Some people say it was a failure since it destroyed the Caribbean for quite a time in Philadelphia, and many men and women say it hasn’t ever been revived. But that experiment stood.
We’re concerned about it being neglected by its owner, and it’s just another sort of problem you can have when somebody who owns a home gets old and can’t treat it anymore. So we’ve put it on the preservation list, which provides the historical designation to it, and obviously, it can not be ripped down.
I think today in the light of those cities–and Philadelphia is one of those cities–who are increasing, together with programmers anxious to construct new constructions and place people in various types of housing, the previous buildings do not lend themselves to that, so programmers are somewhat more reticent.
Well, we do not need to wait until the final minute. We are interested in being proactive, and that is part of what we’re doing via our community. We want to get to people before (demolition licenses ) occur.
The problem with a lot of Brutalism is they tried to create a great deal of spaces which are real and hard, and there is not a great deal of green there. And the structure that is dwelling is greater, therefore that these plazas are usually included. I think these buildings need to be looked in for how we live 16, and reworked. They must be made somewhat greener, actually, with much more grass.
Talking about the numerous styles, how has the contemporary motion shaped Philly?
I believe part of our job is to make people realize these buildings are not awful, and anyway, if they’re awful, why can not you preserve an ugly construction?
Curbed: Exactly what does Docomomo PHL do?
What is good about Docomomo is it’s not only an organization of professionals, it’s not a lot of professors, it is only a bunch of men and women who are interested in learning about modernism.
There are really some excellent examples of people using those structures in new ways, while preserving the integrity of them. So it can be done; it is a little tougher than knocking down it, but we all believe it’s well worth it.
You get a better opinion than if you simply write it off, Should you look at a Brutalist building. I believe that it’s simply that more than a lot of these buildings were not used for what they were intended, or period has caught up with them. That’s the question: are these buildings worth conserving? We must appear at saving some of them, although I’m not going to say every Brutalist construction is worth saving.
And should you realize that portion of the reason you adore the city is the diversity, the people, and also the architecture, then a part of this is modern structure. So architecture that is modern is liked by you and you do not even recognize it.
People today say,”modern buildings aren’t comfortable” or”modern furniture isn’t comfy.” That is obviously the criticism. But if you understand the aesthetic, then they can be comfy.
And again, that has to do with schooling.
How do we work to maintain buildings from Philly?
I believe part of our assignment around the world would be always to say”stop.” Not automatically stop development, but also make developers more aware of what they’re doing, and also help those buildings are reused by them in a way which are more functional in today’s lifestyle.
But from an advocacy viewpoint, probably the most critical thing we did, this past season, was we got with all the Preservation Alliance and the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, also assisted document for the preservation of this Giurgola House (Editor’s note: Also known as the Shipley White House), which is an important modernist house.
Honestly, they tore areas of the town down to make what they believed at the time went to be better. You can call it an experiment, if it worked or not–and also a great deal of individuals say since it created brick or concrete pavilions and buildings it didn’t.
Dan Macey: It’s a company attempting to conserve midcentury buildings, attracting attention to these, their design, and their cultural significance.
What would you say to individuals who think that way, writing off Brutalism too outdated or ugly?
I think you need to look at its purpose and the building — what it was built for. Maybe through the years it has not lived up to its expectation.
I think you need to consider why Philadelphia is loved by you if you like Philadelphia, and then part of what you do is that you get started looking around.
What we’ve worked on lately is known as”One Construction, One Brew.” Basically, we’re trying to make architecture a bit more enjoyable, thus we’ve got a professional visit a contemporary building–this week we did the PSFS building–and we tour it, and speak to people who know about the building to discuss its importance. After that, we go and have a drink, so it is a kind of affair.
Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Look around, first of all. And if you see an interesting structure, google it. Learn a little bit about who constructed it, why, and the period of time.
We recently sat down with Dan Macey, board member of the Philadelphia chapter of Docomomo along with resident/owner of a modern gem, the Margaret Esherick house in Chestnut Hill. Macey told us about Docomomo’s efforts to preserve modern buildings in Philadelphia, how the modernism lover can get involved, and why it is important to check or reusing — these buildings.
Part of what constitutes Philadelphia Philadelphia is the diversity of its own buildings. Then the city’s ethics and character can be gone, if all of them look the exact same again.
We had a wake for architect Victor Gruen’s Robinson Building (designed in 1946) previous year. It was stunning, When you take a close take a look at images of this building. It had mosaics on front, and it was a sort of celebration of capitalism, of retail.
Subsequently Docomomo is a superb organization if it ends up that what you enjoy is contemporary buildings and modernism. So is the preservation alliance, as far as preservation moves. There are other groups which involve modern preservation.
There’s nothing new under the sun, so all buildings learn from the past. There’s modernism integrated in what structure is currently doing.
But these are sort of items that are threatening such buildings, such as the Roundhouse (on Race Street). The city doesn’t understand what they wish to do with it, and most men and women consider it.
There are obviously three main major modern homes in Chestnut Hill: my home (that the Margaret Esherick House), also the Vanna Venturi House, along with the Giurgola House.
We’re not anti-development. We are about preservation.
At the time that the town was doing this–round the midcentury–they hired architects such as I.M. Pei to do the types of things which were so innovative at that moment. And they continue to create a wonderful skyline for the city, and to be interesting visually.
Can you talk about the risk of demolition to contemporary buildings from Philly?
What are some other preservation projects Docomomo has undertaken?
To me, Philadelphia is the birthplace of modernism. You’d urban planning on the parkway, also Edmund Bacon, together with Society Hill. All of that tried to make the town and society better through structures.
The main point is the fact that it became undesignated as prominent through the Department of Inspections and Licensing, that should not have jurisdiction over that. We’re trying to work with the developer to integrate the structure to whatever they are doing, which has yet to be determined.
Philadelphia has a variety of design, but if people think about Philadelphia, they consider the colonial style, and they think”we need to maintain the colonial homes,” that is important. But if you consider it, the majority of the Hawaiian structures we are saving are since they’re historically significant, although not because of the architecture.
You could claim that we are the arrival of modern skyscrapers because of the PSFS building, which was the very first modern skyscraper, built in 1932. Who imagined that building would be iconic of what there has become type of skyscraper today? At the time, it was so revolutionary.
Would you discuss Docomomo’s previous efforts to preserve modern structures?
What is your advice to your modernism enthusiast who would like to get more involved in the preservation campaign?
Who are these structures being built by developers for? Who are the clients? If a customer says,”I love this building, I need to keep it,” then the programmer isn’t going to tear it down. So it is not only programmers, it’s the whole mindset of what’s beautiful and what is important. Historic preservation isn’t just the responsibility of the developer but also of the customer.