For the past few decades, our colleagues who advocated for the preservation of great twentieth-century architecture have been successful. They have not only saved important buildings—think the De La Warr Pavilion in England or the Century Plaza Hotel in my hometown of Los Angeles—but have also, in the process, raised public consciousness of their significance and helped preserve the ideas of optimism, innovation, and progress that they contain. These colleagues have my admiration and appreciation!
Still, despite these successes and a considerable amount of work on issues facing practitioners, done early on by a number of key organizations, the conservation field has lagged behind in the research necessary for the development of best-practice solutions for the maintenance, repair, and renovation of these structures. Working closely with international partners, our Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI) attempts to reinvigorate some of those efforts that began in the 1990s. We seek to bring a strategic focus to these challenges through a program of research, through the development and dissemination of knowledge intended to fill identified gaps in practice, and through training and education efforts. This edition of Conservation Perspectives is a small piece of this effort.
It is, in fact, the goal of the CMAI to address some of these challenges—and one of the ways in which the CMAI seeks to do this is through model field projects, the first of which is our Eames House Conservation Project. Kyle Normandin, who directs that project for the GCI, describes in an article of his own how the Institute is working with the Charles and Ray Eames Preservation Foundation to assess the current condition of this iconic work of modern residential architecture, and to assist in the development of a long-term conservation management plan for the house, in the process demonstrating how existing conservation methods can be applied to modern cultural heritage sites.
Moving from the micro to the macro, Danilo Matoso Macedo and Sylvia Ficher in their article examine some of the preservation issues connected to Brasilia, a city planned and constructed under the principles of modernism; the article explores how today, over a half-century since its inception, Brasilia must grapple with preserving its founding character while accommodating the tremendous growth that has followed its establishment. Growth and change are inevitable, and Charles Birnbaum in his article on modern landscapes argues that preservation is more likely to be successful when the public is engaged and when feasible alternatives to destruction are advanced. And in this newsletter's spirited dialogue, Catherine Croft, Hubert-Jan Henket, and Johannes Widodo bring differing perspectives to questions of temporality and materiality in the quest to preserve the built heritage created in the Modern era. I hope you enjoy this edition of the newsletter and find it valuable.
Timothy P. Whalen