True Green Cities / Celebrating Four Years – “Isn’t MCM So Dang Cool?”

The Gateway Arch looks different from every vantage point.

The Gateway Arch looks different from every vantage point.

It’s been four years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. Many people are finding new ways to integrate historic preservation and green building practices, which makes my new venture a delightful and intellectually inspiring one. This is blog five of my anniversary week.

Isn’t MCM So Dang Cool?

Last week I attended a truly fabulous symposium in St. Louis – Mid Century Modern Structures Symposium sponsored by NCPTT and the World Monuments Fund. Franklin Mares, Deputy Superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial set the tone for the week by welcoming us all and proclaiming, “Isn’t MCM so dang cool?” And yes, we all think it is, which is one of the reasons I suspect many of us find ourselves working on it.

Some warehouses in Laclede's Landing which all have been adaptively reused.

Some warehouses in Laclede’s Landing, which all have been adaptively reused.

Walter Sedovic, a New York-based preservation architect at Walter Sedovic Architects, discussed the “Mad Men” phenomenon, which has certainly revived an interest in the late 50s and 60s. He reminded us that however amazing and cool we might find the Arch, it was the site of a former cast iron district, some of which remains adjacent to the Arch in the Leclede’s Landing neighborhood. But that is one of the great ironies of the modern era. Many modern buildings, neighborhoods and even icons replaced earlier buildings and neighborhoods that we would consider historic today. But that is all part of the evolution of our cultural and architectural history.

“The Architecture of Today”

The Arch and Laclede's Landing with some of the remaining cast iron buildings.

The Arch and Laclede’s Landing with some of the remaining cast iron buildings.

Presentations on new modern materials and new building types rounded out the symposium.   Caroline Guay, a conservator at Conservation Solutions explained how Googie architecture reflected the optimism of the time and helped launch space movement design. Evan Kopelson of Vertical Access and Nancy Hudson of Robert Silman Assocations shared their examination of the Tent of Tomorrow at Philip Johnson’s 1964 NY World’s Fair Pavilion, identifying damaged cables and steel structure corrosion on these structures, which were intended to be temporary, but are still standing 51 years later. Conservator Mary Jablonski shared the work her students in the Columbia Conservation Workshop conducted on objects made from Fiber Reinforced Plastics (FRP) at the 1964 World’s Fair. It was a wonder material that was intended to be “A better way to a more carefree life.” They conserved an original plastic (polyester resin) bench for the Queen’s Museum.  Some of the original aluminum frames of the benches have had their FRP slats removed and replaced with wood, which was not a good alteration and people have discovered that the FRP is infinitely more comfortable than the wood.

Modernism at Risk

Richard H. Mandel House. The first International Style house designed by Edward Durell Stone, a few years before the A. Conger Goodyear House which is a WMF Modernism at Risk project.

Richard H. Mandel House. The first International Style house designed by Edward Durell Stone, a few years before the A. Conger Goodyear House which is a WMF Modernism at Risk project. (I prepared the National Register nomination for this groundbreaking building, built in 1935.)

David E. Bright from Knoll discussed the Modernism at Risk program they have been working on with the World Monuments Fund. This signature advocacy effort brings modern buildings forward. As per their website, WMF’s concern for modern sites began in the 1980s, but the establishment of WMF’s Modernism at Risk Initiative, launched in 2006 with founding sponsor Knoll, allows WMF to take a more active role in addressing the distinct threats facing great works of modern architecture around the world. This program focuses on advocacy, conservation, and public education and has highlighted buildings by Rudolph, Breuer, Edward Durell Stone (A. Conger Goodyear House) and other luminaries across the world.

Walking around Saarinen's masterpiece.

Walking around Saarinen’s masterpiece.

Carol Dyson, Chief Architect at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, suggested that in considering MCM commercial modernism, maybe storefront evolution is okay and should be honored. Holly Hope, from the Arkansas SHPO, discussed the features of ranch houses built from 1945-1970, which make them significant and discussed the National Register listing of Ranch House neighborhoods around the country, from Arkansas to Georgia, North Carolina to Oregon.

I was sorry to see this symposium end. I have not been this re-energized by a conference in quite some time. Perhaps it was the combination of new thinking and fun building types, which helped warm us up after such a long, harsh winter, or even the examination of the buildings from our childhood. I find something actually quite joyful in Mid Century Modern architecture and even find it in Brutalism. The new forms, the new materials, the new building types, the hope in a new world – it offers endless possibilities for an architect with a preservation and sustainability focus.

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True Green Cities – Celebrating Four Years – Materials , Mardi Gras, Marfa and the Big Mac

Visitors are encouraged to touch the base of the stainless steel Arch.

Visitors are encouraged to touch the base of the stainless steel Arch.

It’s been four years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. Many people are finding new ways to integrate historic preservation and green building practices, which makes my new venture a delightful and intellectually inspiring one. This is blog four of my anniversary week.

Material Matters

Last week I attended a truly fabulous symposium in St. Louis – Mid Century Modern Structures Symposium sponsored by NCPTT and the World Monuments Fund. Gunny Harboe from Harboe Architects, a preservation architect from Chicago, gave the keynote entitled “Material Matters” which made me think about “materials” in various ways throughout the week.

The United Nations from Long Island City.  Is the Secretariat still the Secretariat even though its curtain wall has been replaced?

The United Nations from Long Island City. Is the Secretariat still the Secretariat even though its curtain wall has been replaced? (The Secretariat is the green rectangular building between the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings.)

Gunny believes that materials are a really important issue of materiality and modernism. They are a significant component of our collective cultural heritage. Many countries consider material and authenticity in a different manner such as the Shinto shrines in Japan, which are rebuilt every 20 years. Others accept intangible heritage in a way that Americans don’t know how to consider yet. For example, should we be saving our material culture such as the Mardi Gras or the Big Mac?! If so, how do we “preserve” it? I read recently that McDonald’s would soon be eliminating the Big Mac! What?! Now I probably haven’t had a Big Mac in 25 years. But just the thought that if I did start eating meat again I could never have a Big Mac again actually sort of freaked me out. And I thought, should I go eat one last one despite the fact I haven’t eaten meat since 1990? So when Gunny mentioned the Big Mac as an intangible piece of our material culture, which we might want to save or honor in some way, I wasn’t surprised.

Lever House had its curtain wall replaced and maintained its landmark status. Photo courtesy SOM.

Lever House had its curtain wall replaced and still maintained its landmark status. Photo courtesy SOM.

Lever House and the UN Secretariat, both modernist iconic skyscrapers, have both received new curtain walls. Have we lost something with the loss of that original material? Many people suggest that modern architecture is different than traditional. We are sometimes dealing with materials that are experimental or hazardous or even both. Perhaps it’s the concept that is more significant. Gunny did not necessarily agree with that idea. With the Pantheon, the Romans built for the ages – shouldn’t this be our standard too?

If we landmark something, does that mean we are supposed to preserve it in perpetuity. Who should decide what stays and what goes? Lever House was landmarked before its curtain wall was replaced. Does this mean we have an evolving standard of landmarking?

When Should Sustainability Trump Significance?

The FBI Headquarters may not be "historic" in a traditional sense, but why should all this concrete go to a landfill?

The FBI Headquarters may not be “historic” in a traditional sense, but why should all this concrete go to a landfill? Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Ann Dilcher from Quinn Evans Architects discussed many of their midcentury modern projects. The one that generated the most discussion was their historic significance evaluation of the FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC. In conjunction with the GSA they determined it was NOT eligible for the NR. While I sympathize with their evaluation and I certainly didn’t spend the time they did digging into its history and significance, it did get me thinking that not wanting to send all that concrete to the landfill should be as important a reason to keeping a building as who worked there or what shape the floor plans were. Should we be reconsidering our “landmark” designations? In our new climate change world, can a building be a landmark simply because it “is?”

Art and the Artist

The artillery shed which houses Donald Judd's art. Are the windows art as well?

The artillery shed which houses Donald Judd’s art. Are the windows art as well? Photo courtesy The Chinati Foundation.

James Parks, an engineer at Simpson Gumperz Heger, presented an engineering analysis of art and the artillery sheds housing of Donald Judd’s art in Marfa, Texas. The sheds house art that was created to fit within it. Judd designed and installed the windows himself which brings up a significant question – can the windows be retrofitted or replaced to improve energy efficiency and protection of the art work in the buildings or are the windows themselves also considered art?

We are finding that considering how to restore modernism and how to define modernism is as exciting and intellectually stimulating as originally designing modernism must have been.

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True Green Cities / Celebrating Four Years – Oh That Glorious Gateway Arch

Sunrise at the Gateway Arch.

Sunrise at the Gateway Arch.

It’s been four years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. Many people are finding new ways to integrate historic preservation and green building practices, which makes my new venture a delightful and intellectually inspiring one. This is blog three of my anniversary week.  And it’s Earth Day, a fine day to celebrate this glorious memorial.

The Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial 

The Arch frames the Old Courthouse Museum, now the Arch's Visitor Center.

The Arch frames the Old Courthouse Museum, now the Arch’s Visitor Center.

Last week I attended a truly fabulous symposium in St. Louis – Mid Century Modern Structures Symposium sponsored by NCPTT and the World Monuments Fund. One of the best parts of the symposium was spending our days adjacent to the Arch. Our conference space in the Drury Plaza Hotel in the former American Zinc Building looked out over the Arch.  For years I have been obsessed with the Space Needle in Seattle ( a contemporary of the Arch) and since my first visit to the Arch in 2010, I have hoped to get back here.

The Gateway Arch, looking up or down?

The Gateway Arch, looking up or down?

We heard from many professionals involved in managing, maintaining, and evaluating the Arch. We heard from architectural historians about the Arch’s place in St. Louis and modernism. And while I was thrilled to have this insight into all these important aspects,  there is nothing, absolutely nothing, like walking around the Arch (even with its landscape under construction as it is brilliantly remade), looking up at it from every possible vantage, and being encouraged to touch it. If you have never been there, please figure out a time and way to visit. The era of Modernism was a time of great hope and optimism, and these structures from worlds’ fairs (like the Space Needle) and memorials to our great founders (like Jefferson with the Arch) demonstrate how we can eloquently use modern materials and forms to express that hope and optimism.

Why an Arch?

Heading to the Arch past the Old Cathedral.

Heading to the Arch past the Old Cathedral.

Much has been written about the competition for the Arch and father and son Eliel and Eero Saarinen competing for its design. Designed in 1947/48, its construction did not begin until 1962 (and Eero Saarinen had just died unexpectedly). It opened in 1965. If you would like more details please peruse the National Park Service’s website. For an incisive architectural evaluation, Helene Lipstadt’s essay entitled “Co-Making the Modern Monument” in Modern Architecture in St. Louis is a great place to start.

There is a nice brochure available at the Arch bookstores entitled “Building The Arch: The Improbable Dream.” I will excerpt a piece about its form that is quite interesting:

A certain uneasiness mingled with anticipation in the autumn air over St. Louis as the days of October 1965 ticked away. The Gateway Arch stood one section from completion, two colossal tusks aching to touch 630 feet in the sky. The gap between them was an arm’s length, two and one-half feet. The section that had to fit it was eight feet long. Hydraulic jacks, exerting 625,000 pounds of force, would have to pry the arcs farther apart. Such a thing had never been done before.

The catenary curve of the Gateway Arch looks different from every vantage point.

The catenary curve of the Gateway Arch looks different from every vantage point.

This wasn’t like building a pyramid, a dome, an obelisk or even the world’s tallest office building. Architect Eero Saarinen had taken a mannerism of nature – a catenary curve, the arc of a chain suspended from two points – turned it upside down, and left it to an army of engineers and workers to figure out how to build it. The Arch had to be reinvented twice – first in Saarinen’s imagination, then for real beside the Mississippi River. (copyright 2010 Jefferson National Parks Association)

The Arch is Not Concrete

So maybe you will laugh at me, and some have. But others have agreed with me. Prior to my first trip to St. Louis in 2010 as part of a summer road trip, I had never really researched or read much about the Arch. I always admired both Saarinens, and have visited the soaring airports, their churches in Columbus, Indiana and their Kleinhan’s Music Hall in Buffalo – all masonry or concrete buildings. Until I actually saw it, I had always thought the Arch was concrete, or even possibly limestone. But I had never really thought about it. As we were driving over the Mississippi and I saw the Arch for the first time I screamed, “EXPLETIVE, the Arch is stainless steel!!!” My companions thought it was hysterical that I didn’t know it was stainless steel. But I dare you to open your mind and look at it in photographs and even in person at certain times – tell me it couldn’t possibly be concrete!  Who would have designed it out of stainless steel?!

Clouds framing the Gateway Arch.

Clouds framing the Gateway Arch. The tiny dots at the top are the windows at the observation deck.

With that said, to see this structure, touch it, and photograph it is to witness the wonder of its stainless steel. For the past 15 years the National Park Service has been evaluating every component of the Arch – from its landscape and access to its structural capacity, its life safety and fire safety, and its need for maintenance and restoration.

We heard from Al O’Bright, the National Park Service Historical Architect for the Arch, that it has taken 15 years to evaluate just the stains and markings on the Arch because cyclical inspections and routine inspections were not considered in the design. Its reverse catenary shape makes it very difficult to observe and access the exterior stainless steel, in which all of the panels are welded together. Ultimately, specialized rock climbers ascended the Arch to make actual observations and take detailed photographs.

Yes, the arch is made of stainless steel.

Yes, the arch is made of stainless steel.

We heard from Steve Kelly, an architect and structural engineer who has studied the Arch for 10 years. He and his former firm, Wiss Janney Elstner, reviewed precedents to assist in determining if the Arch should be or needed to be cleaned. They looked at similar stainless steel monuments and buildings which had been cleaned including the Chrysler Building built in 1929 (light detergent), the Unisphere at the NY World’s Fair built in 1964 (blasted with water), the Inland Steel Building, American Zinc Building, and the relatively new Air Force Memorial.

We heard from scientist Catherine Houska of TMR Consulting that some of the staining was from de-icing salt and that de-icing salt can travel up to 1.2 miles. Given that a major highway has run adjacent to the Arch for decades, this is not surprising. She also reminded us that stainless steel is stain-less NOT stain-free!

All roads lead to the Arch in St. Louis.

All roads lead to the Arch in St. Louis.

We heard from preservation architect Anne Weber and fire protection engineer Jennifer Wiley that their use of performance based analysis with 3-D modeling suggests that if there is a fire at one base or side of the arch, visitors at the top should have more than enough time in most cases to descend the staircase to safety on the other side.

And we heard from Mary Reid Brunstrom, an architectural historian from Washington University, that the arch has become an indispensable symbol of St. Louis, which is often called “Parabola City.” Everything in St. Louis references or points to the Arch. Happy 50th Birthday to one of the great architectural wonders on the planet, the Gateway Arch, designed and envisioned by masterful modernist architect, Eero Saarinen. And Happy Earth Day too!

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