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Jackie Craven

The Modern Historic?

By May 2, 2013

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May is Historic Preservation Month in the USA, so expect a flurry of walking tours and special festivals to celebrate America's Colonial and Victorian architecture.The Walter Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts

Although great progress is being made toward preserving architecture from the 1700s and 1800s, newer buildings often suffer neglect. So, many preservationists have broadened the definition of historic to include modernist architecture like the Bauhaus style Gropius House shown here.

What do you think? Is it time for historians to embrace the 20th century?

Photo of the Walter Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts © Jackie Craven

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May 22, 2007 at 1:35 pm
(1) Kyle says:

Yes, of course they should be saved, buildings like these built in the 1920′s and 1930′s have just as much, if not more, historical importance than a house built in the 1800′s. To many of these modernist buildings are being neglected caused by architectural ignorance in this country.

May 23, 2007 at 12:37 pm
(2) Deborah B. Merklin says:

Generally, any well-built and architecturally rich specimin of period architecture should be preserved. The issue always is: “who is going to pay for it?”.

May 23, 2007 at 2:34 pm
(3) Mike says:

Anything that took a significant amount of thought and detail (as opposed to a spec house) is worth saving. However most don’t see a building like the Bauhaus house as rich enough in detail to allow it to stand out. Clearly this particular house should be saved for its foresight, but I must say that many modernist structures are TOO clean of detail and too easy to replicate with today’s construction techniques (unlike many historic structures) to warrant preservation funds.

May 23, 2007 at 7:15 pm
(4) Paradigm Design says:

Of course it’s saddly all about money. 3 years ago, Mies’ Farnsworth estate went on the open market and sold to a developer who wanted to divide the property, moving the house to facilitate that. Last we knew, it was saddly allowed, because no other buyers stepped up to the plate. http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/
Sorry Mies, the general populace only knows Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. They should go visit the aged Talliesin East, and see its’ sad state.

May 29, 2007 at 9:24 am
(5) Vinmar says:

I fail to see how the quantity of ornamentation is a valid criterion for preservation. This turns a quantitative measure into a qualitative judgment.

Would the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Guggenheim, the Seagram Building or Lever House, just for examples, be unworthy of landmark status, while some mediocre Beaux Arts pile deserve it? Preservation should reflect historical significance. Any aesthetic judgment must be made in terms of the building’s merits compared to others built in the same style, not as a preference for one style or another.

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