maandag 1 augustus 2016

Heritage that was rightly renovated

Does apply to buildings: the older, the more valuable? But what about the value of architectural heritage that's not so old? What do we do with these buildings when they deteriorate?

Seagram Building, New York
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1958)

Schunck Glaspaleis at Heerlen organizes the exhibition “Mies & The heritage of modernism” (“Mies & De erfenis van het modernisme”), until August 7, 2016. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was an architect, born in Aachen in 1886 and who died in Chicago in 1969. He is an important representative of an architectural movement – and in a cultural movement in the broad sense – which is referred to as ‘modernism’.

The modernism of Mies and his fellow thinkers is reflected in a rigorous style with clean lines and a sober decor. Mies’s slogan was “less is more”. Modernistic buildings were contructed following that slogan roughly between 1920 and 1960. The most remarkable buidlings from modernism are the skyscrapers in American cities, such as the renowned Seagram Building in New York by Mies, dating back to 1958.

Schunck Glaspaleis, Frits Peutz (1933)

Schunck Glaspaleis – Interior

Also the Schunck Glaspaleis (Glass Palace), designed by Frits Peutz in 1933 with its striking mushroom-shaped columns, can be assigned to modernism. This cultural center was origninally a department store. The picture above foto was taken at the opening of the Mies exhibition by Theo Bovens, Governor of the Province of Limburg, on 9 April 2016.

You love it or you hate it
Today, we have a double relationship to modernist buildings. Because we are not 'modern', but 'post-modern'. In addition to the super tight line and the Spartan decor, architects (and other artists) have introduced arcs, curves, other kinds of playfulness, and influences of all time. This eclectic style would be an abomination to Mies.

Some find modernist buildings wonderful and are prepared to pay a lot for an original modernist house. They appreciate the style's character and discipline. Others find the modernist style sterile and cold. They prefer to live in a 'cozy' contemporary or maybe a pre-modern (traditional) house. They appreciate the character of the contemporary playfulness.

Modernism in decline
Many modernist buildings have lost their original function and slowly decay. The question is: let it waste away, demolish, or renovate? The answer is not obvious “we must preserve modernist heritage”. Instead, it is as if society assigns more value to buildings as they get older. And as if we are less prepared to renovate buildings as they are younger.
And then the relatively young modernist buildings come off badly.

The exhibition on Mies van der Rohe stands up for the restoration of modernist heritage. This involves very specificly six buildings, designed by Mies, which have recently been restored - these buildings were treated a lot better than many other modernistic buildings. It is explained how the exterior and the interior of the buildings have been restored.
I shortly introduce these six buildings.

Villa Tugendhat, Brno, Tsjechiƫ (1930)

Villa Tugendhat – Interior

1. Villa Tugendhat
The house in Brno in the Czech Republic, which Mies designed for Grete and Fritz Tugendhat in 1930, is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It had right away air conditioning installed, for those days quite exceptional. During the restoration, the heating system was connected to the municipal heating system.

860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, Chicago (1951)

860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments
Interior with Lake Michigan view

2. 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments
This twin pair apartment towers of 26 floors in Chicago, built in 1951, is widely regarded as the prototype of skyscrapers that are built from steel and glass. The recent restoration covered the facades, lighting plan, doors, elevators and lobbies.

Verseidag, Krefeld (1930)

3. Verseidag
In 1930, Mies designed an office and warehouse for Verseidag in Krefeld, a company that now makes textiles for high-end industrial applications. The building allows natural light in and lets the staff look out.

S.R. Crown Hall, Chicago (1956)

S.R. Crown Hall – Interior

4. S.R. Crown Hall
This building for the Illinois Institute of Technology from 1956 houses Mies' architecture school. The S.R. Crown Hall is considered one of Mies' masterpieces and one of the most important buildings of modernism. The restoration was mostly related to overdue painwork, which caused corrosion of the steel structure.

Farnsworth House, Plano, Illinois (1951)

Farnsworth House – Interior

5. Farnsworth House
This iconic house near Chicago was completed in 1951 for Edith Farnsworth, a kidney specialist who wanted to practice her hobbies here: playing violin, translating poetry and enjoy nature. The restoration mainly concerned the steel and concrete structure.

Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel of St. Savior, Chicago (1952)

6. Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel of St. Savior
This chapel from 1952 stands on the site of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago as a place where students, who are interested in the future of technology can make a connection between science and religion. The restoration involved almost all parts of the building.

It is no coincidence that neither of the pictures above shows people. That matches the tight vision of Mies van der Rohe on his own buildings, "less is more".

 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969)

More information about the exposition (in Dutch): 
More information about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: 
This is a repost of my (Dutch) May 9, 2016 post.
Read my May 20, 2013 blog post about the reason why of my English reposts.

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