I think you need to check out the construction –what it was originally constructed for its intention.
Some people say because the Caribbean was destroyed by it for quite a while in Philadelphia, it was a failure, and men and women say it hasn’t ever been revived. But that experimentation stood.
But those are sort of things which are threatening these buildings, like the Roundhouse (on Race Street). The town doesn’t know what they want to do with it, and most people think of it.
We’re concerned about its owner, which can be another kind of problem you could have when someone who owns a home gets older and can’t treat it neglecting it. So we have set it on the historic preservation list, which gives it the designation, and obviously, it can not be ripped down.
I think you have to think about why Philadelphia is loved by you if you adore Philadelphia, and then part of what you do is you start looking around.
Subsequently Docomomo is a fantastic organization to belong to In case it turns out that what you like is buildings and modernism. So is your preservation alliance, so far as preservation goes. There are other foreign groups which demand preservation , like the group called Iconic Houses.
Who are programmers building these buildings for? Who are the customers? If a customer says,”I love this building, I want to keep it,” then the programmer is not going to rip it down. So it’s not just developers, it’s the entire mindset of what is beautiful and what’s important. Historical preservation is not merely the duty of the programmer but also of their customer.
And if you realize that a part of the reason you love the town isthe diversity, the individuals, and the architecture, then part of that is contemporary architecture. So architecture is already liked by you and you do not even recognize it.
There’s nothing new under sunlight, so all buildings now find out from the past. There is modernism incorporated in what architecture is currently doing today.
What is your advice to some modernism lover who wishes to have more involved in the preservation effort?
We do not want to wait till the final minute. We want to be proactive, and that is part of what we’re doing through our community.
You get a better impression than if you just write it off, if you look at a Brutalist construction. I think that it’s just that over time, lots of these buildings were not being used for what they were intended, or time has caught up with them. That’s the question: Why are these buildings worth rescuing? I’m not going to state every Brutalist building is worth saving, but we must check at saving some of these.
The bottom line is that it became undesignated as prominent through the Department of Licensing and Inspections, which should not have jurisdiction over that. We’re trying to work together with the programmer to incorporate the structure into whatever they’re doing.
However from an advocacy point of view, possibly the most critical thing we did, last year, was we got together with the Preservation Alliance and the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, and aided file for the preservation of this Giurgola House (Editor’s note: Also called the Shipley White House), which can be an important modernist home.
I think part of our job is to make people understand that these buildings aren’t ugly, and anyway, if they’re ugly can not you conserve an ugly construction?
What could you say to people who believe that way, writing off Brutalism as outdated or ugly?
We are not anti-development. We’re about preservation.
What we’ve worked on lately is known as”One Construction, One Brew.” Basically, we are trying to make architecture a little more enjoyable, so we have a professional visit a contemporary construction –this week we did the PSFS building–and we tour this, and talk to folks who understand about the building to discuss its importance. After that, we go and have a drink, so it’s a casual sort of affair.
There are really some fantastic examples of individuals using those buildings in ways that are new, while maintaining the architectural integrity of them. So it can be achieved; it’s a little harder than knocking down it, but all of us believe it is well worth it.
To mepersonally, Philadelphia is the birthplace of urban modernism. You had urban planning about the parkway, also Edmund Bacon, with Society Hill. All of that tried to make the town better.
Can you discuss the chance of demolition to modern buildings in Philly?
We had a wake for architect Victor Gruen’s Robinson Building (designed in 1946) last year. When you take a look at early images of the building, it was totally magnificent. It’d mosaics on front, and it was a sort of party of retail, of capitalism.
People say,”modern buildings aren’t comfortable” or even”modern furniture is not comfy.” That’s always the criticism. But if you understand the aesthetic, then they can be comfy.
What are a few other preservation projects Docomomo has undertaken?
And that has to do with education.
Macey told us about Docomomo’s attempts to preserve buildings in Philadelphia, why it is important to look or reusing–these buildings, and the modernism lover can get involved.
Part of what constitutes Philadelphia Philadelphia is the diversity of its buildings. Then the ethics and character of this town is gone if they all look the same again.
Dan Macey: It is a company hoping to conserve midcentury buildings, attracting focus to them, their structure, and their cultural significance.
What is great about Docomomo is it is not only an organization of professionals, it is not a lot of professors, it is only a lot of individuals who are interested in learning about modernism.
Philadelphia has a variety of architecture, but when folks think of Philadelphia, they think of their Victorian fashion, and they believe”we have to carry on the colonial houses,” which is important. But if you think about it, most are because they’re historically important, although not due to the architecture.
The issue with lots of Brutalism is that they strove to make a good deal of spaces that are concrete and hard, and there is not a great deal of green there. And the structure that is dwelling is greater, therefore these plazas are included. I think these buildings need to be looked at and reworked for the way we live. They need to be made somewhat greener, literally, with grass.
I believe part of our assignment around the world would be to say”stop” Not stop growth, but make programmers more aware of what they’re doing, and help these buildings are reused by them in a way which are functional in the lifestyle of today.
How do we work to preserve buildings that are modern ?
Look to start with. And then if you find an intriguing arrangement, google it. Find out a little bit about who constructed it, why, and also the time period. Note: This meeting was edited for clarity and length.
Frankly, they ripped parts of the city down to produce what they believed at the time went to be better for society. You can call it an experiment, whether it worked or not–and a lot of people say it did not, because it created buildings and gigantic brick or concrete pavilions.
At the time the city was doing this–around the midcentury–they hired notable architects like I.M. Pei to perform the sorts of things that were so revolutionary at the time. And they continue to be interesting visually, and also to make a fantastic skyline for town.
Can you talk Docomomo’s previous efforts to conserve modern structures?
You could claim that we’re the birth of modern skyscrapers due to the PSFS building, which was the very first modern skyscraper, built in 1932. Who imagined that construction would be of what a skyscraper is today, iconic? At the time, it was so innovative.
I believe now in the light of those cities–and Philadelphia is among these cities–who are growing, with developers anxious to construct new structures and put people in various kinds of home, and the older buildings do not lend themselves to this, so developers are more reticent. Talking about the various fashions, how has the modern movement shaped Philly?