The Dallas City Council has apparently removed the last roadblock to the demolition of the historic Praetorian Building in Downtown. For several months it has been known that the planned expansion of the Joule Hotel would remove Dallas' oldest skyscraper. Additional information on the building's history can be found at this Dallas Public Library site.
If you were wondering why it doesn't look familar to you, this is what it looks like today thanks to an "updating" it received in the 1960's. It has long been understood that the update did an unusual amount of damage to the building, including the complete removal of the massive terra cotta cornice at the top.
It's always a challenge to read about preservation issues when they are covered by "main stream" media because the really critical questions seem never to get asked, much less answered. In this article in the New York Times, residents of stunning historic neighborhoods in San Francisco are reported to be rebelling against the requirements associated with repair and renovation work taking place in existing historic districts. So much so, that there is fear it will undermine politically an on-going effort to protect many more nearby neighborhoods and structures. As preservation efforts are almost always grass roots efforts of the local residents, one can only wonder what has happened to bring about this sort of rebellion. Gleaning what I can from the article, I note the following hints:
There is a stated desire to ease the provisions of the Secretary of the Interiors Standards, with no indication those standards have been augmented with more stringent local provisions, or even that their interpretation or application has been especially narrow.
Among the modifications mentioned as likely to encounter resistance from those reviewing and enforcing the preservation district restrictions are window replacement and extending new garages into the building setback line established by the original structures. Such issues are among the most common and familiar to those working with historic districts.
The high cost of conformance is mentioned. One again, a concern voiced repeatedly by those working withing historic districts.
I am not there, but from this article I expect we have come across an example of:
The Preservation Generation Gap
It works something like this; an historic neighborhood sits in need of stabilization and investment. Urban Pioneer types come in using the stability and predictability of historic preservation provisions as an important tool to improve the neighborhood's apprearance, liveability and, of course, property values. This wave of residents seeks to reclaim the appeal that the neighborhood was once thought to have.
Judging from the article, this has been achieved. These neighborhoods are apparently successful by anyone's standards; architecturally engaging, well cared for and valuable. They are so nice that a new generation of residents seeks them out, residents who fully appreciate the beautiful neighborhood that has been created but who may not have a real feel for how it got that way. The value of the preservation component is substantially lost on them. Specifically because the neighborhood is so successful and subsequently so expensive, this new generation tends to be highly educated, financially successful, politically active and used to achieving success on their own terms. "Sure this is a beautiful neighborhood, and it will be even better when I .........."
In this way, a neighborhood might very well choke on its own success. A case that bears watching.
Not that I didn't get a really good education at UT in my day, but the school has certainly come a very long way since that time. Congratulations to Dean Steiner, the faculty and the staff. The announcement can be seen here.
I posted a report back in March about sensitive energy upgrades on the Empire State Building and how this looked to be a good example of how to upgrade an historic building without sacrificing historic significance. Now comes an update from the National Trust further outlining the ongoing success of this effort.
It's always gratifying when a major restoration project nears completion and the previously dreamed-of building becomes a reality. It has been announced that the historic Downtown Dallas Post Office and Federal Courthouse Building, now known as 400 North Ervay, will finally open to the public on October 7, a project where we began guiding the restoration and infrastructure work way back in 2007. Transfering the building from Federal ownership to private ownership entailed a Section 106 review process that was amazingly long and challenging, to say the very least. However, we were also blessed to be able to design and direct the restoration of the Federal Courtrooms and associated public areas, with their wood paneling, marble wainscoting and spectacular coffered and stenciled ceilings. Besides being steeped in history (this was Sarah T. Hughes Courtroom), it is one of the most beautiful interior spaces in Dallas. A glimpse of the project can be seen at the new 400 North Ervay website.
Our congratulations to Shawn Todd for his vision and his ceaseless energy in bringing this building back to the citizens of Dallas. As with any successful project it takes a team to pull it off. Other team members include:
Architecture Demerast of Dallas who are responsible for the design of the apartments themselves
Cindy Zelazny who provided interior design
James R. Thompson Construction who perfomed much of the restoration and infrastructure work
The construction arm of The Gables, who have constructed the apartments
BRW Architects who, under contract with the US Postal Service, updated the post office facility, guided restoration of the historic windows and restored the first floor public areas prior to the Federal Government's sale of the building.
I often find that folks can be confused by common historic preservation terminology as we tend to use the same 6 words over and over again, only arranged differently to mean different things. I have seen for instance, National Historic Landmarks and National Register of Historic Places used interchangably, but there is a very big difference. Whereas the National Register of Historic Places recognizes local significance and there are literally hundreds of thousands of buldings so listed, a National Historic Landmark denotes a building/site/structure of truly national significance and is reserved for the most important buildings. LIke the Capital Building in Washington, DC, or the Alamo. That's why the announcement of 14 new National Landmarks is a big deal and has roused me from blog lethargy.
I was particularly taken by the designation of the Olson Farmhouse, depicted here in this 1948 Andrew Wyeth painting entitled "Christina's World". A major American work by a major American artist, the house in the painting exists in Cushing, Maine and is depicted in other Wyeth works. Andrew Wyeth is even buried on the grounds. A fitting tribute.
During this spring break season, many of those scheduled to graduate in May with architecture degrees will be using this time to get their job hunting in gear. It's still a very competitive market, so I though I would make a couple of recommendations based on the applications that come to me.
1) The internet and the proliferation of firm websites provide a wealth of information for new graduates to research and find potential employers. Use this information to the fullest. No, I mean really use it to the fullest. Like, read them and know something about the firm you are applying to. Before the internet, this kind of information was essentially unavailable for most firms. Only the largest and most prestigious had news articles and monographs about their work and their approach. Consequently, new graduates would broadcast their resumes' with generic cover letters and everyone knew why and expected that.
No longer. Using my own experiences as an example, anyone who has obtained our email address has likely found it on the "Careers" portion of our website. Our website clearly illustrates that we have a specialty. Even the Careers page refers to "those who share our passion". So anyone who harvests our email address but sends a cover letter discussing their highly develped and cutting edge design skills with no mention whatsoever of how they think that makes them a better preservationist suggests that they haven't been paying attention. That is no longer a job application, it's spam. Not the best first impression. Potential employers understand that most new graduates will have little or no relevant experience with whatever the firm's specialty might be. Face that head-on and acknowledge that you have at least toured their website. Perhaps suggest that you recognize what valuable experience that working on schools/office buldings/large houses/apartments/churches/airports/warehouses/hospitals/museums/Wal-Marts might be in your overall development as a well-rounded architect.
2) It is testament to the quality of our universities that students come from all over the world to study in the US. And it's great that many talented students seek to stay and practice here. I don't know of any firm that does not value cultural and ethnic diversity. However, for those students for whom English might not be their first language, it is important that the cover letter be coherent and free of grammatical or spelling errors. That's because there is no reason for it to be otherwise. For the cover letter (and any other written material in your resume) there has almost certainly been plenty of time and opportunity to get these things worked out. Get a native English-speaking instructor of fellow student to proof read it for you. It's not an issue of not knowing the language, but the suggestion of lack of prepartion, of thoroughness or attention to detail. It's evidence of an opportunity wasted and that's not good. There are so many skills in architecure that a new graduate is not expected to know and that must be learned over time. However, attention to detail, checking your own work and seizing onto available resources to improve your work are qualities that would be appropriate in school and that all graduates are expected to have. And I don't mean to pick on anyone. This admonition applies to everyone, including the native English speakers.
3) A small thing for me, but I suspect others would appreciate it also. I like to address my responses with "Mr." or "Ms.". If you are a new job applicant and I have received your resume "over the transom", I certainly don't know you well enough to address you by your first name. So give me a hint, please. If there is no photo of you, then names like Jordan, Taylor, Pat, Leslie, Kerri, even Michael can leave me unsure and uneasy. Then there are creative spellings of otherwise common names, the proliferation of creative, one-of-a-kind names (I know of a guy named Skye. I guessed and guessed wrong) and, of course, the names of many foreign students. A little help here would be greatly appreciated by all.
The restoration of SOM's Inland Steel Building in Chicago has some angles to it worth noting. This article in the New York Times describes how the building has long been a favorite of starchitect Frank Gehry and his involvement is one of the most newsworthy aspects of the story. I was surprised to find, however, that he has played the role primarily of motivator, deal-maker and minor partner, not architect. Instead, Mr. Gerhy impressed me by his insistence that the building's original design firm, SOM, lead the renovations.
Renovation, not true restoration, appears to have been the original intent even of SOM. It is not surprising that sustainability was a primary goal and that the Chicago Landmarks Commission stepped in to perhaps temper the changes proposed.
Note the exchange between the parties described in the article, language all too familiar to preservationists: “They didn’t want us to change so much as a doorknob,” Mr. Cohen said. But in a telephone interview last week, he said that most of the issues had been resolved and that renovations, which will turn Inland Steel into a Class A office building, were moving forward." The next paragraph makes it clear that the renovations have qualified for the 20% Federal Historic Tax Credits, although the program is not called out by name.
So to me the point of the story is the illustration of two important aspects of modern preservation practice; 1) No matter how successful, respected or talented, modern architects do not by default practice modern preservation techniques and 2) despite the initial knee-jerk reaction to the preservation approach, such as “They didn’t want us to change so much as a doorknob", preservation concerns can be incorporated into an economically sound project.
When good friend Andrea Rideout called yesterday, she was looking for a location not too far from Downtown for her segments on this morning's Fox News program. She and Dan Godwin of Fox are presenting tips to protect your home from the bitter cold we are experiencing. I recommended the Parks Estate, one of our most recent and successful restoration projects. Owners Tom and Kathi Lind were generous enough to let Andrea and Dan use their house as the backdrop for these live segments that are part of the morning news broadcast. Special thanks to the LInds as the broadcast is being done live and started in the cold and wet at 4:20 this morning.