Modern Architecture

 

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The metal accents on the Community Complex were restored to their original red color.

Back in 2007, Brad Traver was sent to the Petrified Forest National Park on a temporary assignment. The nearly 150-mile park, located in eastern Arizona, is best known for its large deposits of petrified wood, a beautiful natural phenomenon, which attracts thousands of visitors each year.

But what stuck with him the most after this work detail had nothing to do with the millennia-old fossils for which the park is so famous. Traver, interested in historic preservation his whole life, found that he was blown away by another of the park’s unique offerings: The Painted Desert Community Complex.

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The Modernist building was designed by Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander.

This Modernist marvel was designed by renowned architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander as a part of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program, which worked to improve park facilities throughout the country after World War II. The Community Complex was, as Traver describes, “one of the most ambitious projects” to come out of the program, and was made even bolder through the Park Service’s choice of architects. However, this one-of-a-kind park facility remains relatively unknown to most Americans -- and as Traver admits, he was no exception.

“I didn’t know it was here. I’d lived in Arizona for 25 years at that point and didn’t know it was here. I was just blown away by how unique this place was,” said Traver. “That was an important milestone for me, because that was what made me want to come back here on a permanent basis.”

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Work done by the AZCC focused on restoring original paint colors to both stucco and metal elements of the building.

Traver, now the park’s Superintendent, gets to spend most of his days in and around the Modernist jewel deep in the heart of the American southwest. Now, through his position with the park, and partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, he is hoping to give the building that had inspired him its day in the sun. But, as he will be the first to say, putting the Painted Desert Community Complex on the map is no small task.

“Of the 8,000 visitors that come to this park every year, I’d be surprised if 500 knew about the Complex. Most of the public doesn’t know anything about it. At least until we’re able to turn the tide here,” said Traver. “The Trust has been very helpful in getting that tide to begin to turn by naming it a National Treasure, and bringing in historic preservation partners in Arizona.”

In addition to naming the structure a National Treasure in 2014, the Complex has also been the site of a HOPE Crew project this summer. The project, overseen by preservation expert David Charlebois and undertaken by crew members from the Arizona Conservation Corps, has aimed to restore the original paint colors to the exterior, thanks to a paint analysis by the Historic Resources Group and a generous paint donation from Valspar.

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This project was made possible in part by a generous donation from Valspar.

Beyond simply teaching crew members the basic skills of preservation on this project, Traver and Charlebois made it a point to inspire these young people by incorporating the history and significance of the building into their learning.

“If they did not have an appreciation, if they were not taught how this building came about, they would walk away from here with nothing more than the idea of how to put paint on a wall,” said Charlebois. “But now, they have a grasp of what the whole concept is: to preserve this building, give it new life for the next generation, so that their children’s children can see the beauty of the architecture, the beauty of the scenery, and how delightfully it blends together. What a gift that is!”

Charlebois, a veteran himself of thousands of preservation projects, also found himself inspired by the work of the crew itself. Not only did they prove themselves to be capable apprentices, they also showed they have what it takes to be stewards for this, and other important pieces of architecture, for years to come.

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For David Charlebois, the learning aspect of HOPE Crew was just as important as the work itself.

“I’ve never worked with a group that’s been more attentive, tried as hard, and has done so well so quickly. This is an exceptional group,” said Charlebois. “These young men and women are showing that pride of accomplishment, and that’s a wonderful thing to pass on. I only have a few thousand more buildings to do, but one day I’ll set down my paintbrush, my hammer, and my trowel, and it will be up to others. I’m confident now that it will be in good hands.”

Through the HOPE Crew and National Treasures programs, the Painted Desert Community Complex has found itself in the news multiple times, including pieces featured on MSN.com and in the Arizona Journal. It’s just the beginning, but work like this will continue to, as Traver says, turn the tide for a building that has touched these lives, and has the potential to inspire many more in years to come.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Tom Wall

Tom Wall is the Associate Manager of Community Outreach. His background includes television production, journalism, nonprofit communications, and marketing. Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tom is a graduate of the George Washington University, with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication.

 

Summer is concert season, and as part of our own summer concert series, we're putting the spotlight on places that have witnessed some of the most memorable musical performances in American history. Some are traditional venues, and others… well, not so much. But they all have two things in common: terrific music and fascinating history.

Liner Notes

Performer(s): Judas Priest (Rob Halford, K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill, and Dave Holland)
Venue: Mid-South Coliseum
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Date: December 12, 1982
Memorable Moment: The absurd coordinated guitar playing/dancing of Downing and Tipton, sometimes joined by Halford when the mood struck him.
Show Vibe: Hey man, it was the ‘80s. (Thrusts thumb, index, and pinky fingers into the air.)... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

David Weible

David Weible

David Weible is a content specialist for the National Trust, previously with Preservation magazine. He came to D.C. from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

 

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Wildwood’s iconic and photogenic Caribbean Motel was the perfect location to host a gathering of vintage-loving guests.

Retro Roadmap hosted the first of what is hoped to be more Vintage Weekends, showcasing the mid-century motels and more of the shore town of Wildwood, New Jersey with a sold-out crowd attending from up and down the East Coast.

From the base camp at the iconic Caribbean Motel (built in 1957 by Lou Morey and listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the tiki-themed event combined vintage-inspired activities with modern social media sharing to increase awareness of and interest in the many facets of 1950s and ‘60s culture that still exist in this popular beach town.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Beth Lennon

Beth Lennon is the creator of the website RetroRoadmap.com. As "Mod Betty," she delights as the retro travel "hostess with the mostess," scouting out cool vintage places and sharing them with the world.

Summer Party at the Glass House

Posted on: August 3rd, 2015 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Visitors enjoy the annual Summer Party at Glass House. June 13, 2015.
Visitors enjoy the annual Summer Party at Glass House.

The annual Summer Party at the Glass House, Philip Johnson's 1949 structure in New Canaan, Connecticut, is always a crowd-pleaser, and this year was no exception. Guests gathered at the 49-acre property to view and bid on art, feast on a picnic lunch, play croquet and ping pong on the lawn, and enjoy the perfect summer afternoon.

If you couldn't make it to this year's events, don't worry: You can view our collection of photos here.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, was designed by architect Philip Johnson and built between 1947 and 1949. At the time, The Glass House’s design was a radical departure from contemporary houses in that its exterior walls were made entirely of glass and it had no interior walls or partitions. Today, this remarkable Midcentury Modern architectural achievement is a National Trust Historic Site.

Continuing the tradition of innovation and creativity at the Glass House, the Trust sponsored the installation of “Veil” by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya during from May 1 to November 30, 2014. This site-specific artist project enveloped The Glass House in fog, giving visitors a new, extraordinary experience.

Recently, we talked with artist Fujiko Nakaya to get the inside details about the “Veil” installation and her other projects.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

 

Our In Transition series digs back in and brings you up to speed on the current status of historic places previously featured in Preservation magazine or the PreservationNation blog.

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The Orange County Government Center is a Brutalist-style building designed by architect Paul Rudolph.

The Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York was featured in the Winter 2013 Issue of Preservation magazine as the focus of the article, “Defending Brutalism.” The complex was designed by architect Paul Rudolph and completed in 1971. After 40 years of use, wear and tear on the building showed in its leaky roofs and outdated mechanical systems. In 2011, tropical storms Irene and Lee exacerbated problems and closed the Orange County Government Center for good.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jamesha Gibson

Jamesha Gibson

Jamesha Gibson is an Editorial Intern at the National Trust. She is passionate about using historic preservation as an avenue for underrepresented communities to share their unique stories. Jamesha also enjoys learning about other cultures through reading, art, language, dancing, and especially cuisine.