“Modernism at Risk, Modern Solutions for Saving Modern Landmarks” – a feature exhibit at this year’s IIDEX of large-scale photographs by noted photographer Andrew Moore – includes interpretative panels with five case studies that explore the role designers play in preserving Modern landmarks.
The five examples represent the rise of Modernism from its early development during the interwar years in Europe (1930 ADGB Trade Union School, Bernau, Germany, by Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer) to its appearance in the United States and other countries (1939 A. Conger Goodyear House, Old Westbury, New York, by Edward Durell Stone) to its proliferation during America’s postwar boom and later, often in the form of everyday civic buildings (1954 Grosse Pointe Public Library, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan by Marcel Breuer; to 1958 Riverview High School, Sarasota, Florida, by Paul Rudolph; and 1972 Kent Memorial Library, Suffield, Connecticut, by Warren Platner).
All five buildings adhere to core principles of Modernism, including a departure from traditional building types, functionally derived plans, the integration of the arts and design disciplines, and the use of industrial materials and new technologies. Although individual in expression, these sites also share many physical attributes commonly associated with Modern design.
Each employs simple, geometric forms, machine-made and prefabricated components, and new expressions of space, such as the extensive use of glass to achieve a high level of transparency between interior and exterior.
Most importantly, each of these Modern landmarks received the attention of architects and designers intent on preventing their destruction. From a blog created to connect architects and spur them to action to a studio project encouraging students to explore adaptive- use possibilities to the rediscovery and rebirth of a forgotten Bauhaus masterpiece, these case studies reveal the many ways the design community is working to sustain the legacy of Modern architecture— one endangered building at a time.
The World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk Initiative was launched in 2006 with the support of founding sponsor Knoll, Inc. to bring international attention and resources to address the key threats and challenges facing many Modern building only decades after their design and construction: demolition, inappropriate alteration, perceived obsolescence, and public apathy, as well as the technical problems associated with conserving innovative materials and design features.
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