American Modernism restored, celebrated and awarded

16 August 2017

The American chapter of Docomomo, Docomomo US, has recently announced the 2017 winners of the Modernism in America Awards.

Modernism Awards Collage

Nine projects were highlighted for the restoration of postwar architecture and landscapes in the United States. Now in its fourth year, the Modernism in America Awards were founded to celebrate “the people and projects working to preserve, restore and rehabilitate our modern heritage sensitively and productively,” ArchDaily reports.

Docomomo is an international movement concerned with the documentation and conservation of architecture from the Modern Movement. It also has a South African chapter.

Commercial Design Award of Excellence

The restoration of the former Bell Laboratories, which has been transformed into Bell Works, the two-million-square-foot mixed-use “metroburb”, located in Holmdel, New Jersey. Designed by world-renowned modernist architect Eero Saarinen and constructed in stages between 1959-1982, the enormous mirrored glass-enclosed structure (the first of its kind) was home to Bell Laboratories, later known as AT&T, Lucent, and ultimately Alcatel-Lucent. Within its walls, researchers made a number of monumental discoveries, including the development of the cell phone and fibre optic technology. Rumblings of demolishing the site after Alcatel-Lucent vacated the building sparked concern from architects, historians, and design professionals around the globe.

Bells Works

The Civic/Institutional Design Award of Excellence

The restoration of the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. Together with its contents, the Yale Center for British Art was a gift from philanthropist Paul Mellon. Facing escalating conservation pressures, the Center commissioned a detailed conservation plan for the building – the first of its kind in the United States for a building completed after World War II. The document identified the Center’s most culturally significant attributes, established policies for the future care of the building, and formed the basis for the building conservation project. In selecting the project the jury noted, “The renovation of the Yale Center for British Art is a case study for how to approach the preservation of modern architecture appropriately. The complex, multi-phase project paves the way for future projects through its thoughtful conservation plan and publication of those findings detailing elements of the building that were once hidden and sensitively bringing the building into the 21st century.”

© Richard Caspole, Yale Center for British Art

Residential Design Award of Excellence

The restoration of the Bubeshko Apartments in Los Angeles, California. It is “one of the few realized and intact multi-family dwellings designed by Rudolph M. Schindler”. The jury said, “Restoration of the Bubeshko Apartments is interesting not only because of what was done but because of what was not done. Instead of transforming the complex into luxury condominium pods, the owners and restoration team gave careful consideration to both the original intent of the architect and original owners thus insuring this unique addition to the cultural life of Los Angeles will be admired and enjoyed for years to come.”

Bubeshko Apartments

Advocacy Award of Excellence

The Heroic Project is an eight-year research initiative into the concrete architecture of Boston from 1960 until 1976. It developed into a wide-reaching advocacy effort that has included exhibitions, design studios and research seminars, lectures and interviews, tours, landmark preservation campaigns, and culminated in the publication of the acclaimed book and subsequent book Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston.

Advocacy Award of Excellence

When awarding a prize to Save the Reactor, the judges commented, “The role and impact of nuclear science during the Cold War is starting to be forgotten and thus the sites associated with the period are increasingly threatened as younger generations have little sense of this important period in our nation’s history. Though the Nuclear Reactor building on the campus of the University of Washington was ultimately demolished, it is important to recognize Historic Seattle, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and Docomomo US/WEWA’s collaborative education and advocacy efforts that epitomize issues that Docomomo US and its Chapters and colleagues continue to encounter.” Results of the dispute will be precedent-setting as the Washington State Supreme Court is expected to rule on the bearing of local preservation ordinances over state institutions of higher learning who claim exemption.

Citations of Merit

  • Conservation of the concrete of Boston University’s School of Law Tower and thoughtful addition of the Sumner M. Redstone Building.
  • Restoration of the Smith Residence, Philadelphia, designed by Vincent G. Kling.
  • Restoration of the American Enterprise Group national headquarters building, Des Moines, Iowa, designed by Gordon Bunshaft.
  • Conservation of the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, Nebraska, designed by Edward Durell Stone.

Leave a Reply