Modern Architecture

Corpus Christi Council Votes to Demolish Modern Coliseum

Posted on: March 4th, 2010 by Guest Writer 6 Comments

 

Written by Krista Schreiner Gebbia

Corpus Christi Memorial Coliseum (Photo: Eddie Seale)

Corpus Christi Memorial Coliseum (Photo: Eddie Seale)

As preservationists, we believe the reuse of historic resources is a key component in a healthy community. When faced with a potential demolition, we give all the arguments: demolition is wasteful, the architecture is significant, preserving the building retains a link to heritage for future generations, preservation makes good economic sense, and so on. In the case of the 1954 Corpus Christi Memorial Coliseum, none of those arguments have convinced the mayor and the majority of the city council that preservation was the right decision.

Both the architect and the architecture of the Coliseum are impressive. In 1952, Richard S. Colley (1910-1983) designed a Civic Center complex that included the Coliseum, Exposition Hall, and City Hall on Corpus Christi Bay. In the late 1980s, the Exposition Hall and the City Hall were demolished after the buildings were vacated. The coliseum’s defining feature, its curved roof, contains 260 tons of structural steel in a lamella space frame. Colley was a prolific and innovative architect in Corpus Christi starting in 1936 and until his death in 1983 and his work was often noted in Progressive Architecture. He collaborated with O’Neil Ford (1905-1982) on several occasions before they completed the Texas Instruments Semiconductor Components Plant No. 1, Dallas, in 1958.

The lamella roof structure c. 1953 .

The lamella roof structure c. 1953. (Photo: Columbia Iron Works 50th anniversary brochure)

Local politics always play a role. In 2004, American Bank Center was constructed about a mile north of the Coliseum along the Bay and the Coliseum was closed. There was a public debate over the future of the waterfront and the future of the Coliseum. Residents spoke out but the city council never made a decision.

The city solicited bids for redevelopment with private entities but negotiations fell through several times. Recently, local architect George E. Clower, AIA, designed a compromise to retain the innovate roof and initially received a favorable response from the city council. In the end, the council voted on February 23, 2010 to demolish the building.

It will cost the city at least a million dollars to demolish the Coliseum and create a vacant lot with no plans for the future use of site. The loss of this structure will have a profound impact on the city and its bayfront. Stay tuned, however, for there some last moves afoot.

Please join supporters at a rally in support of the Coliseum this Saturday, March 6. Visit the event page on Facebook for more information.

Krista Schreiner Gebbia is the executive director of Preservation Texas. She would like to extend thanks to Carol Wood, historian, and George E. Clower, AIA and Monica Penick, architectural historian, for much of the history provided in this post.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

How to Save a Modern Landmark

Posted on: February 11th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Brian Turner

Century Plaza Hotel

Today, Next Century Associates announced that it will scrap plans to demolish the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, one of America’s icons of modern architecture. The hotel was placed on our list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places last spring after the demolition plan was released, prompting a spirited advocacy campaign by the Los Angeles Conservancy, City Councilmember Paul Koretz, and the National Trust. Late last year the developer sought the preservation groups’ counsel on how it could make preservation of the hotel compatible with adjacent site development. Fundamental to the discussion was how to define and protect the key features that make Century Plaza unique.

Since it opened in 1966, Century Plaza Hotel has been the gathering place for U.S. Presidents and distinguished guests (in fact, just last week, the tabloids gasped when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie appeared at the hotel together for the Director Guild of America Awards). But it is most notable for its architectural grandeur. Architect Minoru Yamasaki, who would go on to design New York’s World Trade Center Towers, pioneered a new age of hotel design at Century Plaza. The hotel’s distinctive and graceful curved shape eliminated the endless vistas along straight boulevards that had previously characterized Century City.

The new plan includes several notable protections for the hotel. First, a set of treatment protocols has been developed that contain design development methodologies for the character-defining features of the building. The protocols, developed by Marmol Radziner and Associates, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Conservancy and the National Trust, are based on best practices in preservation and will hopefully serve as a template for future preservation projects for modern buildings. Additionally, a preservation advisory group will be consulted throughout the planning process and be able to comment on new design and other issues as they emerge. Finally, the developer has agreed to prepare a historic evaluation for review by the Los Angeles City Cultural Heritage Commission, which will outline how the new site plan will respect the eligibility of the Century Plaza as a city landmark. That report, as well as a draft Environmental Impact Statement, is expected this spring.

Most importantly, saving Century Plaza represents an exciting victory for defenders of modernist architecture around the world. The National Trust’s Modernism + Recent Past Program, housed in the Western Office in San Francisco, has led the charge to defend our shared modern heritage, challenging us to change how we view, steward, and preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of the recent past.

Read more:

Brian Turner is the regional attorney at the Western Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

Teaching Preservation: Reading Up On Wright

Posted on: January 7th, 2010 by Guest Writer 3 Comments

 

Written by Ivan V.

wright_studio

My own illustration of Frank Lloyd Wright's Lillian and Curtis Meyer Home.

Happy 2010 from Boise, where it currently feels like a crisp 19 degrees. The Boise Architecture Project is fresh from winter break and ready to get back into the swing of things – and I’m first up!

After studying architecture for a few years, I’ve found that I’m extremely interested in modernism. I recently took a trip to Chicago, where I was introduced to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. I’d like to use my first-ever blog post to talk about some of my favorite Wright buildings.

Frank Lloyd Wright is, of course, one of the most well-know architects in the world. He’s also someone I now deeply admire. While reading up on him, I was surprised by his extensive body of work, especially the residential projects. I learned that, after he completed one of his most famous works, Fallingwater, Wright’s popularity grew across the country. The result? Commissions to design more and more buildings.

Another view of Wright's studio.

Another view of Wright's studio.

Most of those new projects ended up being residential homes, and most became part of what Wright coined the Usonian movement – a new and unique American style that brought with it more modest floor plans. While not all of them are immediately recognizable as Wright homes, his simple aesthetic, his use of natural forms, and his modern designs of interlacing wood, brick, and steel are always there.

In my opinion, his houses that were built during the 1950’s are especially elegant examples of his work, and they can easily be mistaken for homes built within the past 15 years. Regardless, it still stuns me just how many homes he built during his career – I counted 154 within one of the books I recently read about his life.

Many of his homes – especially the Craftsman-style ones – are constructed of brick and incorporate cantilevered roofs/ balconies. They feature simple, repeating designs, and all have unique motifs and layouts. The interiors of the Usonian- and Prairie-style homes are always rich examples of stone and woodwork coming together. Many have a solid wall opposed by a large wall of windows. The solid wall often has a row of long windows at the top to bring in light. These can be long rectangles or repeating motifs. Also, great attention is given to the furniture and carpeting, all of which were designed specifically to fit each home. Regardless, the spaces are quite comfortable looking – perhaps a little too comfortable!

A house not classified as a Usonian (though it incorporates many of the same design principles) but nonetheless quite modern is the Gloria Bachman and Abraham Wilson Home. Its windows are decorative on the street-facing side and high against the roof to provide privacy but still bring in light. The interior is extremely clean and well designed.

A close-up shot of "The Boulders."

A close-up shot of "The Boulders."

Along with the Usonians, Wright designed several hemicycle-shaped homes, or buildings that incorporate a half-circle structure that is often the living area with windows being part of an arc. His first example of this is the Wilbur Pearce Home, which was built in 1950. The Lillian and Curtis Meyer Home is probably my favorite. Its roof and windows are a rich brown color that is perfectly offset by simple white siding. I still can’t believe it was built so long ago!

If you want to do some Wright reading, I recommend “Frank Lloyd Wright Mid-Century Modern,” as it's the book that inspired this post. Another good (and shorter) reference is “The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog.”

In this post, I’ve included several pictures that I took while in Chicago, as well as my own drawing of Wright’s Lillian and Curtis Meyer Home. In the illustration, notice the octagonal theme; using geometric units and/or shapes is common in many of Wright’s projects. You’ll also see a picture of two figures called “The Boulders.” These were designed by Richard Bock and are meant to convey the struggle of the oppressed. I thought they were pretty cool.

Please stay tuned for future posts about modernism – I don’t plan to stop here!

Ivan V. is a student at Boise’s Timberline High School and is participating in the Boise Architecture Project. You can follow the students here on the PreservationNation blog and on their Flickr photostream. Also, get daily updates from their teacher, Doug StanWiens, on Twitter.

Are you an educator interested in teaching preservation in your classroom? Visit PreservationNation.org for resources, tips, and ideas to enhance your curriculum with lessons that will teach your students to recognize and appreciate the rich history that surrounds them.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

World Trade Center "Last Column" Among Save America's Treasures Grant Recipients

Posted on: December 17th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Fiona Lawless

The last column standing at Ground Zero. (Credit: National September 11 Memorial and Museum)

The last column standing at Ground Zero. (Credit: National September 11 Memorial and Museum)

Just a few days ago, Save America's Treasures (SAT) announced a $200,000 federal challenge grant to conserve the now-iconic "Last Column"—the final steel structure removed from Ground Zero during the 9/11 rescue effort. At 36 feet tall, weighing 58 tons, and covered in spray-paint and tributes from rescue workers, construction teams and family members, it has become a major artifact reflecting the sacrifices of so many, and the strength and resilience found in unity during the aftermath. The column will be a major element of the new National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Since its removal from Ground Zero in 2002, the steel column and each of the 82 photographs, notes, memorial posters and Mass cards have been stored and protected in a climate-controlled facility at Hangar 17 at New York's JFK Airport. This past August, the "Last Column" became the first artifact returned to the museum site for installation within a special encasement where it will be assessed, conserved and monitored.

Save America's Treasures is a national public-private partnership dedicated to ensuring a brighter future for our past. It includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation as principal private partner, and the National Park Service, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the two National Endowments, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. This grant to the "Last Column" is one of 42 nationally significant historic structures, artifacts and collections selected to receive a 2009 award through Save America's Treasures.

Administered by our federal partners, on December 11th Save America's Treasures announced $9.5 million in grants to address the preservation/conservation needs of some of our nation's most storied places. The "Last Column" joins the Old Naval Hospital on Washington's Capitol Hill, Newport's Stanford White Casino Theatre, Tufts University's "This I Believe" Collection, Raices Latin Music collection, Santa Fe's San Miguel Chapel and many others. In just 10 years, this national partnership has awarded over $350 million in federal matching grants and private contributions to address the enormous preservation backlog.

World Trade Center Model (Credit: Lee Stalworth)

World Trade Center Model (Credit: Lee Stalworth)

Having worked closely with the 9/11 Museum on this and other important projects, we at the National Trust's SAT program were especially pleased to learn of this recognition and support for the "Last Column." Back in 2002, Save America's Treasures partnered with the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and ALCOA to fund the conservation of the Yamasaki World Trade Center architectural model—the last authentic 3-dimensional representation of the complex. Last year, the AAF announced its loan of the model to the Museum, where it will occupy a central place in the exhibition that tells the World Trade Center story. Save America's Treasures secured a pledge of the required funds from its partner organization Tourism Cares, for the model's encasement, presentation and interpretation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation also joined with its preservation partners to save the stunning Vesey Street Staircase, down which hundreds of people escaped during the attacks. Known as the "Survivors' Staircase," it was threatened with demolition until the National Trust named it to its 2006 list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. As with the "Last Column" and the World Trade Center model, the Vesey Staircase will hold a special place in the new Museum.

Save America's Treasures at the National Trust is honored to partner with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum where artifacts, oral histories, documents and displays will pay tribute and convey the tragic 9/11 story of loss and recovery.

Fiona Lawless is the program manager for Save America's Treasures at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

Modernism + The Recent Past in Florida

Posted on: October 29th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

Written by Karen Nickless

For more than a decade, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has worked to preserve the resources of the post-war and modern era and raise awareness of their importance. It’s been a challenging task, even with some long-time preservationists. I have a confession to make—before joining the National Trust Southern Office staff as a field representative for Florida, I was one of them. I liked some modernism, but as a whole it left me cold. Modernism was simply more proof to this historian of the nineteenth century that, with a few exceptions (the Progressive Movement, Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights), the twentieth century was just a big mistake.

That all changed because of Florida. In my work as a field representative there, I have had the opportunity to be inspired by people who helped form the modernist aesthetic in Florida and tutored by those committed to preserving it. Call it my own “Great Awakening.” (Those of you who know the nineteenth century will get this reference.) My awakening is not shared by some in the preservation field and many in the general public, who just “don’t get it.” Some struggle with the aesthetic itself, some with reconciling that, yes, something can be historic even if they remember when it was built or new.

My teachers have included modernist architects Peter Jefferson, Alfred Browning Parker, Hilario Candela and Jorge Hernandez. Parker, in his early 90s, impressed me with both his residential designs and his philosophy of building: 1) Build strongly; 2) Build as directly as possible with no complications; 3) Let your building love its site and glorify its climate; 4) Design for use; make it beautiful. Parker’s homes were designed to take advantage of Florida’s climate. The materials are strong and organic, and his residences seem to have grown on their sites. Not everyone appreciates this. In 2008 his Manus House in Palm Beach was demolished to make way for a “British Colonial style” house. Parker hoped to salvage some materials to use in the house he was building for himself, but the demolition crew arrived first.

Hilario Candela, the architect of Miami Marine Stadium (one of 2008’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places), is a soft spoken but passionate man. A 28-year-old Cuban immigrant when he designed the Stadium, he recently worked with Jorge Hernandez (National Trust trustee and professor of architecture at the University of Miami) and his graduate students to develop creative plans to reopen the Stadium as the centerpiece of a revitalized Virginia Key. With luck and the continuing efforts of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, I think this story will have a happy ending. Support is widespread—just a few weeks back, Jimmy Buffett called on all parrotheads to help save the stadium.

... 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.