Greening Boston City Hall

Posted on: November 19th, 2008 by Barbara Campagna 1 Comment

 

Beloved & Reviled

Since 2006, the city of Boston has been one of the central venues for the sometimes heated discussion regarding preserving modern heritage, in particular Brutalist-style architecture. And the discussion has gotten even more heated since sustainability has been added to the conversation. Boston City Hall is at the same time one of the most beloved buildings in Boston and one of the most reviled. Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles designed the building and its plaza in 1962 and construction was complete in 1968. Boston City Council’s Special Committee on City Hall held a public hearing Tuesday evening in City Hall to consider the financial and environmental benefits of greening the current City Hall.

Demolish, Move, Keep?

There are several different factions in the city and in city government regarding the disposition of City Hall. One faction believes the building is so ugly and so inefficient that it must be demolished and a new one built in its place. Another faction believes the building is so unfriendly and inefficient that City Hall should move (perhaps to South Boston where the new Convention Center is) and let market forces determine what becomes of the current City Hall building. And yet another faction believes that the building is an icon and like any other building, it can be retrofitted sensitively to achieve everyone’s goals and needs.

The public hearing was well attended by the latter faction including sustainability and modern heritage experts who presented a variety of design ideas and philosophies on how to “green” the site. The hearing was called by Councillor Michael Flaherty who eloquently opened the session by declaring his desire to keep City Hall right where it was. Councillor Flaherty also had a very solid grasp on the environmental benefits of saving existing buildings. Unfortunately he was the only Council member present, so I am not sure if that was an overt signal of the rest of the Council’s opinion on the topic. I certainly hope not.

I think we will continue to hear more and more on this topic and not just in Boston. In Washington, DC next week there is a public hearing to determine the fate of I.M. Pei’s Third Church of Christ, Scientist. This may very well become the defining architectural topic of our time.

Public Testimony

Below is the testimony that I presented at the Boston City Hall public hearing. The testimony was prepared by me and Rebecca Williams, Field Representative at the Northeast Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:... 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.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.

Give Lincoln a Lincoln

Posted on: November 18th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

First Lady Laura Bush listens to Frank Milligan, executive director of President Lincoln's Cottage, on her 2007 tour of the house.

First Lady Laura Bush listens to Frank Milligan, executive director of President Lincoln's Cottage, on her 2007 tour of the house.

On this chilly November morning, a white yellow sunlight raked the farmland and light industrial parks that skirt Hodgenville, Kentucky, a small town one hour south of Louisville and the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. Everyone was abuzz because First Lady Laura Bush was visiting to kick-off the "Give a Lincoln for Lincoln" program, developed by the History Channel to benefit six sites associated with the 16th president. "Give a Lincoln for Lincoln" permits people around the country to donate "Lincolns" (pennies and five dollars bills) to help preserve the sites, which includes President Lincoln's Cottage, the National Trust Historic Site in Washington, D.C.

As state and local officials, preservationists and citizens, and dozens of students from nearby Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, gathered at the birthplace, National Park Service employees with leafblowers battled wind gusts as they tried to clear the parking lot, sidewalks and lawn of leaves. In the visitors center, some students colored "Give a Lincoln for Lincoln" collection boxes, while others heard about the president's life from a Lincoln reenactor. Mrs. Bush and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, arrived at 10:30 in a grey Suburban, and spent the next thirty minutes getting demonstrations on wood splitting, flax spinning, and touring the visitors center. Shortly after 11AM, Mrs. Bush, Secretary Kempthorne, Libby O'Connell, and Park Service officials descended the steep staircase from the Greco-Roman Memorial Building, adjacent to the visitors center, that houses what may be Lincoln's boyhood home, and individually addressed the crowd about Lincoln's importance, the need to preserve sites associates with the former president, and how every "Give a Lincoln for Lincoln" donation will assist in that goal. By 11:45 the event was over -- the First Lady was headed for Fort Knox and her flight back to Washington, and the remaining guests headed for the visitors center to thaw. The atmosphere in the room was celebratory. Now it was time, some said, to get some biscuits and gravy.

-Nord Wennerstrom, Director of Communications, 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.

 

I get to see a lot of amazing places in my travels for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, but my recent stay at Pocantico -– the Rockefeller estate near Tarrytown, New York -- just might top them all.  For a couple of days, I got to live like a Rockefeller.  Let’s just say there were Picassos, Calders and many more sculptures scattered throughout the estate grounds (to say nothing of Nelson Rockefeller’s private art gallery), and my bathroom was only slightly smaller than my entire condominium in DC.  As I write this blog post in said condo, I get a little sad looking at my futon and dining set from Target.  Somehow they lack the elegance of Pocantico.

In early November, 30 preservationists, architects, green builders and energy experts gathered at Pocantico thanks to the generous support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which manages the estate. The group met to discuss the future of historic preservation in light of global warming, and specifically the implications of climate change for preservation policy.

We know that we are at important crossroads, in which our country will either rise to the challenge of addressing global warming, or face disastrous consequences. It is the belief of the Pocantico Symposium attendees that preservationists are uniquely able to help reduce the environmental impacts of our buildings. The tradition of stewardship that we’ve always embraced and the knowledge that we’ve gained from decades of experience can help to transform our built environment to one that is more sustainable.

After two days of intense discussions – some of which went on way too late into the night -- the group developed the core of what we are calling the Pocantico Proclamation on Sustainability and Preservation. This Proclamation outlines six preservation-based principles to sustain our built environment. We believe these principles can inform and strengthen efforts by preservationists and green-building advocates to reduce environmental impacts -– especially carbon emissions -– that are associated with the built environment.

On Thursday, November 20th, National Trust President Richard Moe will unveil these six principles at his speech to Greenbuild, the U.S. Green Building Council's annual conference. Following the introduction of these principles, a working group from the Pocantico Symposium will be refining a draft of the Pocantico Proclamation and will post the document for review and comment by all members of the preservation community.

So please check back Thursday to learn more about the Pocantico Proclamation –- my colleagues Barbara Campagna and Charlotte Bonini will be blogging from the conference, and we will post the full version of Richard Moe’s speech.

I’ll be looking forward to your comments.  And perhaps looking for a new couch.

***

Photo: Kuykit, another Rockefeller family home -- and National Trust Historic Site -- in Tarrytown, NY.

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.

 

Downtown Buffalo - Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Downtown Buffalo - Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Western New York in the Spotlight: The city of Buffalo may be focused on hosting the Monday Night game this evening, but there is plenty more to get excited about as well. Back in May, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Buffalo's Peace Bridge Neighborhood on its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.  Now, the New York Times is on board as well.  "Buffalo is home to some of the greatest American architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with major architects like Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright building marvels here. Together they shaped one of the grandest early visions of the democratic American city." [New York Times - Art & Design] And check out the Buffalo Slideshow featured on the Times' website.

Olmstead in Rochester: Besides his impressive work in Buffalo, Frederick Law Olmstead designed several parks in the Queen City's neighbor of Rochester. In addition to Highland Park--home of the annual Lilac Festival--Olmstead worked with the city on Genesee Valley and Seneca/Maplewood Parks.  [Confessions of a Preservationist]

Preservation in Spartanburg: The Preservation Trust of Spartanburg has launched a new website. [Preservation Trust of Spartanburg]

Reembracing the High-Rise: "Tall buildings are back in vogue internationally at present, and South Africa appears alive to this international property-development trend. Partly, the attraction comes down to sensible space management. But urban planners assert that tall buildings can also make positive contributions to city life by serving as beacons of urban regeneration, assisting with changing negative perceptions of a particular area and stimulating further investment." [Engineering News]

Texas Canyon Escapes Suburban Sprawl: A San Francisco-based group called The Trust for Public Land has stepped in to help preserve Palo Duro Canyon  from increasing development. [NPR]

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.

Restored Homan Square Chimney to Empower Students

Posted on: November 14th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

In 2007, the Homan Square Power House in Chicago was selected as a grant recipient of the Partners in Preservation program.

Great care was taken to preserve pieces of the historic machinery throughout the building that were so integral to the Power House’s function. For instance, the massive overhead crane will serve as the platform for a large, mobile screen.

Care was taken to preserve pieces of the machinery that were integral to the Power House’s function -- this massive overhead crane will be the platform for a large, mobile screen.

The Power House was constructed in 1905 in the Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago as part of the Sears, Roebuck & Company complex designed by Chicago architectural firm of Nimmons & Fel­lows. It served as the heating and cooling plant for the massive Sears complex until it was decommissioned in 2004.  Now it is part of the $35 million, award-winning Homan Square redevelopment project, undergoing restoration for use as Henry Ford Power House High, which will answer a deep community need for high-quality schools.

The lower levels of the chimney will remain open and surrounded by a new internal staircase that will allow student to see its features up close.

The lower levels of the chimney will remain open and surrounded by a new internal staircase.

One of the most iconic exterior features of the building is the 185 foot tall, 14 foot wide, radial brick chimney, which will be preserved as a neighborhood landmark, but also as an educational tool to facilitate student experimentation with the dynamics of heat, airflow and energy generation. To stabilize the chimney and preserve its structural integrity, a portion of the top was removed and all of the brick masonry is being repointed. Once this step is complete, a chimney liner will be installed and a transparent chimney cap placed on top, to allowing daylight into the heart of the building while also giving students access to the structure of the chimney.

The Power House is expected to be complete in time for Power House High to accept students in the fall of 2009, but they are still seeking additional funds to support the retention and restoration of historic mechanical elements in the building, such as the “Link-Belt” coal bucket system that carried coal to the furnaces in the basement.

– Christina Morris

Christina Morris is a program officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Midwest Office.

Learn more about the Partners in Preservation program here.

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.