230
  participants. The tour included a visit to Park
  Place Baptist Church, six homes in Glenbrook
  Valley and a driving tour of the neighborhood. 
  People of all ages came out to explore
  mid-century modern architecture and
  enjoyed a beautiful Saturday afternoon

  Photo (left): David Bucek, Houston Mod


Detroit Area Art Deco Society

The Detroit Area Art Deco Society and more than two dozen participants toured Minoru Yamasaki’s Michigan Consolidated Gas Company Headquarters Building.  The building is considered a predecessor to the World Trade Center design and incorporated similar materials. Directly across the street from the MichCon Building (as it is also known), the group visited “the Spirit of Detroit” which is seen here.

Photo (right): Al Trombetta, Detroit Area Art Deco Society

DOCOMOMO US/Chicago and the Chicago Architectural Foundation tours were another successful partnership for the annual Tour Day.  The Architecture in the Round:  Life & Work of Bertrand Goldberg tour was a big hit and included forty participants. The tour had interior access at Marina City and was well received by tour-takers and docents alike.  Sculpture in the Loop, Mies & Modernism: The IIT Campus, Modern Skyscrapers and the Farnsworth House tour were also well attended and enjoyed by all.

Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia

Modernism in America’s Oldest Neighborhood Tour lead by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia enjoyed a guided walking tour of the great modern architecture that co-exists alongside restored 18th and 19th-century buildings in Society Hill Philadelphia. More than two dozen participants toured the inside of two private residences and learned how modernism and historic preservation were thoughtfully integrated in one of the greatest examples of mid-century urban renewal. Click here for more photos.

Photo (left): Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia


Rohrer HouseThe DOCOMOMO US/WEWA tour of the Rohrer House in Seattle's Denny-Blaine neighborhood had an exceptional turnout with 120 people in attendance.  The house, built in 1949, was designed by John Rohrer, a professor of architecture for 36 years at the University of Washington. The tour included a written history and description, and the homeowners enjoyed talking to everybody.

Photo (right): DOCOMOMO US/WEWA

DOCOMOMO US/New England tour of Brandeis University and Wellesley College was perhaps the most comprehensive at almost five hours and included more than 20 participants.



New Haven
The New Haven Preservation Trust's A Very Concrete Tour looked at the ways concrete was used in downtown New Haven buildings.  The tour included twenty or more participants and was a successful and engaging afternoon.

Photo (left): Robert W. Grzywacz, New Haven Preservation Trust

DOCOMOMO US/Florida Historic Sailboat Bend tour in Fort Lauderdale was a huge success and included a keynote address, panel discussion and a cruise up the Intracoastal. This was an inaugural partnership between DOCOMOMO US/Florida, the Trust for Historic Sailboat Bend, Broward County Historical Commission and Broward Trust for Historic Preservation and both participants and organizers considered it a phenomenal event. The University of Florida tour and the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant tour were also well attended and included more than 150 people. With so many people and such a huge building (165,000 square feet), participants were given a document on the history of the building with some facts and a suggested tour path. CharlotteIn addition to the tour the local Model A club showed up with about a dozen cars and trucks. One of them apparently was built in the plant. For more on all of the DOCOMOMO US/Florida tours visit their website.

DOCOMOMO US/North Carolina toured the Rowe Arts Building at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and was lead by the architect of the building, Murray Whisnant. The tour included copies of the building plans, discussion of the original concept and ideas for the building as well as pointing out what was original and what had been changed.

Photo (right): Emily Makas, DOCOMOMO US/NORTH CAROLINA


Lever House  DOCOMOMO US
hosted a Midtown Moderns tour in conjunction with
  Open House New York, and along with exceptional weather, hosted
  more than four dozen participants over the weekend.

  Photo (left): Liz Waytkus, DOCOMOMO US

  Thank you to all of our chapters, friend organizations and DOCOMOMO
  US members for their hard work and for sharing their knowledge of and
  passion for the Modern Movement. Thank you to all of participants for
  joining us for Tour Day 2010 and exploring our country's modern

  There are many more images all over the country from Tour
  Day 2010. To see more and to upload some of your own photos visit
  the DOCOMOMO US Flickr Page.




Peavey PlazaPhoto by: Doug Wallick via Flickr
DOCOMOMO US/Minnesota Board of Directors has released a statement advocating for the preservation and renovation of Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis, located in the open space next to Orchestra Hall. The Minnesota Orchestra has recently announced plans to redesign the exterior of Orchestra Hall. The orchestra owns the part of Peavey that immediately abuts its property, and remodeling of the building will affect the existing design of the plaza. The city owns the rest of the plaza and recently issued an RFQ for landscape architects.

On an early September Sunday morning, two dozen people of all colors, shapes and ages sat peacefully in Peavey Plaza, the open space next to Orchestra Hall. They sat on cascading steps and listened to the sound of fresh wind, shade trees and emerald water, drawn to a calm and pure place. The graceful steps held the texture of Minnesota sand and gravel, carved like bluffs by streams of water descending to a tranquil pool. Sunlight struck the copper orange fountains clad in running water, drawing in a borrowed landscape of stone, brick and towers of icy glass.

Peavey Plaza is a precious and mature work of modern design demonstrating timeless principles of elegance, simplicity and nature. It reveals the essence of a Minnesota landscape through unique and appropriate form, space and material. It was designed by assertively expressing the spirit of the place, over the persona of the author or the exercise of willful power. Peavey Plaza is that rare type of place in America where everything works in harmony with people and nature, not a generic catalog expression of commercial products and the “brand new” like most contemporary spaces.
In its current form, the Plaza embodies an important moment in the history of design and the history of Minneapolis. Its robust qualities of age are both beautiful and irreplaceable testaments to sustainable design. It is a place of freedom and democracy by design, not by rule of law, community consensus or political will. To alter or disfigure the most salient characteristics of the Plaza is to destroy a critical dimension of local, social and physical history. All too often in American society the fatal metaphor of progress has been to leave the past behind us, when the true nature of progress is to leave the past within us.
We, the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Chapter of DOCOMOMO US are steadfast in our belief that the preservation and renovation of Peavey Plaza must retain the integral physical, material and conceptual properties of the original design. Minneapolis landmark status should be granted to the Plaza, commensurate with other recognized Modern landmarks like Christ Church Lutheran and the Malcolm Willey House. As change occurs in the surrounding context, designers and historians with expertise in twentieth-century design must play a vital role in the public and political discourse over the future of this essential and important public space on Nicollet Mall.

Photo by: Francine Stock
In the past two years the mid 20th century modern public school has become an endangered species in New Orleans. Of the city's thirty public schools designed and built in the 1950s, today only four are left standing. Soon only one may remain.

Earlier this week the City of New Orleans issued a demolition permit for the George Washington Carver Junior-Senior High School designed by Curtis and Davis, architects. The Helen Sylvania Edwards Elementary School shared many campus facilities with Carver, but has already been demolished. The integration of three schools (elementary, junior and senior high) on a 65 acre campus in the upper ninth ward allowed the schools to share common facilities (cafeteria, kitchen, auditorium) and yet retain age-segregated classroom buildings. The auditorium was also available in the evening for community events. The striking design of the auditorium with its soaring (40 ft high and 200 ft long) parabolic concrete vault and hinged buttresses is truly monumental. The Federal Emergency Management Association determined the Carver auditorium building eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana has advocated for the auditorium structure to be retained as part of a new campus plan and suggested that it be adaptively reused as an open air pavilion. Unfortunately, the auditorium will be demolished with the remaining buildings on campus.

The concept of a "school village" was first articulated by architect and planner Charles R. Colbert in 1952 in A Continuous Planning and Building Program, an analysis of existing public school facilities in New Orleans and plans for expansion. The city had not built a single school facility in the 1940s and the population was rapidly expanding. Urban land values in center of the city were twenty times higher than in the newer suburbs. Selecting a site of "ninety beautifully wooded acres, at the edge of urban development, six miles away" from the densely populated center of New Orleans would save six million dollars in land acquisition. Colbert calculated that this savings would support nearly a century of "quality bus transportation." Colbert envisioned the buses as "mobile classrooms." The teachers would travel with the students and with a set of visual aids to extend classroom instruction during the commute to their "semi-rural, college-like campus." Though the mobile classrooms never materialized, Colbert's idea of a "school village" formed the basis of the Carver campus plan designed by Curtis and Davis.

In It Happened by Design, architect Arthur Q. Davis recalled that the firm initially was contracted to design a senior high school, a portion of the site allocated for a junior high to be designed by another firm, and room left over for a future elementary school. Curtis and Davis convinced the school board that it was more economical to develop the three schools as part of an overall campus plan from the beginning. The board approved their plan for a more efficient campus of ten buildings linked by covered walkways. In 1957 the plan of the Carver schools gained national recognition winning both Progressive Architecture's First Design Award and the American Institute of Architects' Best Overall Plan for a School Complex.

The 2008 School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish (SFMPOP) called for the demolition of the Carver School suggesting "complete replacement." In fact, the SFMPOP called for the near eradication of the 1950s public schools. The only facility from the era reserved for the future by the SFMPOP  is McDonogh 36 (1954, Sol Rosenthal and Charles R. Colbert). This school has been renovated by John C. Williams and reopened this year as the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood Family Learning Center.

DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana successfully nominated Carver and three other schools to the Louisiana Landmarks Most Endangered List in 2008. McDonogh 39 Elementary School (1952, Goldstein, Paham and Labouisse; Freret and Wolf, Curtis and Davis, associate architects) the first modern school in New Orleans was demolished earlier this year without review. McDonogh 39 (later renamed after local civil rights activist Avery Alexander) was in Gentilly and thus outside of the Neighborhood Council District Review Committee. 

FEMA also determined that the classroom buildings at Thomy Lafon Elementary School (1954, Curtis and Davis) and the Phillis Wheatley Elementary School (1955, Charles R. Colbert) were eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The Recovery School District's desire to use public funds to demolish these historic structures triggered a Section 106 consultation in accordance with the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act. This consultation has bought these facilities some time during the consultation process, but they are likely to be demolished in the coming year.



Bertoia screenPhoto by: Ezra Stoller

In late October, JPMorgan Chase vacated the landmark Manufacturers Trust Company building in New York City and in the process, dismantled and removed from the building a work by famed modernist sculptor Harry Bertoia.

Completed in 1954, the Manufacturers Trust Company branch building at 510 Fifth Avenue in New York City designed by Gordon Bunshaft (Skidmore, Owings and Merrill) stood apart as one of the early applications of the International Style to bank design. Housed on the mezzanine level was a unique interior feature designed by sculptor Harry Bertoia. The delicate 70-ft screen, constructed of steel fused on the surface with bronze, copper and nickel plates, was installed to separate the bank customers from bank officers, serving as a divider between the banking hall and rear offices. The exterior metal-and-glass curtain wall made the sculpture partially viewable from the street, rendering it along with other interior details an essential element of the overall character of the building.

The Bundshaft building is a New York City landmark, designated in 1997, but the designation applies only to the exterior, leaving interior details such as the Bertoia screen unprotected.  While the sculpture is purported to be in storage, its ultimate fate remains unknown.

P.O. Box 230977
New York, NY 10023
Terms of use | Contact | Privacy Policy | Credits
© 2017 DOCOMOMO US Google+