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Posts Tagged ‘Historic Preservation’

Construction plans for the site of Le Corbusier’s chapel of Notre Dame du Haut (1954) in Ronchamp (France) commissioned by the Association Oeuvre Notre Dame du Haut (the same organization that commissioned the chapel by Le Corbusier), has ignited a serious debate and disagreement between organizations seeking to preserve Le Corbusier’s legacy.

Notre Dame du Haut (1954) in Ronchamp, France

The New Plan. The new plan calls for the replacement of an existing visitor’s center and asphalt parking lot with a new visitor center dug into the hillside and a landscaped parking lot. It also features a new facility to host 12 Poor Clare nuns and their visitors. The convent—to be located primarily underground, about 300 feet west of the chapel—would contain small, independent residential units and an oratory open to pilgrims. According to the association, the overall goal of the project is to rehabilitate the site and ensure it remains a place of worship.

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Paskov House one of architectural jewels of Russia was under restoration for 19 years, was closed down due to its dilapidated state. Pashkov House is named after its first owner Petr Yegorovich Pashkov, the lieutenant commander of the Life Guards of Semenovsky Regiment and the son of Peter the Great’s batman.

Pashkov House

Pashkov House

Designed by Vasily Bazhenov (1737-1799), one of Russia’s greatest architects, this mansion was erected between 1784 and 1786 for the wealthy Pashkov family. The central building is topped by a round belvedere and flanked by two service wings. The current building is a reconstruction of a private mansion that was badly damaged in the disastrous fire of 1812, which swept through the city as the first of Napoleon’s troops were arriving.

In the 19th century it housed the Rumyantsev collection of art and rare manuscripts and a library, and from 1925it has been a part of the Lenin Library, the second largest in the world, after the Library of Congress, and a magnet for international scholars, even during the Soviet era. Following the 1917 revolution, the museum was closed and the art collection was transferred to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art. The manuscripts were donated to the Russian State Library which now owns this building. Pashkov House is off-limits to the general public, but after years of neglect, the government finally pledged funds for restoration work, which began in 2003. Money for the state-financed restoration finally started to flow after the visit from Vladimir V. Putin, the former president.

In a city where architectural monuments are readily torn down or gaudily renovated beyond recognition, Pashkov House, which reopened in October after an $80 million renovation, is one of the few restoration projects lauded by preservationists.

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Seventy-five years ago, in Los Angeles, with a no-interest loan from Dutch philanthropist Dr CH Van Der Leeuw, Viennese-American architect Richard Neutra, rightly called ‘second only to Frank Lloyd Wright’, built a radical “glass house” with rooftop and balcony gardens on Silverlake Boulevard.

Richard Neutra\'s VDL

This is the place where Neutra had designed hundreds of projects over the four continents among which are some of the finest schools, public buildings and distinguished residences. So many architects were trained here and whose careers started in this office/studio.

Neutra’s residence played host to cultural figures like Frank Lloyd Wright, Lazlo Moholy Nagy, Jorn Utson, Charles and Ray Eames; religious figures like Robert Schuler and J Krishnamurti; scientists like Rene Dubos and Linus Pauling; and to political figures and activists like John Anson Ford, Frank Wilkinson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

VDL, as Neutra had named his residence, was very dear to him. His ashes were later scattered in the backyard.

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This week in news we find two of Frank Gehry’s projects declared obsolete- Winton Guest House in Minnesota, and Santa Monica Place mall in Santa Monica.

In early 2007, the University of California, Irvine, razed one of his buildings—a computer science center—to make way for a new engineering complex, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported at the time.Winton House

Mike and Penny Winton, the original clients of Winton Guest House, sold the guest house as well as their main residence, a 1954-vintage house by famous architect Philip Johnson, to Kirt Woodhouse, a real estate developer, in 2002. Woodhouse divided the 12-acre property into three separate lots, and was able to sell Johnson-designed residence but not one by Gehry’s . It stayed on the market for too long with no buyers.

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Shekhawati Region Rajasthan IndiaHow big can you imagine an open air gallery to be? Well, here you are… 13, 785 sq. km [5130 sq. miles] of painted walls, havelis, palaces and forts in the vast expanse of the desert of Rajasthan in India. Town after town, street after street, home after home has been painted with frescoes depicting characters and stories from Indian mythology, history, vernacular culture and life, erotica, and even imaginary and hilarious depictions of science fiction!

This is the Shekhawati region of state of Rajasthan in India. Established and ruled by the Shekhawat rajputs for centuries till independence of India in 1947, it was the largest Nizamat of Jaipur State. With more than 120 villages, 50 forts and palaces, it was definitely the most happening place for architecture and art development. Few of these have been restored or remodeled to be reused as heritage hotels or museum or schools. Others have become obscure or peeled off.Rao Shekha

Why paint the walls of the towns? Neighboring Marwar region influenced the Shekhawati region a lot. The marwar community was rich, and prosperous. This was the ‘business class’! For over a century between 1830 and 1930, marwaris or the business community made Shekhawati their home, before they started migrating to other parts of India. Family names that are now associated with some of India’s big business houses, originated here. As the ultimate symbol of their opulence, the Marwaris commissioned artists to paint those buildings. Hundreds of these courtyard houses cropped up in the desert landscape, each of them covered inside out with colorful frescoes. This art was kept alive for almost 300 years. Eventually it started falling apart as more and more families from this community started settling elsewhere, and these houses were locked up to ruins.

Fresco from ShekhawatiHow? In Shekhawati, the fresco painter or the chiteras belonged to the social class of potters or kumhaars. The technique employed for the Shekhawati frescoes was elaborate, and comparable to the Italian frescoes of the 14th century. The colors were mixed in lime water or lime plaster and were then made to sink into the plaster physically through processes of beating, burnishing, and polishing. All the pigments used were prepared with natural and primarily household ingredients like kohl, lime, indigo, red stone powder, and saffron. Cow’s urine was dried up to get the bright yellow!Amusing Fresco from Shekhawati

There are instances where these frescoes were complimented with gach [mirror] work and intricately carved wood work. Some merchants and ministers even got the havelis painted in gold and silver. There are havelis which have frescoes which amuse everyone- showing King George and Queen Victoria of England in an Indian landscape! Some even illustrate modern machinery of the times such as airplanes, cars, telephones et al!


Read more:
Painted Walls of Shekhavati by Francis Wacziarg, Aman Nath
Photo credits in slide show: Pavan Gupta of Destination India.

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img_17634.jpgAmong the admirable and enjoyable sights to be found along the sidewalks of big cities, the ingenious adaptations of old buildings for new uses is the most enduring one. A glance on the patina of the old walls of these buildings evokes nostalgia. For a moment, the stone whispers the stories of the days long gone, the life stories of the generations of people who have lived in and around it. These buildings give a character to the neighborhood, visually pleasing and cohesive. It is in this context, the old buildings play an irreplaceable role in creating an image of the city: a sense of place, a sense of belonging.

How would it be to wake up one morning to find that your neighborhood has been replaced by the ‘modern’ buildings? The familiar old building that you walked past everyday and got accustomed with, is no longer there to offer solace. You feel you have lost a friend; you feel you have been alienated in your own home. What surrounds you now are the new ‘high-tech’ buildings, which are like babies- charming but nothing to tell.

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