d o c o m o m o l o u i s i a n a is a regional chapter of an international committee dedicated to the

documentation and conservation of the buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement



Saturday, December 18, 2010

DOCOMOMO US December 2010 E-News Brief



Join Today!

DOCOMOMO US is the working party of Docomomo in the United States. It is a 501(c)3 registered non-profit
organization, a union of regional chapters that shares its members’ knowledge of and enthusiasm for the Modern
Movement, promotes public interest in it through lectures and walking tours, and organizes advocacy efforts to protect
endangered sites and buildings.

Go Modern! www.docomomo-us.org

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IN THIS EDITION:
Mexico 2010 Conference Travelogue

CHAPTER UPDATE: DOCOMOMO US/NOLA

THREATENED: Lloyd Wright's Moore House

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Zonnestraal Sanatorium

SURVEY: Give us your feedback
Docomomo International Journal





DOCOMOMO INTERNATIONAL: MEXICO CONFERENCE RECAP


The eleventh International Docomomo Conference was held this past August in Mexico City. 
DOCOMOMO US/Georgia member Jack Pyburn was in attendance and gives his account of the proceedings, presenting a travelogue of Living in the Urban Modernity.







CHAPTER UPDATE: DOCOMOMO US/NOLA


IS THERE A FUTURE FOR THE RECENT PAST IN NEW ORLEANS?

Francine Stock, president of DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana, has written a compelling narrative about the current situation of the mid-century public schools in New Orleans.  Featured in the recent MAS Context journal, the piece discusses the significance of the architecture to its climate and landscape, and how the process to discuss their future has failed. Click here to read the article and the MAS Context journal in its entirety.



THREATENED: LLOYD WRIGHT'S MOORE HOUSE


House Faces Imminent Demolition: How You Can Help

The Los Angeles Conservancy is leading the cause to advocate for the preservation of the 1959 Moore House designed by noted architect Lloyd Wright - the son of Frank Lloyd Wright - in Palos Verdes Estates.  The house is currently threatened with demolition and the owners plan to construct a new house on this prime site overlooking the ocean.
MORE>




BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: ZONNESTRAAL SANATORIUM


Zonnestraal Sanatorium
The History and Restoration of a Modern Monument

Paul Meurs and Marie-Thérèse van Thoor (eds.)
The birth and history of DOCOMOMO is closely related with the preservation of the former Zonnestraal Sanatorium. The building, which is emblematic of Functionalism or Nieuwe Bouwen in the Netherlands, is a national monument of international significance and a globally recognized icon of the the Dutch arm of the International Modern Movement. Designed by the architects Jan Duiker and Bernard Bijvoet in 1925, the building is internationally regarded as one of the highlights of twentieth century architecture.
MORE>




MEMBERSHIP: JOIN TODAY!

Join the national community of architects, historians, designers, planners, preservationists, students, and modern movement enthusiasts dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of modern architecture and landscapes in the United States. Membership is available online at www.docomomo-us.org or via mail by using the membership form.
Member Survey: DOCOMOMO US promotes the exchange of knowledge and experience between our members.  Help us make your membership of DOCOMOMO US as useful and enjoyable as possible by providing us with feedback on your experience.  We kindly request you to take a few moments to fill out this short survey.  Your answers are very valuable to the organization and our ever-expanding work to preserve of the Modern Movement! VIEW THE SURVEY

DOCOMOMO INTERNATIONAL: SUMMER 2010 JOURNAL
 
We are pleased to announce Docomomo International Journal 42 Art and Architecture has been distributed to our international members.  Journal 42 includes essays and articles discussing the synthesis of Art and Architecture and features an article by DOCOMOMO US President, Theodore Prudon.
 

CONTEST: MEMBER TRIVIA
November Image
Congratulations to our November trivia contest winner!

Richard Longstreth from Washington, DC correctly identified the rugged Cor-ten steel used by Eero Saarinen at the John Deere World Headquarters in Moline, IL. Congratulations to Richard and to everyone who responded. We will be sending Richard a DOCOMOMO US embossed Moleskine notebook and our new DOCOMOMO US Go Modern button.





DECEMBER PHOTO:

Name this architect and building for a chance to win a prize from the

Docomomo Archives.

E-mail correct responses to: info@docomomo-us.org by December 31.

 




 

TALK TO US!
The ongoing strength of DOCOMOMO US lies in the action and communication of our members.  Please keep us
apprised of your local work, advocacy and other current issues by e-mailing us at info@docomomo-us.org.
Not a member? Join now!

Visit us online: docomomo-us.org
Follow DOCOMOMO US on Ning, Facebook and Twitter.   

DOCOMOMO-US
P.O. Box 230977
New York, NY 10023
United States

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is there a future for the recent past in New Orleans?


Francine Stock, president of DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana, writes about the current situation of the mid-century public schools in the city. Either demolished or in danger of demolition, these structures represent a type of architecture that was forward thinking and innovative in the way they were built and used by the public. The process to discuss their future when they become obsolete has failed to provide a fair space to listen to new options. Can we establish another way of approaching this problem?

read more..... MAS Context 8| PUBLIC WINTER 10

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Replacing the Claiborne Overpass with Lightrail: Impossible or Visionary?



Point 8 Forum
Replacing the Claiborne Overpass with Lightrail: Impossible or Visionary?
Thursday November 11th 2010
The Building Block @ The Icehouse
2803 St. Philip St, New Orleans, LA
6:00pm - 8:00pm

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Auditorium eligible for National Register to be demolished without public input


Auditorium shared by the George Washington Carver Junior- Senior High School and Helen Sylvania Edwards Elementary School. 3059 Higgins Boulevard, New Orleans, LA. (1958, Curtis and Davis, architects) photo © Emily Ardoin

The City of New Orleans has issued a
demolition permit for the George Washington Carver Junior-Senior High School designed by Curtis and Davis, architects. The Helen Sylvania Edwards Elementary School shared many campus facilities with Carver, but has already been demolished. The integration of three schools (elementary, junior and senior high) on a 65 acre campus in the upper ninth ward allowed the schools to share common facilities (cafeteria, kitchen, auditorium) and yet retain age-segregated classroom buildings. The auditorium was also available for community events. Curtis and Davis
' plan gained national recognition when Progressive Architecture awarded the First Design Award to the Carver School in 1957.

The Federal Emergency Management Association deemed the auditorium building eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The striking design of the auditorium with its soaring (40 ft high and 200 ft long) parabolic concrete vault and hinged buttresses is truly monumental.
DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana advocated for the auditorium structure to be retained and suggested that it be adaptively reused as an open air pavilion.

We still do not understand why FEMA never sought public comments for the Carver High School auditorium building. The Section 106 process in New Orleans does not appear to be functioning in the spirit of the National Historic Preservation Act. Section 106 does not mandate preservation, but is supposed to encourage it. Yet too many buildings are being demolished. In fact, in the past 5 years, have any of the historic buildings under Section 106 review in New Orleans not ultimately met their demise?

In this situation, the Recovery School District is using public funds to demolish a public building without seeking input from the general public and with the support of a federal agency.



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

838 Canal Street 1952

Miller Brothers operated its jewelry store at 838 Canal Street in the early 1950s. They sold diamonds, watches, silverware and photographic supplies.

Image above: Miller Bros. Square Deal Jewelers Advertisement, New Orleans City Directory (1952-1953), p. 183.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Carol Apartments, Hi-Fi 1966


August A. Perez & Associates designed the modernist condominium structure at the corner of St. Charles and Jackson Avenues in 1966. Promoters Paul Kapelow and Lester Gross boasted that the units featured:
  • All kitchens and baths are furnished with continuous power-actuated exhaust air. The cooking of kippers, cabbage, garlic, bacon, boullabaisse or court bouillon will not invade your privacy. Use of the over range hood booster exhaust is an additional precaution.
  • All electric kitchen appliances, including large combination refrigerator-freezer, oven and range, dishwasher, disposal, and carefree "no watching" washer-dryer (a truly automatic laundress).
  • A master television antenna, pre-wired to each living unit to assure the finest reception.
  • Music available to each residence by the turn of a switch.
Images above: The Carol, promotional brochure. New Orleans: A Paul Kapelow and Lester Gross Enterprise, c. 1966. Courtesy the Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Download our mobile e-guide to Modernism on Canal Street

“Modernism on Canal Street: a streetcar tour of endangered buildings” is held in conjunction with the 4th Annual DOCOMOMO US Tour Day Saturday October 9, 2010. In collaboration with select local preservation organizations, DOCOMOMO US Tour Day is a nationwide day of tours, lectures and other special events hosted by the twelve regional chapters of the US Working Party for the DOcumentation and COnservation of Buildings, Sites, and Neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement.
Docomomo Streetcar Guide Mobile

                                                           
From end to end, Canal Street boasts a collection of Modern buildings, the architectural features and distinct elements of which are best appreciated from a comfortable perch on a slow-moving streetcar. “Modernism on Canal Street” is a self-guided tour along Canal Street to promote and celebrate modern architecture and urban design in and around the New Orleans area.

This Saturday, October 09th, we encourage architects, historians, preservationists, and all interested parties to visit the DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana Chapter website to download a free copy of our Canal Street brochure [print, mobile] and board the Cemeteries to Riverfront streetcar route [or vice-versa] to take this tour of historically and architecturally significant buildings.

Cost of admission on the streetcar is exact change of $1.25 each direction, or $5 all-day pass purchased upon boarding the streetcar.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Modernism on Canal Street: a streetcar tour of endangered buildings

“Modernism on Canal Street: a streetcar tour of endangered buildings” is held in conjunction with the 4th Annual DOCOMOMO US Tour Day. In collaboration with select local preservation organizations, DOCOMOMO US Tour Day is a nationwide day of tours, lectures and other special events hosted by the twelve regional chapters of the US Working Party for the DOcumentation and COnservation of Buildings, Sites, and Neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement.

From end to end, Canal Street boasts a collection of Modern buildings, the architectural features and distinct elements of which are best appreciated from a comfortable perch on a slow-moving streetcar. “Modernism on Canal Street” is a self-guided tour  along Canal Street to promote and celebrate modern architecture and urban design in and around the New Orleans area.

This Saturday, October 09th, we encourage architects, historians, preservationists, and all interested parties to visit the DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana Chapter website to download a free copy of our Canal Street brochure [print, mobile] and board the Cemeteries to Riverfront streetcar route [or vice-versa] to take this tour of historically and architecturally significant buildings.

Cost of admission on the streetcar is exact change of $1.25 each direction, or $5 all-day pass purchased upon boarding the streetcar.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

TSA Geodesic Dome project 01 1954


Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) served a six-week term as visiting critic at Tulane School of Architecture in February and March of 1954. Fifth-year students worked with Fuller to create this 18 foot geodesic dome model of a potential shelter or airplane maintenance hangar for the Marines. Here students raise the lightweight yet sturdy model on the quad of Tulane's front campus.

The Tulane geodesic dome model was constructed of cardboard formed into triangles, painted with plastic and joined with tape. According to an article in the April 1954 edition of
The Tulanian, the dome was to be packaged and sent to the military base at Quantico, Virginia accompanied by Dean John Ekin Dinwiddie and several students. They would reassemble the model there for military inspection and it would soon undergo mass production.

I am not sure if the geodesic domes ever went into military production. However in 1958 Fuller returned to Louisiana to construct the Union Tank Car Dome outside Baton Rouge. Upon completion the 384 foot diameter dome was the largest clear span structure in the world and the largest structure of its type.


Tomorrow night please join AIA New Orleans and DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana in a free screening and the Louisiana premiere of director Evan Mather's


A NECCESSARY RUIN: THE STORY OF BUCKMINSTER FULLER AND THE UNION TANK CAR DOME


Wednesday September 8, 2010

Reception at 7, Screening at 8
AIA New Orleans Center for Design
1000 St. Charles Avenue

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Necessary Ruin: The Story of Buckminster Fuller and the Union Tank Car Dome




DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana and AIA New Orleans present
"A Necessary Ruin: The Story of Buckminster Fuller and the Union Tank Car Dome" 
a documentary film by Evan Mather
Wednesday September 8
reception @ 7pm, screening @ 8pm
AIA New Orleans Center for Design
1000 St. Charles Avenue


Upon its completion in October 1958, the Union Tank Car Dome, located north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was the largest clear-span structure in the world. Based on the engineering principles of the visionary design scientist and philosopher Buckminster Fuller, this geodesic dome was, at 384 feet in diameter, the first large scale example of this building type. A Necessary Ruin relates the powerful, compelling narrative of the dome’s history via interviews with architects, engineers, preservationists, media, and artists; animated sequences demonstrating the operation of the facility; and hundreds of rare photographs and video segments taken during the dome’s construction, decline, and demolition. (Evan Mather, U.S.A., 2009, 29:54)


hand crafted films

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Holly + Smith Feasibility Study: Historic Phillis Wheatley CAN Be Reused

Efforts to preserve and reuse Phillis Wheatley Elementary constitute what is arguably one of the most pressing preservation issues facing New Orleans today. Designed in 1954 by New Orleans architect Charles Colbert, FAIA, it is a groundbreaking work of modern engineering and design. Though its cantilevered classroom wing avoided the ravages of flooding after Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) is pushing for FEMA funds to demolish the National Register-eligible building.

According to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, any such use of federal dollars to demolish or otherwise alter a building must first be subject to the Section 106 review process to determine how such actions can be mitigated through discussion with concerned parties. FEMA began Wheatley’s Section 106 review last fall and the issue erupted into a contentious fight between those for and against preservation. The RSD halted the process to commission the Hammond, LA-based firm of Holly + Smith to perform a feasibility study for the site. Its findings were made public at an RSD-hosted community meeting on July 21st, while the official consultation process resumed July 29th.

Holly + Smith rendering of existing building with addition.

Holly + Smith considered two options for the site, total demolition and replacement with a new school building versus restoration of and addition to the historic building. The firm was not charged with formally designing either scenario, only with assessing current conditions and proposing hypothetical schematics. It found that both options were comparable in most respects, though estimated that the renovation scenario would cost an additional $900,000. The architects neglected to calculate how demolition costs would help to close that gap, but either way, the project would cost between $20 million and $21 million. RSD officials have asserted that either scenario would be completed by 2013.

Despite these findings, detractors still maintain that Wheatley must come down. The RSD claims that it would be impossible to achieve an ideal learning environment for students using the existing building, and some echo this sentiment by insisting that the only way to achieve parity with other public schools would be to construct an entirely new building. These arguments seem somewhat disingenuous in light of the fact that the district already plans to renovate a diverse collection of forty-four existing school buildings, historic or otherwise. If it is possible to bring each of those to a reasonable level of programmatic equality, one is left to wonder why the rehabilitation and reuse of Wheatley is so insurmountable, particularly in light of those conclusions drawn by the RSD’s own consultants.

Additional arguments against preservation come from those attributing a host of educational and social ills to the building itself. Wheatley was poorly maintained for decades, and prior to Hurricane Katrina it, like most of New Orleans’ public schools, was failing. Overall mismanagement was, after all, what spurred state takeover of the city’s school system by the RSD in the first place. These problems were endemic citywide, not unique products of Wheatley’s design. Others claim that the building, completed the same year as the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, painfully encapsulates the era of segregation in New Orleans and therefore should be demolished to start anew. One wonders then why those same detractors are not arguing for the demolition of all of the city’s historic school buildings, the vast majority of which were completed prior to World War II; the answer likely lies in the fact that these are mostly Classical Revival style structures which are more widely accepted as “historic.” In either case, these arguments reveal a disturbing brand of selective memory on the part of those seeking demolition most ardently.

Holly + Smith’s feasibility study, which states that Phillis Wheatley Elementary is a viable resource, should be seen as a positive starting off point for creative solutions to satisfy all. Those arguing for preservation – including DOCOMOMO/US Louisiana, Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, National Trust for Historic Preservation, World Monuments Fund, and citizens throughout New Orleans – believe that this historic building can indeed be incorporated into a 21st century school to benefit children for years to come. After all, that is the ultimate goal of preservation – to insure that future generations will inherit the architectural legacy of those who came before, rather than allow short-sighted thinking to deprive them of that opportunity.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Help Protect Landmark Neon Signage

The Preservation Resource Center's Advocacy Department has announced that the Walgreen's Pharmacy located at 900 Canal Street has applied to the Historic District Landmarks Commission to replace its Moderne neon signage with LED (light-emitting diode) signage.

Louisiana governor Huey Long’s favorite firm, Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth, designed this pharmacy (1938) as well as the State Capitol (1932). The Moderne pharmacy is illuminated by its original neon sign. The year of the structure's completion, Canal Street was awash in neon lights and colored paving:

“A breadth of 171 feet is distributed between two spacious sidewalks, and a wider neutral ground; both the sidewalks (called banquettes in New Orleans) and the neutral ground are paved in modernistic style with red and white terrazzo marble, reflecting the brilliant sunlight by day and the flood of electric lights by night.” (WPA Guide to New Orleans, 1938)

From the 1930s-1960s, Canal Street’s signage was almost exclusively neon (undated postcard shown above). Today, very few of its historic neon lights survive. To see other pictures of the signage and comment on the proposal, click here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

National Trust :: Modernism in New Orleans

Many of the Big Easy's Midcentury Buildings Face Demolition.




Whitney
Whitney Bank, New Orleans

Credit: Trevor Meeks

The year is 1955; the place, New Orleans. Progressive Architecture magazine has just held its second annual Design Awards, juried by Bauhaus School founder Walter Gropius. The list of winners brings a surprise: New Orleans and Louisiana capture six of the awards—more than any other city and state in the nation. The awards recognize the work of five different architectural teams, including the noted firm Curtis and Davis, whose later work will include the 1975 Superdome.
read more..... 

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Building's Resume: International Acclaim

Charles Colbert, architect. Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, Tremé Neighborhood, New Orleans, LA. (1955).

Recent Recognition

2009 Watch List, World Monuments Fund



Awards/Exhibitions

1959 Annual Exhibition, Architectural League of New York

1958 U.S. State Department Architecture Exhibition, Moscow

1957 U.S. State Department Architecture Exhibition, Berlin

1955 Citation Award, Progressive Architecture

1954 Top Award for "Better School Design Competition" The School Executive

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Intelligent Design with Principles of Sustainability and Modernism in Mind

Vision::Aerie School Threatened with Demolition
The Phillis Wheatley Elementary School is already elevated above the 100 year flood elevation - one of the most important factors for any building located in the city. Even though the classrooms did not flood after Hurricane Katrina, the school has remained shuttered for five years.

The open design of the building adds to the positive learning environment by creating an unrestricted open air feel. The original design utilized a beautiful glass wall exterior to allow large amounts of natural light into the classroom. Natural light has since been proven to aid in the learning process and combat depression.

The boarded window downgrade was likely to combat the heat element. However, since then glass and window construction tech has drastically improved so that double and triple pane Argon filled panels could be utilized to to reduce heat transfer yet retain the architectural beauty of the original design.

Due to the large flat roof and large glass windows, electricity needs could be subsidized through the use of solar panels. This is a vital point, since New Orleans is one of the largest solar cities in America and mid-century pieces were designed to be easily upgraded as technology advanced.

This unique school facility provides abundant sheltered play space, natural light and ventilation. Supports are in the middle of the building. The extensions are cantilevered about 35 feet from the supports - a very muscular kind of support, more often seen in bridge design. The elevated structure has a regional architectural sensibility. The earliest buildings of the French Quarter and around Louisiana were all elevated, not just for flood protection, but also to increase natural ventilation. The breeze is always a little bit stronger when you get above ground.

New facilities (performance spaces, band rooms, kindergarten) can be sympathetically constructed on the site adjacent to a renovated historic modern school.

The Mahalia Jackson Elementary School (also by architect Charles Colbert 1954) has been significantly renovated. The new Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood Family Learning Center is now serving the Central City community. If they can do it in Central City, why not Tremé?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Orleans :: most Progressive Architecture awards :: 1955

In 1955 the Phillis Wheatley Elementary School was awarded a citation for its innovative design by Progressive Architecture.
All of the 22 classrooms for 770 pupils were raised off the ground, in order to provide an open play area, as the building occupies the major part of the site. Two rows of concrete piers support the cantilivered structure. A series of large steel trusses sandwiched between the classroom walls make this cantilever possible. Classrooms are accessible from open corridors, have bilateral lighting and cross ventilation. Administration and combination auditorium / cafeteria are housed in adjoining one-story structure.

In addition to Phillis Wheatley, five other designs by New Orleans architects received awards in Progressive Architecture's second annual Design Awards Program juried by Dr. Walter Gropius.

The Times-Picayune reports, "The designs, which gave New Orleans and Louisiana more awards than any other city or state were done by Curtis and Davis, Charles R. Colbert, John W. Lawrence, George A. Saunders, Buford L. Pickens and John Ekin Dinwiddie. The designs were of six proposed Louisiana buildings."

The envelope please.....

HEALTHCARE Madison Parish Hospital in Tullulah, Curtis and Davis

EDUCATION Phillis Wheatley Elementary School in New Orleans, Charles R. Colbert

RESIDENTIAL Dr. and Mrs. Lyman K. Richardson Residence in Harahan, Curtis and Davis

RESIDENTIAL Vacation House in Lacombe, Lawrence and Saunders

RESIDENTIAL General Electric demonstration house in New Orleans, John Lawrence and George A. Saunders with Buford L. Pickens

RELIGIOUS St. Bernard Methodist Church in Chalmette, John Lawrence and George A. Saunders with John Dinwiddie




Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Futurist on Film


Union Tank Car Dome, photograph by Alfred Gebhardt, originally uploaded by anthonyb_chicago.

Yesterday MAKE magazine celebrated Buckminster Fuller's birthday. He would have been 115 years young.

I recently watched Evan Mather's A Necessary Ruin (Handcrafted Films 2009). When the Union Tank Car Dome outside Baton Rouge was completed in 1958 it was the largest clear span structure in the world. This futurist dome was no longer in use and had been abandoned. The Foundation for Historical Louisiana fought for its adaptive reuse, even suggesting that it could be moved to an alternate site. However, the dome was demolished in the secret of night in November 2007, just shy of its fiftieth birthday.

In September DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana will present A Necessary Ruin in a special screening. Date and location to be announced.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Modernizing Old Druids 1957

As published in The Times Picayune 28 April 1957, Section 5 "Auctions & Real Estate."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Monumental auditorium threatened with demolition

George Washington Carver Junior-Senior High School
Curtis and Davis, architects. Progressive Architecture First Design Award 1959. photo: Francine Stock


The School Facilities Master Plan of Orleans Parish has ignored and consistently threatened to eradicate important mid-century modern public schools from New Orleans’s historic neighborhoods. From the outset, DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana identified the George Washington Carver Junior-Senior High School as one of the most architecturally significant buildings of its generation.

In the early 1950s, the nationally recognized New Orleans-based architectural firm of Curtis and Davis won a design competition, and responded by creating an elegant school complex. The most compelling structure is a dramatic cast in place concrete auditorium building.

The monumental structure utilized parabolic concrete hinged arches that extend beyond the building and rest on hinged concrete buttresses, creating a modern stoa that shelters one from rain and sun. The Federal Emergency Management Agency assessed the building's innovative auditorium as eligible for the National Register, thereby triggering the National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 Process.

DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana, in an effort to save the building, has agreed to participate as a Consulting Party in the Section 106 Process. DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana advocates for the adaptive reuse of George Washington
Carver’s auditorium space: allow its inspiring vaulted
space to continue its function as a gathering space for new generations of Ninth Ward students.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

DOCOMOMO advocates for the adaptive reuse of the Wheatley School

The School Facilites Master Plan of Orleans Parish has consistently threatened to eradicate important mid-century modern public schools from New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods. From the outset, DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana identified Charles Colbert’s Phillis Wheatley Elementary as one of the most architecturally significant buildings of the twentieth century.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency assessed the building as eligible for the National Register, thereby triggering the National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 Process. DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana -- in an effort to save the building -- agreed to participate as a Consulting Party in the Section 106 Process. Since the NHPA review process began, the World Monuments Fund has cited the structure for its 2010 Watch List, referring to it as an “architectural gem unique to New Orleans.”

As public support for adaptive reuse has grown, the RSD has acknowledged that Wheatley is not a generic twentieth-century building and deserves to be considered carefully. The hiring of Holly and Smith Architects to assess the feasibility of adaptive reuse is an acknowledgment of the building’s importance. In fact, Wheatley is the only Orleans Parish School Facility which the RSD has considered for adaptive reuse.

The successful renovation of Charles Colbert's McDonogh 36 School by the Early Childhood Family Learning Foundation demonstrates the feasibility of adaptive reuse for mid-century modern school architecture and provides a model by which Wheatley may be rehabilitated as a twenty-first century school.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Preservation Meets Sustainability

Modernist Architecture Comes of Age

Image Credits:
University of Vermont

Join the University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program for a day-long symposium exploring the preservation of historic modernist buildings and how to rehabilitate them to be sustainable and functional in the 21st century. DOCOMOMO US President Theo Prudon will be a featured speaker at the event.
Registration Fee: $100
For more information click here for a PDF.
Register online: www.uvm.edu/~modern

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SOM Restoration Begun in New Orleans

As reported by the Regional Planning Commission 27 April 2010:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs begins restoration and repair of the original Pan American Life Insurance Company Building, "This marks the first of many steps to come as we work towards our goal of creating a 21st century state-of-the-art health care system for our Veterans," said Ms. Julie Catellier, Director Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. "Veterans have waited patiently for the return of a Veteran's hospital since the floodwaters of Katrina forced the closure of the VA Medical Center on Perdido Street. It is an honor to serve our Veterans and continue our mission of providing health care to America's heroes."

The Pan American Life Insurance Company Building at 2400 Canal Street, listed individually on the National Register for Historic Places is a significant representation of post-World War II International style architecture.

Designed by internationally renowned New York and Chicago firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the 1953 building was the headquarters of the Pan American Life Insurance Company. The building has a steel frame, glass walls and aluminum sunscreens to shield the interior from the sun. Original features included an elevated terraced entrance and interior courtyard. More recently, the building was used as a City Hall Annex but is currently closed and out of service.

Restoration of The Pan American building will help preserve New Orleans' unique architectural heritage while simultaneously honoring New Orleans' proud history of innovation and design. Studio NOVA, a joint venture of NBBJ and local partners Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and Rozas Ward Architects, is the design team for the restoration of the building. Clark/McCarthy Healthcare Partners, in association with local firms Woodward Design+Build and Landis Construction Company, was selected as the Integrated Design and Construct (IDc) contractor and is currently providing preconstruction services to the VA and design team. The Pan Am building will be the first building to come on line as part of the new VA Medical Center, housing education, training, recruitment and administrative services. The VA Medical Center project is scheduled for completion in 2013. The new facility will provide comprehensive healthcare to over 70,000 enrolled Veterans when it opens. To see the latest VAMC renderings, visit: neworleans.va.gov

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thermo-Con Homes

One of Two Thermo-Con Homes at N. Broad and Agriculture Street. Built 1947.

Higgins Incorporated of New Orleans patented Thermo-Con Concrete and sought to promote its use as a building material throughout the southern United States, as well as the Caribbean, South America, and parts of the South Pacific region. In 1946, the company built a Thermo-Namel demonstration house at its Industrial Canal plant, and one year later followed with the Thermo-Con Demonstration Houses erected on the corner of North Broad Avenue and Havana Street. Other Thermo-Con residences quickly followed, and included a cluster on Havana Street, ones on Althea and Hydrangea Lanes in Lake Vista, and one on Vicksburg Street between Harrison Avenue and Bragg Street. A developer in Atlanta used the material to build a 104-apartment complex in North Buckhead, and another developer planned to create 200 3-bedroom houses in Pass Christian Heights, Mississippi. Thermo-Con's use went beyond residential architecture: fire walls in Fort Worth, Texas; USAF buildings at White Sands, New Mexico; and warm-up pads for the USAF at Andrews and McChord Air Force Bases.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Thomy Lafon Elementary Headed for Demolition; Hope Remains for Salvage and Documentation


The latest in a long series of FEMA consultation meetings concerning Thomy Lafon Elementary School took place on March 24, 2010 at the Garden Study Center in City Park.

Designed by Curtis and Davis and completed in 1954, Lafon was nationally hailed as a model in progressive school design. The building stands at 2601 Seventh Street at the former center of the Magnolia Street Housing Project, recently demolished to make way for the Harmony Oaks housing development. Though the school was in operation until Hurricane Katrina and did not flood, from the outset the Recovery School District has been adamantly opposed to its reopening and has sought FEMA money to raze the building. This proposed use of federal funds for demolition has triggered the Section 106 process as established in the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act. The act requires that properties to be affected by such plans be evaluated for their historic worth to mitigate harmful affects to significant structures. Lafon was deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places last June by FEMA and the State Historic Preservation Office, embroiling the building in further controversy as interested parties lobby either for or against its demolition.

Unfortunately, the question of Lafon’s preservation has been rendered virtually obsolete by a bizarre twist of fate taking most of those involved by complete surprise. Recent research has shown that the building stands on land once occupied by Locust Grove Cemeteries #1 and #2, roughly active from the 1860s through the 1890s. Though it seems that some bodies were relocated prior to the construction of the first Lafon School in 1905, historic accounts and recent archaeological work indicate that remains are still interred on the site. This brings into play the Louisiana Unmarked Burial Sites Preservation Act and the Louisiana Cemetery Act. These dictate that the site not be used in any way inconsistent with cemetery use, though oddly enough, precedents have been set for using unmarked cemetery lands as parks or playgrounds. Lafon could legally be converted into a mausoleum, but current zoning laws and the wishes of Harmony Oaks’ residents make that option highly unlikely.


News of the cemetery legislation first hit in December 2009, and the March meeting was largely dedicated to reviewing the draft Memorandum of Agreement between FEMA and consulting parties. MOAs establish a course of action to be taken with a specific property; in this case, the draft outlines how Lafon cannot legally or feasibly be reused and, by default, will be demolished. Two DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana representatives were present, architect Wayne Troyer of Wayne Troyer Associates and intern Lindsey Derrington of Tulane’s Masters in Preservation Studies program. Both suggested revisions to the MOA which would soften this loss. Mr. Troyer proposed salvaging some part of the building and incorporating it into the playground which will likely be built on the site, including the preservation of the Jack Hastings climbing sculpture which was commissioned in conjunction with the school. After SHPO representatives raised concerns that the MOA called only for Historic American Building Survey-level photographs of Lafon which would not be submitted to the Library of Congress, Miss Derrington suggested that Tulane students could volunteer service hours to execute full-scale HABS drawings. Those present at the meeting were receptive to both ideas, and DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana looks forward to working with FEMA and the Recovery School District to retain as much as possible of this incredible building, and to ensure that it receives the documentation that it deserves.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Plaza Tower 1968

In 1968, the Gravier Latter and Blum Office distributed an advertising brochure for potential Plaza Tower tenants:

"This imposing structure that soars 45 floors above downtown New Orleans is The Plaza Tower, Office/Residence building scheduled for completion in early 1969.

Located minutes from Canal Street and the financial center, The Plaza Tower avoids the congestion and traffic of the inner city core. It is easily reached from all sections of New Orleans. . . situated at the very hub of the new expressway and Interstate systems."

Image above: The Plaza Tower: Standing Tallest over the New Orleans Skyline. New Orleans: Latter and Blum, c. 1968. Biographical Files (Leonard Spangenberg), The Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vanishing AIA Award-Winners in New Orleans

Tulane School of Architecture Professor Robert Gonzalez recently circulated a listing of all AIA national award-winners since 1949. For New Orleans, the list is surprisingly short:

Freret & Wolf, Pontchartrain Beach Bus Shelter (demolished)
Curtis & Davis, Thomy Lafon School (endangered)
Curtis & Davis, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini School (demolished)
Colbert & Lowrey & Associates, Diaz-Simon Pediatric Clinic (demolished)
Charles Colbert, Dr. Henry G. Simon Residence
SOM; Nolan, Norman & Nolan, The John Hancock Building
Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, Kate & Laurence Eustis Chapel, Oschner Clinic

Of these award-winning buildings, only four remain (Lafon School, Simon Residence, John Hancock Building, Eustis Chapel), one of which is slated for demolition by the Recovery School District. For images, consult Regional Modernism's flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xxno/.





Friday, March 12, 2010

Historic Restoration to Begin on Canal Street


Pan American Life Insurance Co.
photo courtesy of the Tulane School of Architecture New Orleans Virtual Archive

Pan American Life Insurance Co. (Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Claude E. Hooton, associate, 1952). Listed on Louisiana Landmarks New Orleans Nine Most Endangered 2007. 

PRESS RELEASE:
Department Of Veterans Affairs
SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA VETERANS HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Begins Historic Restoration
NEW ORLEANS, LA – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs begins restoration and repair of the original Pan American Life Insurance Company Building,

 “This marks the first of many steps to come as we work towards our goal of creating a 21st century state-of-the-art health care system for our Veterans,” said Ms. Julie Catellier, Director Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. “Veterans have waited patiently for the return of a Veteran’s hospital since the floodwaters of Katrina forced the closure of the VA Medical Center on Perdido Street. It is an honor to serve our Veterans and continue our mission of providing health care to America’s heroes.”
The Pan American Life Insurance Company Building at 2400 Canal Street, listed individually on the National Register for Historic Places is a significant representation of post-World War II International style architecture.
Designed by internationally renowned New York and Chicago firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the 1953 building was the headquarters of the Pan American Life Insurance Company.  The building has a steel frame, glass walls and aluminum sunscreens to shield the interior from the sun. Original features included an elevated terraced entrance and interior courtyard. More recently, the building was used as a City Hall Annex but is currently closed and out of service.
Restoration of The Pan American building will help preserve New Orleans’ unique architectural heritage while simultaneously honoring New Orleans’ proud history of innovation and design. Studio NOVA, a joint venture of NBBJ and local partners Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and Rozas Ward Architects, is the design team for the restoration of the building. Clark/McCarthy Healthcare Partners, in association with local firms Woodward Design+Build and Landis Construction Company, was selected as the Integrated Design and Construct (IDc) contractor and is currently providing preconstruction services to the VA and design team. The Pan Am building will be the first building to come on line as part of the new VA Medical Center, housing education, training, recruitment and administrative services. The VA Medical Center project is scheduled for completion in 2013. The new facility will provide comprehensive healthcare to over 70,000 enrolled Veterans when it opens."


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UPDATE: Mid-City hospital complex land seized by state; former owners plan to sue
Why would the Times-Picayune not mention these plans for historic restoration? 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Welcome



At the end of February DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana convened to elect new officers. I am honored to be President and excited to be partnered with Vice-President Wayne Troyer, Treasurer Hilairie Schackai and Secretary Maryann Miller. We are thrilled to welcome Interns Lindsey Derrington and Ian Daniels of the Tulane School of Architecture Historic Preservation program.


We are working on establishing an active agenda for the spring, but first would like to take a few moments to review the impressive accomplishments and significant challenges of our recent past.


2008. Docomomo US officially recognized the Louisiana / New Orleans chapter under the leadership of President Toni DiMaggio. Toni was supported by Vice-President Jim Albert, Treasurer Melissa Urcan and Secretary Rainier Simoneaux. In our inaugural year we participated in the Section 106 Review of two structures integral to the Civic Center complex, the State Office Building and State Supreme Court. Ultimately both were demolished without plans for redevelopment. In March we successfully nominated four mid-century modern schools to the Louisiana Landmark Society's New Orleans Nine Most Endangered List. In June Design Within Reach hosted our first event. John Klingman presented a slideshow of modernist buildings in the area, some at risk, others already and since demolished. In October we organized Modernism and Desire: A Streetcar Tour of Endangered Buildings in conjunction with AIA New Orleans. At the end of the year many of our members commented on the 106 Review of the School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish which threatens to obliterate almost all modernist schools from the New Orleans landscape.

2009. The Year of the Emergency Cocktail. Formal meetings were supplemented by sudden calls to arms at the Columns and Bridge Lounge. We successfully fought for Hoffman Elementary in the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee reviews only to have the decision reversed by City Council. We were inundated with FEMA 106 meetings related to Wheatley and Lafon Elementary Schools. We participated in public meetings and continue to monitor the process of the 106 review. The year ended on a high note with the announcement that Charles Colbert's Phillis Wheatley Elementary School was named to the World Monuments Fund 2010 Watch. We need to remain vigilant as the building remains at risk. The Recovery School District still fails to secure the building allowing vandalism to increase.

2010. Not only did the Saints win the Super Bowl, but the Superdome's design was recognized as an acoustical weapon for the 12th Man at home. Landmark it now! Speaking of landmarks, the HDLC recently designated several modern buildings on Canal Street. These include the IBM/Red Cross Building(2460), Grace Episcopal Church (3700), Automotive Life Insurance Building (4140), Singer Sewing Company (4176) and Hope Mausoleum (4841).


One of our immediate goals is to increase our presence online and on the streets. This site, and twitter account have been established as a preliminary web presence. Members of Docomomo will be invited and encouraged to contribute. We also intend to focus on ways to educate the community about modernist buildings in all New Orleans neighborhoods. Currently we are working on submissions to the New Orleans Nine Most Endangered List for 2010 (due March 22, forms here). Next meeting is scheduled TUESDAY March 9 at 6 pm, Tulane School of Architecture, room 305. Hope to see you there!

Francine Stock
president
DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana