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  #1  
Old Posted Mar 1, 2013, 11:44 PM
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When does modern become historic?

Montgomery’s ‘Mad Men’ modern buildings — are they worth protecting?

By Katherine Shaver, Published: February 28

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/...e3d_story.html



Even with its glistening emerald-green glass, the boxy 1960s-era Zalco Building in downtown Silver Spring is hardly noticed by many passersby, let alone thought of as a historic structure.

- a shining example of International style. It’s time, they say, for it and other “mid-century modern” buildings and homes — those with sleek, boxy designs from the 1950s and 1960s — to be considered for historic preservation.

- Popular interest in mid-century architecture and interior design has surged in the past few years with the success of the “Mad Men” TV series. But architectural preservationists began paying closer attention over the past decade as more modernist buildings passed the 50-year mark, traditionally the minimum age for consideration as historic.

- some people consider modernist buildings too young — and, in some cases, too plain or ugly — to warrant protection. It’s not about age or looks. It’s about preserving critical pieces of architectural history from the post-World War II population and building boom that transformed suburbs such as Montgomery from rural bedroom communities into dense subdivisions and commercial districts.

- The buildings generally lack classical details such as columns and ornamentation, and often have construction materials — concrete, glass panels, steel frames — embedded in the design. Mid-century modern houses typically have open spaces, a casual feel and extra-large windows to mesh living spaces with nature.

- Planners will focus on those designed by noteworthy architects, those who have won major architectural awards and designs that best exemplify modernism.

- Montgomery appears to be at the forefront of trying to fully document mid-century modern architecture. The District’s historic preservation office published a sample of significant mid-century modern buildings in 2008, but no citywide analysis has been done, said Rebecca Miller, executive director of the D.C. Preservation League.

- mid-century houses appeal to people looking for a more casual, open feel, often at more moderate prices.

- people soon will appreciate the historical significance of mid-century modern like they now cherish the Victorian homes and art deco buildings once considered outdated and ugly.













http://montgomeryplanning.org/blog-d...tgomery-Modern

Last edited by Private Dick; Mar 2, 2013 at 3:33 AM.
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Old Posted Mar 2, 2013, 12:30 AM
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Once you start to see buildings from an era, which are generally considered "ugly", reach the point where they need major, expensive overhauls, and face systemic demolition, then they become "historic" and worth protecting.

This happened 50 years after WWI when we started systemically removing pre-war buildings because they were "ugly, ill-suited to our needs and overflowing with useless decoration", and it is happening now, 50 years after the rise of Internationalism and the over-abundance of it's stark, simple aesthetic.

The way many people look at early modern buildings today, with contempt and disdain and an opinion that they're ugly and should be demolished, is nearly identical to how many people 50 years ago looked at buildings constructed in classical styles.
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Old Posted Mar 2, 2013, 1:09 AM
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^ Interesting. Never looked at it that way. Makes sense to me.
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Old Posted Mar 2, 2013, 2:13 AM
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In ten or twenty years Internationalism and brutalism will be far more appreciated. There's no doubt about it.

My theory is that the farther away a building is from being built in living memory, the more liked it gets. More younger people born after the 60s and 70s seem to appreciate the architecture of their parents and grandparents. Nowadays, Mies Van Der Rohe buildings are seen as classics.
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Old Posted Mar 2, 2013, 5:55 AM
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Originally Posted by vid View Post
Once you start to see buildings from an era, which are generally considered "ugly", reach the point where they need major, expensive overhauls, and face systemic demolition, then they become "historic" and worth protecting.
That's an intriguing way to look at it. Historic designation often qualifies a building for a tax credit, which would assist in financing the major, expensive overhaul. In this light, it's actually counter-intuitive for building owners to oppose preservation, since it's in their best interests.

The reality is that most building owners believe a truly new building can generate much higher revenues than a refurbished International Style building. Even if they are aware of the revival of 50s/60s modernism in certain circles, it remains a small niche market of hipsters and Mad Men fans. (Man, that show has earned a place as a seminal work of American television).
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Old Posted Mar 2, 2013, 4:54 PM
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When you think about it, we don't do this to any other artform except architecture. There was no point where everyone got together and said, "music from the early 1900s is shitty! Let's destroy all the records from that era and never listen to it! Everyone should replace their tastes with Rock and Roll!"

While many people simply stopped listening to old music, there wasn't that determination to remove it from society, that vitriolic hatred directed against it, that we see with older architectural styles. But then music doesn't have architectural renaissances either.

Classical architectural styles came and went as well. I am sure in the same era, an Italianate style home was seen as rather ostentatious and unnecessarily showy compared to the contemporary, flat faces of Edwardian architecture.
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Old Posted Mar 2, 2013, 5:02 PM
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Always loved this style of buildings. Fenton St. in Silver Spring has many small retail and office buildings in this style, but with the amount of huge development around there I fear they'll eventually go.

The Safeways are problematic though because while they're cool looking they're all set back behind huge parking lots. They're going away too:





The third one is gone, as is the first one:

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  #8  
Old Posted Mar 2, 2013, 6:31 PM
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We have these debates because unlike art, which arguably exists for its own sake, buildings must be functional, lived in, and are part of the public environment.

Rather than aesthetics, it's more concrete to view the debate over preserving or demolishing as a debate over the pecuniary interest of renovating, maintaining, repurposing, or replacing a building and its cultural/historical/functional/built-in value.

Modern buildings suffer from comparison with pre-war buildings because the craft and materials involved in the construction of pre-war buildings are irreplaceable or extremely cost prohibitive, whereas economy and scalability define modern construction methods.

The debate over brutalism encompasses a lot of these issues. Those buildings are reaching the age of superannuation.
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Old Posted Mar 2, 2013, 10:53 PM
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We only started to declare things historical when, after the great neglect of the 1930s and the destruction of World War II, several older buildings became dilapidated and despised. You'll likely fin that as the modernist stock remains strong and very servicable that the need to declare modernist architecture historical as. . . well, not so pressing. It's likely after a period of neglect and/or war that such a need will have a space.
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Old Posted Mar 2, 2013, 11:45 PM
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As a lot of other forumers have said, on an individual case it depends a lot on the quality of the original design and construction, as well as necessary maintenance. High modernism is beautiful at its best, but there are plenty of mediocre specimens too. 50 years seems to be about right for an architectural style to become 'reappreciated' and potentially in need to preservation. An architecture professor once told me that every style becomes reviled by the time it hits 30. It seems about right; I can't think of anything I find uglier than a lot of 80s postmodernism.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 12:59 AM
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Anything built after WW2 in America is expendable crap. Why pour money into soulless buildings when so much more is needed to be done in real historic neighborhoods. Not soulless mindless heartless post WW2 architecture. One 1850s building in need of repair is worth more than 20 modernist pieces of crap.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 1:46 AM
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This is a brutalist example (as internationalist buildings like Seagram and Lever House are already seen as classics) that was once thought as ugly but is now adored by many: Bank of Georgia Headquarters in Tbilisi

Before "ugly modern building":


After: (An architectural classic)




If a building looks old and run-down, most everybody will dislike it. If a building shoulld be renovated, it should be done with higher quality materials that do not appear different to the architect's original plan for the building (unless the solution is completely avant-garde, like the transformation of Tour AXA to Tour First)
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 4:15 AM
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I had no idea they fixed that one up, it looks great!

As for the generic, boring modern buildings that aren't worth saving, well:


http://www.flickr.com/photos/f33/

Are these not the same? Even if fixed up, are they really that architecturally significant? Does a cornice and brick wall make a building worth more to society than steel panels and a glass curtain wall?
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 3:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vid View Post
When you think about it, we don't do this to any other artform except architecture. There was no point where everyone got together and said, "music from the early 1900s is shitty! Let's destroy all the records from that era and never listen to it! Everyone should replace their tastes with Rock and Roll!"

While many people simply stopped listening to old music, there wasn't that determination to remove it from society, that vitriolic hatred directed against it, that we see with older architectural styles. But then music doesn't have architectural renaissances either.

Classical architectural styles came and went as well. I am sure in the same era, an Italianate style home was seen as rather ostentatious and unnecessarily showy compared to the contemporary, flat faces of Edwardian architecture.
THIS, this right here encapsulates so much of the debate of "what is and is not" historic. The truth is ANYTHING can be historic by default of being "old" the problem is buildings cannot just be left alone... They take up space and money, if you want to keep one around someone has to foot the bill for it.

The other problem with architecture is it is BIG. A person can choose not to goto to a museum to see something they consider tacky and tastless. But the same can not be said for a 50story office tower they may have to work in every day.

As far as they debate about "What you save" Well, while many know my owns views, There is something to be said about saving buildings that MEAN something. One has to consider Where something is and it's rarity. The images posted by Vid above look 'bland and generic' despite being classical buildings that I personally Love.

One asks, how many of these are left in the city? What is their history? Did anything important happen here? And where they examples of work by some important architect?

THESE Questions should be applied to many 'modern' and brutal buildings that are faceign demolition. I Have said this before and I will say it again, while I personally Abhore and Detest such buildings, one built, I shall fight with vigor to defend them from the choping block. Because it looks ugly is never ever a valid reason to destroy a building...

ALso...

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Originally Posted by photoLith View Post
Anything built after WW2 in America is expendable crap. Why pour money into soulless buildings when so much more is needed to be done in real historic neighborhoods. Not soulless mindless heartless post WW2 architecture. One 1850s building in need of repair is worth more than 20 modernist pieces of crap.
Ah... A curmudgeon after my own heart.
Yes thats it... FEEL they hate flow through you!!
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 4:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vid View Post
I had no idea they fixed that one up, it looks great!

As for the generic, boring modern buildings that aren't worth saving, well:


http://www.flickr.com/photos/f33/

Are these not the same? Even if fixed up, are they really that architecturally significant? Does a cornice and brick wall make a building worth more to society than steel panels and a glass curtain wall?
Do developers even use real brick walls anymore? And when was the last time someone built something with decorated cornices?

Even the fake stuff doesn't really seem the same as what it tries to replicate. I'd look at it as historic simply because we don't build like that anymore.


http://www.sweet-juniper.com/2012/04...s-suburbs.html
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 4:46 PM
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Do developers even use real brick walls anymore? And when was the last time someone built something with decorated cornices?
Developers do use real bricks, but they're expensive. In the past my city had several brickworks. Today we have none, and have to import bricks from other places.

When was the last time someone build something like these:


http://www.flickr.com/photos/bryanscott/


http://www.flickr.com/photos/vidioman/


http://www.flickr.com/photos/vidioman/
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 5:02 PM
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This may be a proper thread to post this. Although most on here must have read stuff about modernism and won't really learn anything from the documentary, I still found it very interesting, partly because it's from Arkansas, one of those random states widely rural, understand stereotyped as rednecks. I saw no rednecks in there, just professionals sensitive to their art, explaining it very well and normal people who opted for modern homes when it was kind of nerdy.
So it's worth seeing when you've got an hour to kill.

Quote:
"Clean Lines, Open Spaces: A View of Mid-Century Modern Architecture," a new documentary produced by AETN's Mark Wilcken, focuses on the construction boom in the United States after World War II. Sometimes considered cold and unattractive, mid-century modern designs were a by-product of post-war optimism and reflected a nation's dedication to building a new future. This new architecture used modern materials such as reinforced concrete, glass and steel and was defined by clean lines, simple shapes and unornamented facades.

The documentary looks at examples of mid-century modern architecture around the state, from the University of Arkansas's Fine Arts Center designed by Arkansas native and internationally known architect Edward Durell Stone to the Tower Building in Little Rock, the Fulbright Library in Fayetteville that reflects the aesthetics of famous Chicago architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, and the abandoned Hotel Mountainaire, perfectly defining art moderne.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 5:24 PM
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Developers do use real bricks, but they're expensive. In the past my city had several brickworks. Today we have none, and have to import bricks from other places.

When was the last time someone build something like these:
I've never really seen anything like that church, so that might be a classic building in it's own right.

The 1st one it's certainly cool but I've seen a few 70s bowling alleys and roller rinks with a somewhat similar but cheaper designs.

The 2nd one doesn't seem all that unique to me and I wouldn't think of it as historic driving past it.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 5:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by photoLith View Post
Anything built after WW2 in America is expendable crap. Why pour money into soulless buildings when so much more is needed to be done in real historic neighborhoods. Not soulless mindless heartless post WW2 architecture. One 1850s building in need of repair is worth more than 20 modernist pieces of crap.
Please...


image source
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2013, 6:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by photoLith View Post
Anything built after WW2 in America is expendable crap. Why pour money into soulless buildings when so much more is needed to be done in real historic neighborhoods. Not soulless mindless heartless post WW2 architecture. One 1850s building in need of repair is worth more than 20 modernist pieces of crap.
To me this is as elegant as anything built before the 20th century:


mplssept201227 by afsmps, on Flickr
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