Glass Boxes and Beyond Sessions

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Day Four Late Afternoon Sessions
Glass Boxes and Beyond

Session 1
Volunteers, Research, and Technology: Promoting and preserving Midland, Michigan’s unique architecture

Session 2
Sustaining Social Significance: North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana

Session 3
A Tale of Two Houses: Conservation of the Farnsworth House and the Glass House

Session 4
American modernists enter Toronto’s 1958 City Hall competition

Volunteers, Research, and Technology: Promoting and Preserving Midland, Michigan’s Unique Architecture

Mid-Century Modern Midland (MCMM) was established to document the architectural and design history that is so prominent and rare for a small, mid-western city. This two-year process began with 30 volunteer canvassers and ended with over 400 structures identified as mid-twentieth century design. 

MCMM then launched a website and mobile app to share this information, as well as biographical information on the architects and designers.  This technology is creating broader awareness of Midland’s unique architectural heritage.  In addition to the website and app, MCMM’s ongoing programming includes lectures and tours. By educating others as to the significance of this style, the emphasis on preservation in enhanced.   Ultimately, since many people travel the globe to see and experience great architecture and design, Midland’s collection of mid-twentieth century architecture, accessible using a smartphone, has the power to entice people to visit and to have a lasting impact economically for the city.  

Sustaining Social Significance: North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana

This presentation considers the North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen as a case study for the preservation of modernist churches in changing social contexts. The expressive building is significant not only for its materials and construction, but also for its articulation of non-hierarchical religious worship. The architectural significance and social significance of this landmark are closely intertwined. But the dwindling size of the congregation poses challenges for maintaining the building and requires new methods of interpretation and outreach to sustain community involvement. The presentation will discuss work towards a Conservation Management Plan for the North Christian Church funded by a Getty Foundation Keeping It Modern Grant, as part of a team led by Prudon & Partners. In particular, the paper will detail the social engagement methods used by Bryony Roberts Studio to assess the past and current social significance of the site and to develop strategies for sustaining future community participation.

A Tale of Two Houses: Conservation of the Farnsworth House and the Glass House

An hour southwest of Chicago, Illinois, the revolutionarily modern Farnsworth House sits on the oft quiet banks of the Fox River. And about 900 miles away is the curiously similar Glass House in leafy New Canaan, Connecticut. Despite their geographical distance, the similarity of these iconic houses is no coincidence. One inspired the other. 

Even though one is painted black steel, and the other white, and one sits firmly on the ground while the other is elevated, the buildings have seemingly similar designs, materials, and material failures. This presentation will compare the different repair approaches for glass breakage that was tailored to the different preservation philosophies and design details at each building. 

American Modernists Enter Toronto’s 1958 City Hall Competition

Toronto’s 1958 City Hall competition attracted over 500 submissions from around the world. Of these, 27% originated from the USA. Competition entries were distinctly “modern”, presenting a range of approaches to civic design and public space. Chicago entrants represent a typical cross-section of American designers – practitioners and educators – who would leave their mark as modernists on the USA’s post-war urban landscape. 

Competition schemes provide evidence of emerging post-war ideas about modernism. This paper presents an overview of the competition and interrogates the work of Chicago architects and their entries. It aims to contribute to discussions on forces at work in the USA, with Chicago being a significant player, which contributed to the global proliferation of modern architecture in the second half of the twentieth century. In doing so I seek to broaden our understanding of the value of modern architecture and spaces, and the necessity for their preservation.