Videos

Preservation Stalwart Don Rypkema Receives Crowninshield Award

Posted on: November 8th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 


Crowninshield recipient Donovan Rypkema speaks at an event.

This post was cross-posted from the Preservation Leadership Forum blog.

At the majestic Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox in Spokane during the 2012 National Preservation Conference, conference attendees were on their feet, enthusiastically applauding this year's Crowninshield Award recipient, a man who has worked for more than 30 years to forge links between historic preservation, real estate, and economics.

Donovan D. Rypkema, principal of PlaceEconomics, a Washington, DC-based real estate and economic development consulting firm, has lectured and written extensively on the economic benefits of historic preservation. The National Trust is proud to honor him for his impressive record in changing the way we think about the benefits of preserving older buildings.

Rypkema continues to inspire, educate, and motivate preservationists to say no to the preservation naysayers and to make a clear and compelling case for rehabilitating older buildings.... 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.

[Interview] Mike Todd, Filmmaker: Documenting Joe Frazier’s Gym

Posted on: October 11th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi

 

UPDATE: The National Trust for Historic Preservation and its preservation partners hosted a film screening of the documentary, “Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears,” at Temple University in fall 2012 that received an overwhelming response from attendees. The film about Frazier’s life that spotlights the importance of saving his gym in Philadelphia resonated with students, faculty, local preservationists and community activists alike.

In an effort to reach a wider audience with the film and raise funds to support preservation of the gym, the National Trust entered into an agreement Kultur International Films LTD., Inc. recently, in which the National Trust receives a portion of the proceeds from sales of the documentary DVD.

The National Trust will receive 40 percent of the discounted sale price ($17.99), or $7.20, on any sale of the DVD. Visit Kultur to watch a clip of the film or purchase a DVD. Enter the unique code “JFNT” to support us in protecting an iconic historic site and receive a discount on purchase of the DVD.

After watching the film, share your stories and thoughts on our Saving Places website.

It’s an old-fashioned story: the local boxing gym that becomes a community hub and plays an important role in its neighborhood. Can such a place still exist in the 21st century? Documentary filmmaker Mike Todd believes it can -- and considers boxing legend Joe Frazier a prime example of how to make it work.

Todd’s latest film, Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears, delves into Frazier’s relationship with his Philadelphia community through the lens of his world-famous gym, which he ran for more than 40 years with his son Marvis. Todd says, “I was interested in what motivated Joe to keep it open. He had devoted his life to it and built up a lot of community goodwill. It was amazing to see him still sitting behind the desk.”

But as often happens with documentary filmmaking, the inspirational story Todd started to tell was soon overtaken by history. As the filmmakers worked to raise funding and interest for their project, the gym was facing its own financial difficulties. Then Frazier passed away in 2011, and the gym closed for good.

Todd remembers, “We could see this important, iconic place slipping away. We as filmmakers wanted to step in. We did outreach to see if someone could take over its administration to help out. Surely someone, somewhere, would step in. Marvis and Joe wanted to keep it going. But that didn’t work.”


Director Mike Todd (l.) jokes around with boxing legend Joe Frazier (r.) at the gym.

The good news is, hope is on the horizon for Joe Frazier’s Gym. Named a National Treasure this year, the National Trust is collaborating with Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and Temple University’s School of Architecture to designate the modest three-story building as both a local and national landmark. It’s also working to find a preservation-friendly buyer for the property.

On Tuesday, October 16, the National Trust is organizing a screening of the film in Philadelphia with a complementary panel discussion to follow (event details here). In advance of the event, we sat down with Todd to learn more about his filming experience and reflect on what the building -- and Joe Frazier himself -- meant to him.

What went through your mind when you first entered Joe Frazier’s gym?

On one hand, it felt like a really important, iconic place with historic photos everywhere. But on the other hand, it felt like a community center. Kids were running around. It was a safe place where people had respect for each other. Joe’s name was on the door, and people knew they could go there to have space and freedom from the pressures of North Philadelphia (even if they never became famous boxers). You see so many celebrities who associate themselves with charitable work only for public relations value, but Joe did it with no recognition and his own money.

Who did you encounter in the course of filming that had connections to the space?

Oh, there were so many stories. People went to train there. People were mentored there -- not just in boxing, but in other opportunities outside the gym (job training, for example). If you were prepared to work hard and were motivated, and wanted a way out of the circumstances you were given, the gym was there to help you.

One great example is Richard Slone. He’s an artist, originally from England. He wanted to be a boxer, and every week until he turned 16 he would call Marvis and Joe, because his dream was to train with them. Marvis always encouraged and supported him. So when he finally turned 16, Slone came to Philly to train. He had nothing when he arrived, and ended up living in the back of gym. He became like a son to Marvis and Joe, who looked after him for 10 years.

Meanwhile, Slone was sketching pictures there at the gym. Marvis said to him, “You may never be a boxer, but you can be an artist.” Now Slone is one of the most successful sports artists in America.


Joe Frazier and his son Marvis pose at the gym.

What would losing Joe Frazier’s Gym mean to the neighborhood? To the sports community? To the world?

When we were 2.5 years into filming, the gym closed. Renovations weren’t going to solve anything; it was just stalling time. Marvis was still trying to find a benefactor, but with no success. The gym was slipping through the cracks, much like Joe did. When he passed away, the world remembered who he was. It was so clear how iconic he’d been, but in later years was unrecognized. The work the gym did in the community wasn’t recognized either.

You have to look at Joe’s life in a 20th century U.S. context. Joe’s story says something about the United States and its history, but also speaks to an international audience as symbol of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. There’s meaning and investment in the gym -- it was a beacon of hope.

To lose the gym would be a lost opportunity for the city. He’s a truly remarkable figure. Anyone would be proud to say Joe Frazier lived and ran a gym in their city. You can still preserve the legacy of what it meant, and it’s a story that can still inspire people.

If the building can be preserved and help people remember who Joe Frazier was and what he did -- both as a sportsman and a person engaged in community issues where others had turned their backs -- even posthumous recognition would be amazing. We want Joe to get the recognition he deserves.

How can your film help the cause to save the building?

In May 2011, Joe came to the preview cut in New York City. It was great we got to see the film with him. I even did a Q&A session with him. At the end, the audience gave him a standing ovation. In retrospect, it was great he got to see the story our film tells and why he deserves our respect. (He liked it, too!)

Our film can help raise awareness of why what Joe did there is still relevant -- that his life and the history he represents are still relevant. In that respect, it would be a fantastic achievement to keep the gym open as a place that provides a space for the community, as well as a museum about Joe and the civil rights movement of that era. It is a place linked to the most dramatic years of his life; I think it would be a place people would visit.


Quenell Jones films Joe Frazier in action at the gym.

What’s your dream for the future of Joe Frazier’s Gym?

Seeing the gym included on the 11 Most Endangered list this year proved its importance. It captured the public’s imagination. Our film captured those final years, and we captured that history. I just feel there’s a lot more to run with this -- it’s not sunk in how meaningful this issue can be.

My dream is to see the gym as a place where Joe is remembered, to make it a tribute to Joe’s achievements and what he dedicated his life to. If it can still inspire people locally, nationally and even internationally, then it will truly celebrate Joe’s life and capture what the gym represented.

“Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears” is available from FilmBuff on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube Rentals, Cinemanow, Vudu, and XBOX. You can also contribute to the campaign to save Joe Frazier’s Gym at SavingPlaces.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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for 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.

Making Change — Guest Post by "Story of Stuff" Creator Annie Leonard

Posted on: August 17th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

Annie Leonard is the director of the Story of Stuff Project and author of The Story of Stuff. The Story of Stuff has generated over 15 million views in more than 200 countries and territories since its launch, making it one of the most successful environmental-themed viral films of all time. Annie will be speaking at the opening plenary session of the National Preservation Conference on Wednesday, October 31.

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. Seems like everyone, on every side of the political spectrum, is calling for change. It’s the topic of the relentless campaign ads leading up to the November election. The number one question we get from the thousands of our movie viewers who write to us is “how can I make change?” There’s so much interest in making change that we decided to tackle the topic head on with our most recent movie, The Story of Change. This latest film explains the three things needed to make change: a good idea of how things could be better, a commitment to work together, and engaged citizens taking action.

While making change requires a forward thinking perspective, it doesn’t require turning our back on the past. In fact, the best type of change is built on foundations of the past -- both the intellectual foundation and the built foundation.  Clearly our ideas about how to run an economy need change; the current model just isn’t working for the majority of the world’s people or for the overstressed planet. But rather than write off the past completely and risk repeating familiar mistakes, let’s study the past and glean lessons about what has and what hasn’t worked. And then let’s keep striving to do things better. The same goes for our built environment. We’ve learned much in recent decades about designing buildings and whole cities to nurture healthy people, healthy communities and a healthy environment. In some cases, positive change does mean humbly scraping past mistakes and building anew. Other times it means preserving and holding dear the buildings and spaces in which our society has developed  to date.

In this moment of political stuckness, I’m often asked if I still think change is possible. Change is more than possible; it’s inevitable. Right now, we’re using more resources than the planet can regenerate and creating more waste than it can assimilate. Sheer physical limits dictate that we can’t continue on this trajectory indefinitely. So the question is not if we’ll change, but how. Will we change by design, or by disaster? Either way, change is coming. If we chose to change by design, it is going to be hard work ahead, but we can be so much more strategic and intelligent about making that change. If we dig our heels in, refusing to critically assess where we’re headed and to start designing a better way forward, we’ll still change, but it will be a whole lot harder and uglier.

I’m convinced that we have what it takes to change by design. We have visionary thinkers and builders and communicators. We have innovative new technologies to meet human needs without trashing the planet. We have a rich history of citizens working together to solve big problems.

Preserving the best of the past while aiming high for a healthy, sustainable and just future, we can make change together. I look forward to meeting you at the National Preservation Conference in Spokane this fall to explore more about making change and building a better future for all.

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.

[Video] Miami Marine Stadium Becomes a Parkour Playhouse

Posted on: July 25th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi

 

See the guy in the blue shorts in the video? That's Ben Jenkin (aka Jenx). He's 21 years old and one of the founding athletes for the World Freerunning Parkour Federation (WFPF). For those unfamiliar, Parkour is a physical activity and mental discipline that focuses on efficient movement around obstacles (with strong dashes of self-expression and personal philosophy mixed in).

Now see the building he's running through? That's Miami Marine Stadium, a Modernist icon and one of our National Treasures. Closed after Hurricane Andrew swept through the region, the Stadium once played host to boat races, concerts, and even Easter services. Its crowning feature (literally) is its 326-foot-long, fold-plate roof, the longest span of cantilevered concrete in the world when it was poured in 1963.

So what do these two have in common (besides this beautiful "urban ballet," as one poetic National Trust colleague put it)? Well, we decided to put that question directly to Ben -- and learned that Parkour's focus on overcoming obstacles is a perfect match for people who want to save places.

How did you get involved with Parkour? What about the sport appeals to you?

It all started for me at the park after seeing some older guys flipping off the roof in the playground. From then on I was drawn in. I could already do some basic flips, which my dad had taught me. We started traveling around England meeting up with other people who also did Parkour to see what other locations England had to offer. The thing that appeals to me the most about Parkour is the ability it gives you to overcome fears, unlike other sports.

What are your favorite types of places to do Parkour? What have been some of your favorite locations?

My favorite types of places to do parkour are places with a lot of risk involved -- for example, on top of a building, over a bridge, or just anywhere that gives me no other option to succeed or I will get hurt. I like the element of fear, and I feel that being scared is the best way to progress.

What were your first thoughts when you showed up at Miami Marine Stadium to shoot the video?

When I showed up to the Marine Stadium, my first thoughts were, "WOW, what an incredible building with a lot of potential." I couldn’t wait to explore it and see what it had to offer.

What was it like to do Parkour there? What was your favorite part of the Stadium, and why?

One thing that was really good about training at the Marine Stadium was the fact it’s like a little town with multiple training spots inside. It’s pretty hard to pick a favorite part of the stadium when they are all so different and equally as good. However, I did like the roof; it’s always nice to have such an incredible view whilst training.

In one of the closing shots, the camera is at your back as you look at the Miami skyline from the Stadium's roof. What was going through your head in that moment?

When I’m doing Parkour nothing really goes through my mind. I’m so focused on what I am doing at the time that all my attention is on the move itself. When I am looking into the distance for the camera shot, I am just simply admiring the incredible view.

What do you hope this video will teach people about a) Parkour and b) special places like Miami Marine Stadium?

[I hope it will] not so much teach, but [rather] inspire the people watching to go out and do Parkour. I [also] hope this video will help people become more aware of this amazing place and ultimately save it from being destroyed. Why would anybody want to destroy such a beautiful building with so much character?

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 associate director for 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.

 

"People need spaces. People need spaces that are well-intentioned and designed, and that think about people and how they interact in them. And I feel like as long as we do that on the inside of the space, people will need to keep coming back." -- Sam Strand, co-founder, Starline Social Club

 
The Starline Social Club -- which began about a year ago in Oakland, California's Uptown neighborhood in a dusty old c. 1893 building  that once housed an Oddfellows Hall, Social Club for the Deaf, and the old Starline janitorial supply store -- has become a meeting point for creative people doing creative things across their neighborhood and city: musicians looking for a space to perform; artists looking for a place to exhibit; chefs looking for a place to host meals (like the French Caribbean community meal shown in the slideshow above); and performers, entrepreneurs, and even yogis looking for a place to learn, teach, and collaborate.

Video credit: Irene Florez, Oakland Local

As you can see in the above video (filmed late last year), the Starline building is still a work in progress. Although there are plans drawn up for a full-scale restoration of both the exterior and interior, money is still being raised, and the club is happily using the building while making small improvements -- both artistic and structural -- around the premises.

Are there similar social clubs in your city or town, or places where you think this idea could work? If so, let us know in the comments! We're always on the lookout for great ideas that involve great old buildings.

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.