ARC 591- Spec Topics: Preserving Modern Heritage

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Course Details

Course No.: 22256

Department: Architecture

Semester: 2014 Spring

Location: Hayes B – 07

Meeting Day(s): Mondays

Meeting Time: 6:00 - 8:40 PM

Faculty: Campagna

Preserving modern heritage presents architects, planners and preservationists with exciting challenges and fundamental dilemmas. We will use international and local case studies to evaluate the significance of modernism (sites from the early twentieth century to 1975) and its unique preservation needs and philosophies.  The class will discuss the aspects of modernism which make it one of the most difficult periods to evaluate and reuse including questions of authenticity, the use of experimental materials and techniques, the use of hazardous and toxic materials, the ability to build disposable buildings and materials, the construction of the largest buildings and complexes ever built, and some of the most energy inefficient buildings ever built.

According to the Department of Energy Study on commercial buildings in 2003, the most energy efficient commercial buildings in the country were built before 1920 and after 1990, which would lead us to surmise that the most inefficient buildings in the country were built in the years in between.  And given the fact that 85% of our commercial building portfolio in the United States was built after 1945, the assumption can then easily be made that buildings from the modern era are the biggest problem we have from a climate change standpoint.  Many would like you to think they’re also the biggest problem we have in terms of aesthetics.  Not only culturally, but also physically, the distance between past and present has become ever shorter, making preservation efforts increasingly more urgent while at the same time appearing far more dramatic because they are often experienced within the same generation as a building’s construction.  Do we need more time to appreciate buildings of our own recent past?

Western New York has a significant portfolio of modern design including International Style, Mid Century Modern and Brutalism from Frank Lloyd Wright’s now demolished Larkin Administration Building to the Saarinens’ Kleinhan’s Music Hall, Emery Roth’s Tishman Building, SOM’s Albright- Knox Gallery addition and Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments.   Students will focus on the principle that modern design merits the attention and preservation received by earlier periods, and will choose modern examples in the region to register on the international Docomomo modernism registry.  (See The class will further include site visits, readings and discussion, and a final preservation design project.