Conservation of Modern Architecture
A special issue of the Journal of Architectural Conservation
Volume 13 Number 2 July 2007
Points of Balance
Patterns of Practice in the Conservation of Modern Architecture
This paper reflects on the experience of the conservation of modern architecture from a practitioner’s viewpoint, and seeks both to identify recurrent themes of discourse and illustrate patterns in practice over the last 21 years. A review of case studies reveals the emergence of five project typologies in the quest for a ‘point of balance’ – an outcome that reconciles the differing priorities of contending stakeholders within a sustainable consensus. The paper concludes with an appeal to enlarge the definition of conservation beyond the traditional protocols of listing, and to see through the perceived dichotomy between preservation and change.
Conservation Values, Climate Change and Modern Architecture
The Case of the CIS Tower
The Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) Tower in Manchester is part of an office and conference facility of 1959–62 considered by Pevsner to be the best commercial office building in Manchester. In 1995 it was listed at Grade II. It has recently seen the completion of a major project to overclad the concrete service tower with the largest vertical array of photovoltaic cells in the UK. The scheme was, at least in part, a response to the failure of the original mosaic cladding, which has now been secured in situ under the new overcladding. The project has been controversial: its proponents have argued in terms of its environmental sustainability and the reversibility of the cladding; its detractors have made the case that the scheme goes beyond the accepted conservation principle of minimum intervention and has claimed exaggerated green credentials. The paper uses the CIS Tower as a case study to explore the relationship between architectural conservation values and those of the climate change agenda.
Yale University Art Gallery: Louis I. Kahn
Challenges for the Rehabilitation of Modern Museum Buildings
Lloyd L. DesBrisay
This case study paper examines the rehabilitation of the Yale University Art Gallery’s Kahn building. Designed by visionary architect Louis I. Kahn, the building was constructed in 1953 and rehabilitated in 2006. The paper focuses on the rehabilitation of this landmark of the mid-twentieth century that restored the open interior spaces, updated the mechanical systems and replaced the steel framed window wall with an aluminium window wall system.
The Billiet House, Bruges
Reconstruction of a Colour Scheme
In 1927, Huib Hoste, one of Belgium’s leading architects from the modern era, designed a house with a diamond-cutting facility for the successful entrepreneur Jules Billiet. The house was added to the protected monuments’ list in 1995. In the beginning of 2002, I came across a blueprint in a private collection in Bruges and identified it as one of Hoste’s original design drawings for this house. It included an impressive ensemble of abstract paintings that showed a total design for the walls and ceiling of the living room. Colour research proved that the paintings in the Billiet house were executed early on in the original design and still remain present, although they are covered by three layers of more recent paint coatings. The colour research conducted in the Billiet house in 2002 allowed a full-scale reconstruction of Hoste’s design to be made. Incorporating original furniture elements, this reconstruction gives an impression of the original splendour of this abstract masterpiece. Analysis of colour stratification through microscopy confirmed the historical research and helped to reconstruct a coherent colour scheme and decor. Developing the restoration philosophy and preservation programme for the future of this rare modern interior and its furniture is an important challenge.
Harry Seidler and the Legacy of Modern Architecture in Australia
An Interview with Penelope Seidler
Harry Seidler is recognized as one of Australia’s most important twentieth-century architects. Many of Seidler’s buildings are now becoming recognized as heritage places. His Rose Seidler house of 1950 was bequeathed to the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales (NSW), and is now a house museum. Seidler was vocal about the ‘heritage industry’, and it is interesting to reflect on these views now that his own buildings are considered worthy of recognition and conservation. The following interview with Harry Seidler’s partner, Penelope Seidler, reflects on the architect’s views on how we manage our heritage and on the interface between contemporary architecture and its conservation.
The Greenside Case
Another One Bites the Dust
The Greenside case highlighted the destruction of what the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister called ‘a very significant building of the international Modern Movement’: the house designed by Connell, Ward & Lucas at Wentworth in 1936. It was demolished in 2004. The case demonstrated the tenuous nature of the listing process. The author, who made representations at the public inquiry over its destruction on behalf of both Docomomo and the RIBA, now brings the story up to date.
Challenges in Protecting 1960s Architect-Designed Houses
Despite the involvement of architects, lawyers, conservationists, the local community, publicity on television and an unprecedented decision by the New South Wales Land and Environment Court to refuse the demolition of one of the architect-designed houses in a 1964 project home display village, the house looks set to be demolished shortly. Its likely demise highlights the weakness in the NSW heritage system for less widely recognized heritage places. The case has become a cause célèbre of the heritage movement in trying to save Australia’s mid-twentieth-century modern architecture and landscapes.
Twentieth Century Heritage International Scientific Committee
ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites has recently formed an International Scientific Committee(ISC) to focus on the conservation, management and interpretation issues confronting the heritage structures, sites and places of the twentieth century. The activities objectives of the new committee are examined, and its role in the promotion of modern heritage in a world heritage context is explored. The will provide a global professional forum for debating conservation challenges and promoting the values of twentieth-century heritage.
Modernity as Heritage
Over the past few decades, the architectural heritage of the Modern Movement has appeared more at risk than that of any other period. This built inheritance, which glorifies the dynamic spirit of the Machine Age, employed advanced technology that has not always endured long-term stresses; and the functions which the buildings originally met have changed substantially. Docomomo aims at acting as watchdog whenever important Modern Movement buildings anywhere are under threat in various ways, including by exchanging ideas relating to conservation technology, history and education; fostering interest in the ideas and heritage of the Modern Movement beyond their own circle; and reminding those in power of their responsibilities towards this recent architectural inheritance.
Questions of Assessment
This paper outlines some cases in which I have campaigned for the conservation of works of modern architecture, primarily through Docomomo-UK (as co-chair since 2002), but also as casework committee member of the Twentieth Century Society. I hope to demonstrate that conservation issues in terms of design, whose significance would be readily recognized in the case of pre-modern listed buildings, are of equal significance in the case of modern buildings but have not always been recognized as such by the regulatory bodies. I also hope to pinpoint some areas of special significance in modern buildings. Though the number of post-war listed buildings has increased enormously, a consensus has yet to emerge in a still controversial field where public backing for conservation may be felt to be insecure.
Living in the Brunswick Centre
A Personal Account
The Brunswick is one of the country’s largest post-war listed buildings. It has had a troubled history with major changes in the design before and during the construction, and there are ongoing issues arising from the split in ownership of the building. These had and continue to have implications, both as a piece of iconic architecture and for the people who live and use the building. A recent refurbishment still leaves a number of unresolved issues, but has succeeded in bringing life to what was previously considered to be a failed building. Could its mix of residential and commercial uses now be seen as a way forward for city centre sites such as the Brunswick?
Donhead Publishing 2013