Modern Architecture

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.

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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.

 

One of the places listed on our 2009 11 Most Endangered List, the Miami Marine Stadium, is getting a boost from a big name -- Florida music icon Jimmy Buffett, who has recorded a public service announcement in support of saving the similarly-iconic modernist site. A recent Miami Herald article shared the story:

Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett has publicly endorsed preservationists' efforts to restore and reopen the city-owned Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, the site of many a Parrothead's fondest -- if also foggy -- memories.

...

It's a symbol of everything that's great about Florida -- boats, music, water and great Florida fun,'' a smiling Buffett says as a live version of Margaritaville from the stadium show plays in the background. "The stadium deserves a future.''

Given the enthusiasm of the Parrotheads I know for all things Buffett, this seems almost guaranteed to bring a great deal of new support to  the site  -- which, we hope, will inspire Miami officials to make the right choice and save the stadium.

The PSA is available via the Miami Herald or on YouTube.

Outside of Margaritaville, pressure to save Miami Marine Stadium is also growing:  Today, the World Monuments Fund added Miami Marine Stadium to its 2010 Watch List. The press release announcing the list notes "this year’s Watch reflects a growing understanding that heritage cannot be preserved in isolation, but rather must be addressed as part of a broad physical and social context."

I have a feeling that "social context" is just what Jimmy Buffett might have in mind.

Sarah Heffern is the content manager and blog editor for PreservationNation.org.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

JetModern: Preservation in Los Angeles

Posted on: October 5th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Exterior view of the 1965 Department of Water & Power Building (John Ferraro Building) in Los Angeles.

Exterior view of the 1965 Department of Water & Power Building (John Ferraro Building) in Los Angeles.

My visit to Los Angeles coincided with the first of a series of lectures and panel discussions sponsored by the National Trust and the LA Conservancy. Called Modern Modules, these programs will be taking place across the country over the next nine months. Each event consists of two parts: a public lecture and an invited panel discussion. In Los Angeles, the lecture also took place as the first event as part of the LA Conservancy’s “Sixties Turn 50” program. Held at the Department of Water and Power Building/John Ferraro Building (1965, A. C. Martin & Associates), the lecture was moderated by Frances Anderton. Anderton noted that in British English, what we here call the “recent past,” is referred to as the “familiar past.”

This familiarity has both advantages and disadvantages. As an advantage, a familiar aspect may be incorporated in with less-familiar parts of a building in order to build community interest in a structure. Andy Kirk explained to me that this is just what happened in my previous stop, Las Vegas, where public interest in the now-historic neon signs of the Strip and downtown Las Vegas was parlayed into an effort to save not just the sign, but the building to which it was attached. Chief among the disadvantages is the reluctance to see one’s own life as historical; however, as Alan Hess, one of the lecturers, noted in his lightning quick overview of modern architecture in California in the 1960s, it was at mid-century that California was at the height of its cultural influence.

  The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles was designed by Welton Becket and completed in 1967.

The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles was designed by Welton Becket and completed in 1967.

While I most often think of commercial structures (or even civic ones, like the Mark Taper Forum pictured here) as being important examples of an architectural style, there’s no reason to forget about residential structures. In fact, Leo Marmol, FAIA, another of the evening’s lecturers, suggested that there is a very real need to move beyond commercial spaces, especially in Los Angeles, a city very much of private spaces. Some of these private spaces were no less experimental than the largest commercial structure – the Case Study houses, for example, are a group of residential properties Alan Leib is working to protect. As difficult as it is to see a structure with which one is familiar with become a landmark, it must be all the more challenging to see one in which you have lived become “historic.”

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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.