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.
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.
At the Docomomo US, Modern Matters, conference April 2013 in Sarasota, Florida, Docomomo US/Oregon presented a debate on the merits of Michael Graves Portland Building and on the larger context of Post Modernism in general. A lively debate at the end of the presentation centered on the merits of Docomomo incorporating Post Modern under the mission of the organization. In general, the support, or lack of support, for an expanded interpretation separated into two distinct viewpoints.
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.
By Christa J. Gaffigan, AIA, LEED-AP BD+C and Anne E. Weber, FAIA, FAPT
Concrete block developed in the early 20th century as an inexpensive yet durable material for vernacular construction. It was used extensively in industrial and commercial construction, and was also marketed heavily for agricultural and residential construction. By the 1950s, block was in wide use for schools and similar structures, and was available in many sizes, face finishes, and shapes.
My inspiring encounters with some of modernism’s masters while an architecture student at Pratt Institute and the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the 1960s shaped my early practice and laid the groundwork for our firm’s work today. Philip Johnson invited us to occasional evening talks at his New Canaan residence and project charrettes in his office. Paul Rudolph gave us and our professor Sybil Moholy-Nagy an animated tour of his new Art and Architecture building at Yale; and Josep Lluis Sert, dean of Harvard GSD, took us on site visits to his recently completed works there and at Boston University, projects my firm would renew decades later.
A series of fortunate events in the late 1960s lead Investors Diversified Services (IDS), Inc. to commission architect Philip Johnson to create a new interpretation of the glass skyscraper to serve as the company’s headquarters. The result is a property (we always say that IDS Center is more than just a building!) that has become a symbol of the region, but is also a story where persistent and thoughtful maintenance has sustained the iconic curtain wall.
As a spring awakening is upon us, the Philadelphia chapter of Docomomo US is also experiencing a re-awakening with new and exciting Spring and Fall events, active social media updates, and a new web presence.
There have been some exciting changes at Docomomo US/MN! Our Board President, Todd Grover, has joined the National Board of Docomomo US, and we’re pleased to have him engaged at this higher level. Todd is stepping down from his local duties, and in his place, Amy Meller, an Architect at MacDonald & Mack Architects, was nominated and accepted the role of the new Minnesota Chapter President.