Protecting Modernism

In developing a preservation strategy, it is necessary to assess the threat to the building. The following are some of the specific circumstances for each site that will raise red flags regarding the longevity of a historic building: • Absentee owner and/or neglect, • An owner wants to demolish the building to sell the land, • The property is in escrow to a developer, • Potential new tenant or owner. The circumstance may dictate the most appropriate initial step to take in an attempt to preserve the building. While watching a specific property’s disposition, the following circumstances may impact your advocacy process:

• A friendly owner with no money who is just holding the property, • Existing use or tenant, • No immediate threat, • National or local designation already in place, • Public interest, • Potential for community and media support, • Available financial incentives.

With an owner that understands the significance of the property, explore the alternatives for long term protection such as local designation and donating a preservation easement. Strategies for Preservation

First Security Bank Dedication (1955)

The continued existence of any building depends on its serving a useful purpose for the owner, the economic situation of the owner, the economic climate of the area, the understanding of the building’s symbolic contribution to the history of the area, and the public’s desire to protect and preserve that building if it faces demolition or alteration. Rapidly growing cities that have rich histories despite a fairly small historic building stock, often face greater challenges in the realm of preservation (especially with respect to buildings labeled mid-century modern or less than fifty years old). Part of this attitudinal problem stems from a transient population that has little connection to and knowledge of the community’s past. Seek out support groups for post-WWII era buildings, like Salt Lake Modern, that can help others become converts not only in saving a particular building, but also to the efforts of the preservation movement as there is strength in numbers. Expanding awareness beyond those who are already predisposed to have some interest in either the time period or preservation in particular takes time and creativity, but is not necessarily difficult. Tours can help raise awareness in a very tangible way. If interior access cannot be obtained, tours of the exterior emphasizing the story of the building and the area are also worthwhile. Again, emphasize stories associated with the building to enhance awareness building’s importance remembering that more people will relate to them than to architectural terms. Not everyone is able to go on a tour. Thus it also becomes important to increase the interest in the buildings by putting them on display through other means. Simple methods can be the utilization of websites, blogs, and social media. Using the most current electronic means targets younger people who are becoming more aware of their community surroundings and interested in preservation. This in turn increases the grassroots foundation for future preservation efforts. Other methods of display are exhibits in art museums and particularly contemporary art museums if possible. People who appreciate contemporary art should acknowledge the importance of mid-century modern architecture. There might be lectures and workshops associated with such an exhibit which can draw more people especially if any living architects of these buildings can be the speakers. Finally we must not ignore printed matter. Magazine articles, brochures, books, postcards, and photographs all stress the value of these buildings. Each method tells its own story. After all, we are a visually oriented society and pictures do speak loudly. Critical in this advocacy process is the education of owners, architects, planners, developers, and city officials. All these groups at one time or another will have some impact or input on whether a historic building will remain standing. Owners and developers need to know the economic advantages of keeping and using the building. Architects, particularly those who do not work with historic buildings, need to know how to protect the exterior integrity in a remodeling project. Planners and city officials need to understand the power of preserving part of the community’s history and sense of identity for future generations. Adapted from www.midcenturybanks.com/take-action developed by Donna Jean Reiner. Check out the National Trust’s 10 Ways to Help Preserve Places from the Recent Past.They include the following: 1. Form a volunteer group. 2. Offer tours. 3. Host special events. 4. Submit a nomination to an endangered places list. 5. Conduct community workshops. 6. Education those involved in the decision-making process. 7. Survey resources from the recent past. 8. Evaluate the property. 9. Make the case for the site’s importance. 10. Pursue National Register listing and/or local historic designation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar