Monday, March 31, 2014

"Make No Little Plans",0,04145832.story

Hello Everyone:

I want to start off by giving a big shout out to my readers in Iraq.  I hope you like what you're reading as much as I like writing it.  Second, I would like to remind all of you that if you have a picture you'd like to have featured as the "picture of the week," please email to me in .jpg form to  Please make sure to include your name and where you're from, fully identify the image (name of the place, the location, and if known, the designer), and your email address.  The pictures must be related to architecture, historic preservation, urban planning and design.  No selfies, party, or vacation pictures please.  Thanks.  Now onto today's topic, urban planning in the era of income inequality.

Daniel Burnham

Over a century ago, architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham laid out the physical future of the city of Chicago, Illinois.  He intended to design in social remedies for what ailed the city in the early twentieth century but failed to carry out these prescriptions.  Today, the "City of Broad Shoulders," like many cities across the United States, is confronting education failures, unemployment, crime, and related issues creating the city's fourth great urban crisis in 176 years.  Chicago Tribune editorial page editor Bruce Dold, in his column, "A new Plan for Chicago: A challenge to Tribune readers," recently invited readers and organizations to finish the work begun by Daniel Burnham, address the perilous state of livability, income disparity, and strained public finances that have driven Chicagoans to leave the city by the hundreds of thousands.  The column is the first of a planned series of articles aimed to explore how Chicago can survive and thrive over the course of time.  To echo the famous Daniel Burnham quote, "Make no little plans."

The Chicago Skyline

The first thing that comes to mind when using the phrase "urban crisis" together with Chicago is the Great Fire of 1871.  The wind-driven fire that ignited in October 1871, incinerated most to the city, leaving residents, whose homes and livelihoods were torched slept on whatever patch of ground wasn't burnt, anxiously dreading the coming Winter weather.  Other crises build up slowly.  The Great Migration in early twentieth century Chicago, which brought Southern African-Americans to a place that, on the one hand, welcomed them and their contributions while on the other hand resisted their geographical movements.  By the late-twentieth century a relative state of calm will evolve in Chicago after a period riots, redlining, more fires, white, and racial tension.

Lake Michigan
Chicago, Illinois
Then there are urban crises feature a cast of quiet victims spread out over the landscape of residential streets, where the despairing and heartbroken hid behind closed doors.  Rust Belt America-a rapidly globalizing economy knocks Chicago into the ropes, reducing workers to nothing more than surplus goods "that no...employer...needs."  The results is formerly reliable sources of local employment: mills and manufacturing close, families lose once solidly middle class jobs.  Bruce Dold sums the past challenges this way, "In these three crises the challenges were palpable, easy to grasp if not to solve.  The hydra-headed challenge that now threatens Chicago is less bombastic, less visibly urgent and thus more diabolical."

"Concrete Beach"
Chicago, Illinois

The symptoms of the current crisis that confront Chicago are apparent to all the residents of metropolitan Chicago, however, they see them a neat little separate compartments, unaware that these symptoms are intertwined.  This relationship now threatens the city core so much so that numbers of residents have already abandoned Chicago for someplace more livable. According to Mr. Dold, "The purpose of the editorial series that launches today, and of the accompanying request for proposals from the Tribune readers, is to imagine new ways of storming not just one silo but all of them."  Interesting proposition.  Who best to offer up solutions for what challenges the city faces than its own residents.  Perhaps, the Tribune might take a different tack and solicit proposals from outside Chicago?  The following is Mr. Dold's outline of issues that face the city:

Aerial view of Chicago's Southside
Schools that produce, other than dropouts, young people unprepared to work in a 21st-century economy?  Let's be honest with ourselves and not pretend that there those of us who won't fix the schools that we would not consider sending our own children.  In metropolitan Chicago, this is the reason why three-quarters of the people don't live in the city.  Instead, we shift blame to whatever ideologies we subscribe to: it's the teacher's fault or it's the fault of a school system that disrespects its teachers,  it's the fault of wasteful bureaucrats, or politicians who don't levy enough taxes, et cetera, ad infinitum.  How many of us actually understand that the failure to properly educate our children aggravates, wait for it, violent crime

Blue-Collar Jobs?  If only mayors and other officials tried they could bring back the bygone days days of Chicago's industrial glory days, yes?  No.  Rarely can we admit how unprepared a downwardly mobile portion of our population is even have a reasonable chance at the jobs available today.  This is one reason potential employers look elsewhere and why young people don't have the same opportunities previous generations took for granted.  This is related to the poor schooling which all but negates any sense of readiness and employability in, hold on, the factory and comparable employment opportunities that require a certain levels of literacy.  The consequence of this situation is that so many adults have been forced out of the labor market or yielded their job because of the lack of education and a felony-free record that would preclude their hiring.

The Parents, the pastors, the pillars of the neighborhood?  Why don't our community leaders do something about the problems in the streets, the young people who, wait for it, don't go to school or who, wait, don't get jobs?  Chicago has great tracts where too many young single moms are overwhelmed and the dads are nowhere to be seen.  Said vast tracts of the urban landscape are home to dysfunctional schools, long gone jobs, and terrifying violence which have driven away or dissolved households that were the city's foundation.  Being a parent means having the responsibility of raising another human being who will be educated, self-disciplined, responsible, diligent, health, and ultimately self-supporting.  Bruce Dold makes this observation, "Does it surprise us that so many single parents don't have the skills, the drive, the time and money to give their children the uplift that every parent wants and every child needs.

Aerial view of downtown Chicago
Since the era of the "Great Society," Americans and our leaders have struggled with these and other issues neatly summed up as "urban problems."  In Chicago, the residents are learning to survive with federal help. Still, contemporary Chicago is on the perilous brink: it has huge problems that require copious amounts of money.  There is an immediate need for funds for infrastructure, social services, neighborhood needs, and job training.  More money is needed for physical, artistic and cultural improvements in order to grow the convention and tourism industry.

Nevertheless, Chicago doesn't have the money to meet these challenges.  Like many municipalities indebted to their state and the federal government, Chicago has expenses and future obligations that City Hall can't meet.  Government wages scales and pension benefits haven't been able been able to keep up with rising costs.  Chicago, in short, is traveling on the same path to financial hardship as Detroit, St. Louis, Philadelphia. Cleveland and other cities trapped in the morass.  Yet, all is not lost for Chicago.  Despite the fact that many of Chicago's residents have found the city so untenable and walked away from it, inward migration no longer offsets the abandonment of the region's central city.  The crime, dysfunctional schools, neighborhoods in need of leadership figures, the job market for those with a high-school education are what's driving people away.  What comes next is a holistic way to remedy the situation.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Picture of The Week

Hello Everyone:

I just wanted to let you all know that the picture of the week is up on all the social media sites.  If you would like to contribute a picture, please send your image to  The rules are simple:
1) They must relate to architecture, historic preservation, urban planning and design;
2) Please include your name, where your from, what and where the image is, the name of the architect if available;
3) No selfies, party, or vacation pictures.
All images are subject to editing.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reasons for Preservation

Kake Cannery
Kake, Alaska
Hello Everyone:

Since we're on the subject of historic preservation, I thought it would be a good idea to post some reasons why we should save old buildings.  Julia Rocchi, the associate director for digital content at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, offers six very good reasons why we should save old places.  Ms. Rocchi's post, "Six Practical Reasons to Save Old Buildings," is adopted from the Jack Neely Metropulse article, "What's Historic-And Who Says? Nine Practical Reasons To Save Old Buildings" (  Truthfully, what is historic and preservation-worthy is subjective but it requires some definition.  Just because a place is old doesn't mean it's historic and just because you think it's historic doesn't necessarily mean it worth saving.  Ms. Rocchi defines historic as, "old and worth the trouble."  This applies to places that are part of a community's tangible past and can offer opportunities for the future. Ms. Rocchi's article analyzes the issue from both the cultural and practice value of a old buildings and discusses why preservation is not only worth it but beneficial to a community's culture and economy.

Kennedy-Baker-Walker-Sherrill House
West Knoxville, TN
Old buildings have intrinsic value

Buildings of days gone, particularly the pre-World War II period, have a tendency to be built with higher quality material such as hardwoods and wood from old-growth forests no longer in existence.  The prewar buildings were also built using different building standards.  A hundred year-old build might have a longer life than a it's newer counterpart.  For example, the Kennedy-Baker-Walker Sherrill House (1849) in West Knoxville, Tennessee and one of the few remaining examples of Federalist design in Knox. Until the City Council approved a zoning deal the house was threatened by encroaching interests.  Nevertheless, following its designation as a historic site, the house will be repurposed as an office building that can withstand whatever mother nature has to throw at it.

The Daylight Building
Knoxville, TN
When you tear down an old building, you never know what's being destroyed.

I like to think of historic preservation as a little bit of a treasure hunt.  When you start rehabilitation a property, you sometimes uncover new and valuable artifacts.  Conversely, when you demolish an older building, you never what really great things are being destroyed.  This was the case ten years ago in the city of Knoxville, Tennessee.  The Daylight Building was an vacant eyesore upon the urban landscape.  A developer purchased the property with the intention of razing the 1927 building in order to make way for new construction.  As the universe would have it, multiple deals to demolish the building failed and Daylight went back on the market.  Dewhirst Properties bought and began to make renovations.  To their surprise and, no doubt delight, the uncovered all sorts of architectural treasures.  Contractors found drop-ceilings made with heart-pine wood, a large clerestory, front awning decorated with unusual "opalescent" glass, and a façade lined with bright copper.  Other than surviving demolition and yielding these architectural gems, the Daylight Building reminds that even an eyesore can be a valuable community asset.

Once again, Jane Jacobs
New business prefer old buildings

Starting a new business is fraught with so many obstacles, the least of which, is finding a suitable and affordable location.  In Jane Jacobs 1961 urban planning classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the late Ms. Jacobs dedicated a chapter to the economic advantages that certain types of businesses have when they set up shop in older buildings.  She argued that new construction are better suited for major chain stores.  Whereas, businesses such as non-chain bookstores, ethnic restaurants, antique stores, local bars, and especially small start-ups thrive in older places.  Ms. Jacobs writes, "As really new ideas of any kind-no matter how profitable or otherwise successful some them might prove to be-there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error, and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction." (Jacobs, 1961).  Further, "Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings.  New ideas must use old buildings." (Ibid)

The Bradbury Building (1893)
George Wyman
Los Angeles, CA
 Old buildings attract people

New buildings are pretty.  They're clean and bright. They're full of possibilities.  However, older buildings can offer so much more than a pretty face.  What is it that makes older buildings so attractive?  Is the warmth of materials such as: heart pine, marble, or ancient brick, the ghosts of people and activities past, or the comforting architectural reassurance of times gone by?  It could be that older buildings offer something sui generis to the boring blandness that seems to populate the urban landscape.  However a person spends their time, Americans seem to prefer living around old buildings. This is certainly the case in the revival of American downtowns suggests people prefer like older buildings. Some of you may get glazed over expressions when preservationist speak of "historic building stock," but really what we mean is an inventory of older buildings ready to be repurposed.

Mariachi Plaza Pavilion
Boyle Heights, CA

Old buildings are reminders of city's culture and complexity.

One of the things I vigorously advocate is buildings are a record of a culture at a particularly moment in time.  Let me clarify this by saying that buildings are a large-scale, three-dimensional historic record.  That being said, encountering a historic building, whether it's related to a famous person or event, and like longtime community residents, they are witnesses to the aesthetic and cultural history of a place.  Old buildings also reflect the image a community wishes to reflect out into the world. The analogy that Jack Neely uses is bank buildings.  Mr. Neely writes, "Just as banks prefer to build stately old fashion facades, even when located in commercial malls, a city needs old buildings to maintain a sense of permanency and heritage."  I could not agree with that statement more.

TWA Worldport
John F. Kennedy Airport, NY
Regret goes  only one way

The great singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell famously sang, "Don't it always seems to go/That you don't what you've got/Till it's gone..."© ("Big Yellow Taxi," Joni Mitchell, 1970)  Even though the song was written in reference to the ecology, the line "Don't know what you've/Till it's gone..." ring true for older buildings.  Historic preservation only goes in one direction.  If a building can't be repurposed or rehabilitated, there's no chance of saving it. This means there's no way to find out what future value it holds for the community.  This harsh reality brings to the forefront the necessity of locating and saving buildings of historic significance.  Fortunately, we have the technological means to make this work possible.  Still, not every building can be found using Geographical Information Systems, therefore, grass roots advocacy is still an important part of historic preservation because once it's gone, it's gone.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jane Jacobs Was Right

Jane Jacobs
Hello Everyone:

Now that the excitement has died down from hitting 10,000 (and growing) page views, it's time to get back to business.  Today we're going to look at the legacy of the late urban critic Jane Jacobs.  The late Ms. Jacobs (d.2006) argued forcefully for the preservation of older buildings, point out that they were critical assets for unique local business and healthy, viable neighborhoods.  Mike Powe, senior research manager at the National Trust Preservation Green Lab, recently posted an article in the Preservation Leadership Forum titled, "Jane Jacobs and 21st-Century Preservation."  What makes her work so timely is the challenges that contemporary preservationists working in cities face. Given the current trend to knock down older buildings and replace them with shiny new developments, it might be a good idea to take a look, once again, at her approach to urban planning and preservation.

The Death And Life Of American Cities

Why the sudden interest in Jane Jacobs?  For one, the Municipal Art Society of New York ( and the Urban Land Institute ( co-hosted their annual Jane Jacobs Forum that attracted 500 attendees.  On the Left Coast, there's a movie in the works (naturally), neatly titled A Matter of Death and Life, a clever reference to her 1961 classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities.  Recently, two contemporary urban critics, Richard Florida and Ed Glaeser have liberally quoted Ms. Jacobs in their work.  For example, in 2012, Mr. Florida, known for his work on the "creative economy" of flourishing cities, repeatedly quoted in interviews another familiar Jacobs adage, "New ideas must use old buildings."  This was in reference to his thoughts on the decisions by Google and other tech firms to move their offices into older buildings in major cities.  On the other hand, Mr. Glaeser, made it a point to demonstrate where he believed that Ms. Jacobs' thinking was out of step with his book, The Triumph Of The City. From all appearances, Jane Jacobs seems to be everywhere.

Jane Jacobs at a local bar
If you're not familiar or knowledgeable in all things Jane Jacobs, Mike Powe offers the reader a few key facts and pertinent lessons that Ms. Jacobs could provide for contemporary preservationists:

Jane Jacobs was not trained as a preservationists or urban planner.  She began her working life as a journalist, first as a recent high school graduate in Scranton, Pennsylvania, then as an associate editor for Architectural Forum.  Her outsider position gave a fresh outlook on urban life and planning.  This also made her a later target for criticism by urban planners and economists who cited her unscientific writing style and arguments lacked quantifiable data as evidence.

* Jane Jacobs 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, has been hailed as "the most influential American text about the inner workings and failings of cities."  Personally speaking, my professors at USC have cited this book frequently.  In plain language and argument, she constructed her thesis based upon the observation and intuition, upending the planning practice, calling for planning concepts and land use policies that didn't gain national attention until decades later.  Some of these concepts include: land use zones specifically allowing a mix of residential and commercial use; the idea of designing for "eyes on the street" (a very well-known Jacobs aphorism) as a way to naturally make public places safer; the importance of unique, locally-owned businesses that support neighborhood vitality: and the of retaining a mix of old and new buildings to support diverse social and economic activity throughout the day.  Before it became fashionable, Ms. Jacobs wrote about cities as if they were living creatures with functioning ecologies.  This analogy has gained traction and has found regular application in discussions on sustainability and resilience.

* Jane Jacobs was a community activist who was afraid to break the rules.  She railed against Robert Moses, the powerful New York City planner who wanted to build a major freeway through the very heart of Manhattan and raze the human-scale neighborhoods, replacing them with high-rise commercial and residential towers.  Ms. Jacobs won the war and blocked freeway construction, getting arrested several times in the process.  I like her.

Robert Moses
What are the lessons preservationists can take away from Jane Jacobs in order to meet the challenges of today?

* Jane Jacobs took a pragmatic approach to considering cities and the role of older buildings in healthy neighborhoods.  Ms. Jacobs argued for the preservation of the vernacular buildings, including some dodgy structures, "not museum-piece old buildings..." (Jacobs, 1961)  She implied that old structures are partly useful because the often provide more affordable spaces than bright shiny new buildings.

* Ms. Jacobs focused on the performance of a place.  Based on her firsthand observations from which she evaluated the success, Ms. Jacobs was interested primarily in how urban districts worked and what made them work more efficiently as livable, interesting, and democratic places.  In one oft-quoted section in her book, she detailed the "intricate sidewalk ballet" that took place daily outside her home.  Attention was given to the actors and actions of a place guided the late writer to some important observations and like attention to a Main Street or historic district could be equally useful.

* For Ms. Jacobs, diversity was essential and she considered it in its multiple forms.  She argued that communities needed a mix of recreational, commercial, industrial, and residential spaces and cities required a mix to economic engines such as both startups and more established business models.  Further, she unequivocally believed that neighborhoods needed a combination of old and new buildings not just one or the other.

Your truly believes that the argument Jane Jacobs made over fifty years ago, and summarized by Mike Powe, are still relevant today.  One doesn't need quantifiable scientific data to understand how cities operate.  Simple observation and empirical data is often the best source for understand the day-to-day function of a city.  This is something that gets overlooked in our rush to over analyze every piece information that comes across our screens.  Jane Jacobs was right about one thing, to understand a city, you have to place yourself in the environment.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Visual Vandalism

Hello Everyone:

Wow, I still can't get over the fact that we hit 10,000 page views.  That's so amazing.  When I started writing this blog, I never thought that it would take off like it has.  I'm absolutely floored by the response.  I guess there's only one place to go, up.  Alright, onto to today's topic, is modern architecture vandalism?

Notre Dame du Haut de Ronchamp (1954)
Le Corbusier
Mastering the right combination of old and new architecture is an art.  Get it right and it's a sight to behold.  Get it wrong and you're doomed to disaster. Jonathan Glancy of the BBC explains why this is the case.

On January 17 of this year, vandals crashed through one of the stained glass windows into the pilgrimage chapel at Notre Dame du Haut de Ronchamp, the late career defining masterpiece by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier.  Despite finding a nearly empty collection box, the vandals unsuccessfully attempted to break into the new tourist pavilion near the chapel designed by Renzo Piano.  In the end, all their criminal activity resulted in was the desecration of iconic work of mid-century modern architecture.  Ronchamp is not just for Roman Catholics to worship and meditate, it is intended to be a place for all to come and seek solace.  So why the desecration?

Ronchamp site elevation with tourist pavilion
Mr. Glancy cites English architectural historian William Curtis' comments in Architectural Review (, who connected what he believed to be the vandalism created by the new buildings and break-in.  Professor Curtis writes, "[The site] has been transformed and commercialised as a tourist destination, even with a sliding electric gate barring the route to the Chapel.  In effect, it has become a sort of gated community with outward signs of prosperity.  Nor should one forget the sums involved: over 10m euros to build the ensembles of the Piano project."  The new buildings, including the vandalized pavilion, are part of a controversial new convent dug into the hillside near the chapel for the order of Pauvre Clarisses, who Prof. Curtis says, "enjoy an environment which is far from poor in the material sense."  So much for the vow of poverty.

Sketches of Ronchamp

Jonathan Glancy accuses the new buildings next to a historic monument as a cultural and criminal vandalism. The additions have encouraged mass tourism at Ronchamp, something Prof. Curtis believes is on its way to becoming a mini-Lourdes rather than a place for quiet contemplation.  However, it's also become a magnet for thieves who envision a large haul from the increased commercialization of the site.  As to the quality of the new buildings, Prof. Curtis dismisses it as, "...listening to enforced muzak before rising to the sublimity of Bach or Mozart."

This latest turn of events at the landmark chapel has
Kimbell Art Museum, Louis I. Kahn
Fort Worth, Texas
Mr. Glancy wondering if an architect from one era can add to a great building of another epoch?  One response, as in the case of Ronchamp, is possibly to let it be.  Be that as it may, if there is a genuine need for new construction, "what can and should be done?" Interestingly, Mr. Piano  recently completed a new extension to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.  The museum, opened in 1972, is a gorgeously vaulted structure designed by Louis I. Kahn.  Mr. Piano thoughtfully added a concrete and travertine extension that stands at, somewhat, of a distance from the Kahn building.  There was no effort to compete with the original building design, rather it was intended to serve it as an "architectural acolyte."  Meanwhile, over in Glasgow, Scotland, emotions have gotten quite heated
Glasgow College of Art with extension
Glasgow, Scotland
over the building of an extension to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed Glasgow College of Art (1909).  The extension, designed by American architect Steven Holl, makes massive use of glass in juxtaposition to the redbrick of the Mackintosh building.  When the Holl-designed extension is completed, it's hoped that the two will play off one another instead work in opposition.  Cross your fingers and hope for the best.

On a more optimistic note, it is possible to create new buildings in radical styles that do compliment their predecessors.  Mr. Glancy cites the example of a medieval church, a Baroque cathedral, a nineteenth century Neo-Classical theater, and Casa del Popolo (1936) by Giuseppe Terragni.  Mr. Glancy calls the Terragni designed building, "...a Rubik's Cube made of marble, was originally the Casa del Fascio, designed as a backdrop for political parades.  However, such is the elemental, and thus all but timeless quality of Terragni's design, it has outlived its salubrious past and taken its place among the greatest Italian buildings.

King's College Chapel, 1724
Cambridge, England
This is also the case at King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England.  The eighteenth century Palladian chapel, designed by James Gibbs, sits nicely next to a Perpendicular Gothic chapel. When the chapel cornerstone was laid in 1446 by King Henry VI, Classical architecture was basically absent from England, yet the two buildings happily co-exist.  Once again, it comes down to making the right decision about material and to the apparent visual respect by generation of architect for another.  In contemporary times, a similar spirit can be seen in Nimes, France, where in the mid-eighties, Norman Foster added Mediatheque, a very modern cultural building, to the center, close to the ancient Corinthian Roman temple known universally as Maison Carreé (c.16 CE).  The two buildings politely conserve with each other, in a metaphoric and design sense, across two millennia.

The Empire State Building
New York, New York
Culture clash is something that happens all to frequently in our rapidly globalizing cities as a result of this inane competition to build the tallest buildings and overload the urban landscape with all manner of retail spaces, signage, "street furniture," and water elements all with the express intention of encouraging use but apparently at odds with the site context. Sounds like visual clutter to me.  Nevertheless, there are moments when this clash of styles and scale works very well with the surrounding environment.  Jonathan Glancy uses the example of the Empire State Building in New York, New York with all of its bravura and soaring height rising far above the mid-town Manhattan street grid and its clusters of less than appealing buildings with their hotch-potch of period styles.  The limestone-clad shaft of the building rises confidently from a five-story base, filled with retail spaces and an Art Deco shopping arcade that have become integral to the urban fabric.  The Empire State Building is as much part of the streets, " this it has good urban and architectural manners for all the bragadoccio."

Gloucester Cathedral Choir
Gloucestershire, England
Finally, replacing out dated parts of buildings is not a contemporary phenomena.  Medieval bishops were well-known for down big chunks of cathedrals they found unfashionable or rebuilding them in the latest style with flair and exuberance that it would be considered illegal today.  Yet the more muscular Norman nave of the Gloucester Cathedral nave is spiritually and structurally the beneficiary of the Gothic vaults that replaced the original, the perpendicular Gothic choir that stretches beyond he nave culminating in a window wall.  This might have been considered the "shock of the new" at the time but, yet, here it is in all of its ecclesiastical architectural glory.  A real feat of medieval structural engineering.

Even today, no one would dare tinker with Gloucester Cathedral.  It takes a very skilled hand and eye to careful balance the differing architectural period styles so that they harmoniously work together.  Perhaps this is why Professor William Curtis can connect the Renzo Piano tourist pavilion at Ronchamp to the desecration of the chapel.  Prof. Curtis concluded that the tourist pavilion was a form of visual vandalism, akin to the physical act committed by the would be thieves.  In the rush to build, the key thing architects need to remember is that whatever additions you make to an older place, it must work with the site context, otherwise, you've committed an act of visual and aesthetic vandalism.

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Hello Everyone:

We did it.  We reached 10,000 page views before April 1st.  From the very bottom of my heart, I truly want to thank you for all your support.  I'm eternally grateful to everyone around the world for your continued readership.  Now for the the hard part, taking it to the next step.  I need to sit down and figure out what I want to do with this blog.  Don't worry, ending it is not an option.  I love talking to all of you.  It's the part of my day I look forward to.  I'm excited about the future possibilities for this blog and I'm looking forward to the next 10,000 and the many more.  Thank you to you all.  You make it so worth it.

P.S.  if you want to catch my new feature, picture of the week, please go to and search for hpblogger.  This is me.

My eternal gratitude and love to you all,

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Is It About Modernism?

Hello Everyone:

We are getting closer to our goal of 10,000 page views.  I just checked and we're at 9746 page views. Fantastic.  Let's get it going.  I'll get writing and you keep reading.  On today's post, explore what makes modernism so different?  Specifically, how should we approach the preservation of buildings from the sixties through early eighties?  This is the over arching question that Beth Wiedower and Chris Morris pose in their post for the Preservation Leadership Forum, "What Makes Modernism So Different?"  They ask, "Are the advocacy tactics to save modern buildings the same as those for older, more traditional, buildings?  Or do we need a completely different approach?"  These are important questions to consider in light of the fact that buildings from the later phase of modernism are coming under threat of demolition.  There really isn't a clear yes or no answer to the questions posed by the authors.  The answer is both.  Confused?  Let's press on.

Prentice Hospital
Chicago, Illinois
In 2013, the National Trust for Historic Preservation led two very highly publicized battles to save the Prentice Hospital in Chicago, Illinois and the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. The common thread they share is that they were both built in the late stages of the modern movement and relied on familiar preservation strategies.  The pitched campaigns to save these two structures also broke new ground in an effort to reach a wider audience and persuade elected officials.  By analyzing the campaigns, we can gain better insight into the goals, tactics, and triggers; thus gain some insight into the lessons learned in the battle to save Modernist buildings from the sixties through early eighties.

Show Some Love for "Dome Sweet Dome"

The Astrodome
Houston, Texas
The National Trust quickly leapt into the fight to save the Houston Astrodome after it was added to the Trust's 11 Most Endangered HIstoric Places list in 2013.  The stadium's owner, Harris County issued a call for proposals to save and reuse the iconic stadium.  One idea, to rehabilitate the Dome in order to create a unique special events space jumped to the top of the list as feasible, fundable, and almost financially viable.  This proposal was put to a vote in four short months.  It was an emotional topic.  The Houston residents love it.  They all have fond memories of attending favorite events and volunteer efforts to help Hurricane Katerina refugees.  However, there are those that strongly believe that rehabilitating "dome sweet dome" is not what Houston is about and want bring on the wrecking ball.  The Dome's place and significance in modern architecture was mostly besides the point to the supporters of reuse and those who want to raze the stadium.

The Astrodome with an open section
Aware of the heated passions surrounding the Astrodome, the National Trust put together a campaign to save the venerable stadium based on its sentimental appeal.  Playing on the memories of Houstonians, the Trust developed a campaign that encouraged voter to support saving and reusing the structure by challenging the to envision a new Dome that they could visit and enjoy.  The venue would capture that upbeat, can-do attitude and innovative environment in the twenty-first century in the same way it did in 1965, when the Dome opened.  The Trust created a Dome Mobile, driving it around Houston, engaging the voters and supporters.  Decked out with Astrotruf, a dugout bench, and stadiums seats, the Dome Mobile played on sentiment, memory, and peoples' connection to the place (all key factors in preservation), not on its architectural significance or its place in modern design and engineering.

Astrodome Interior
Of course the Trust used words such as "modern marvel" during its outreach and the phrase, "space-age," was often heard by the Trust outreach team as they encountered Dome lovers across Houston and Harris County.  The Trust team deliberately did not emphasize the Astrodome's role in redefining sports stadium design.  Design details such as lucite skylights and cantilevered poured-concrete or the Dome's national significance mattered little in comparison to Oilers great 1978 and 1979 seasons inside the dome.

The strategy of connecting people to place based on emotion and experience based on emotion and experience guided the campaign and message.  It was heard loud and clear.  The Trust staffers interacted with over 77,000 Dome-philes over the course of a month's time during the autumn.  Everyone, regardless of age and economic status came to make themselves heard on the issues of reinvestment and reuse.  This was Houston's only landmark, their Eiffel Tower, symbolic of Harris County and the city itself during a period when scientific and technological advances made the seemingly impossible, possible.  Was it enough to sway the naysayers?  No.  The ballot proposition lost but something else happened.

Does Design Matter?

News coverage of the fight to save the Astrodome began appearing in the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and even the Houston Chronicle chastising Harris County voters for not recognizing the Dome's significance as a symbol of the modern movement and encouraged its preservation for the future.  This clarion call was heard throughout a city where the development motto is newer is better and very few buildings see their fiftieth birthday.

The point is, conversations about the fate of the Astrodome have now broadened in scope, including reverence for design and construction methods used in the early sixties.  Maybe a design discussion was necessary after all?  The sentimental approach didn't quite accomplish the task.  However, combining the traditional preservation approach-architectural merit and significance-with sentiment might just what's needed to keep the beloved Dome from a final date with the wrecking ball.

Prentice Hospital: "All Politics Is Local

Prentice Hospital interior
The late Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas "Tip" O'Neil, famously once said, "all politics is local."  How true.  In the case of Prentice Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, the campaign to save it had very little to do with modern architecture.  It was a local political fight.  The backstory is: a powerful property owner wanted to tear down one of the important buildings on the hospital campus and only Mayor Rahm Emmanuel had the power to stop it.  Let me know if you've heard this before.  The hospital's architectural style, history, and engineering significance were irrelevant because those in power-i.e. the decisions-makers and the property owner-didn't care about all those issues.

To Focus on Architectural Significance or Not To Focus on Architectural Significance

Nurse's station in Prentice Hospital
Preservationists, too frequently, can be the source of problems by focusing almost all of the attention on the architectural significance of a building.  Beth Wiedower and Chris Morris suggest that preservationists should spend some time figuring out who has the power to remedy the situation, where the obstacles are and how they can be overcome.  The fact that they hospital was "Modern" became moot after attempts to negotiate with the powers that be proved fruitless.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation and a coalition of local and national preservation partners changes tactics to apply public and media pressure. They made the building attractive to audiences.  Preservationists opted not to focus on the fact that Prentice was a maternity hospital where thousands of babies were born, thus could provide a more personal connection to the place.  Why the stress on design?  First, Chicago prides itself on being the birthplace of twentieth-century architecture and buildings like the Willis (neé Sears) Tower are tourist magnets.  Second, many of the women who gave birth at the hospital did not have loving memories of their experiences.  Perhaps it was better to focus on the architectural significance in this case but did it pay off?

The media outlets picked up on the arguments over architectural significance, especially when Pritzker-Prize (the architectural equivalent to the Nobel Prize) winning architects offered their support.  The Trust also found that the under-35 set were showing up at campaign events, rallies, and meetings.  However, the over-35 set did have the same affection for the hospital, not usual, according to related posts (see  For the over-35 age bracket it's more about an individual perception's of history than architectural style.

What's The Message?

Preservationists can be such "know-it-alls."  There, I've said it out loud.  We think that we know what makes a place or building so important, and other people should appreciate them for same reasons we do.  Riiiight.  The majority of the general public can't distinguish one period style from the next, or building materials but they may have a real connection to the place for other less obvious reasons. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the preservation professional and amateur to understand and respect those connections.  Twenty-twenty is hindsight and the in the case of Prentice Hospital, The Trust and its partners should've conducted test market research to identify the key issues and messages that resonated with the audience.  The results of which might've been helpful to persuade Mayor Emmanuel and the developers.

Lessons Learned

The preservation case studies at the Houston Astrodome and Prentice Hospital in Chicago, Illinois called attention to Modernism and the iconic and vernacular buildings in need attention and protection. In each case, the Trust took two divergent approaches that were not entirely successful.  The obvious lesson was by mainly focusing on one strategy to marshal support for these buildings would not have been wise.  The main lesson from both these cases is that the personal connection to a place, and role it has in the greater context of architecture, experience, culture, and collective history will help raise the public esteem for Modernism and rally support for its important buildings.

For more on the subject:

Pride and Prejudice: Preserving Modern Heritage
Five Strategies to Preserve a Midcentury Mecca
The Sunshine Mile: Saving a Commercial Modernist Shopping District
No Longer Invisible: Googie Coffee Shops

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Palestra: College Hoops' Most Storied Arena - PreservationNation Blog - PreservationNation Blog

The Palestra: College Hoops' Most Storied Arena - PreservationNation Blog - PreservationNation Blog Here's a fun article on the annual March Madness that grips college basketball fans every year.  Read about The Palestra, the most famous sports arena.  It's been home to the University of Pennsylvania basketball team and the site of historic athletic feats.  Enjoy and we'll talk tomorrow.

Haven't Forgotten You

Hello Everyone:

I just wanted to let you all know that I haven't forgotten you today.  I spent most of my afternoon at a wonderful lunch with friends I haven't seen in a very long time.  They drove up from Arizona with their two girls for spring break.  Wee met for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and had a great time.  I hope we can do it again.  Tomorrow I'll be back with more on architecture, preservation, planning and design.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gentrification Backstory

Hello Everyone:

Happy St. Patrick's Day to my Irish fans out there and those of you who are Irish for the day.  Happy to report that we are only 390 page views away from our 10,000 page view goal.  We're almost there, I can feel it.  I see that number looming larger and larger in the horizon.  Keep it up everyone.  Great job.

The definition of gentrification
 Today we're going back to the subject of gentrification.  Rather, the inevitability of gentrification.  James Frank DY Zarsadiaz explains in his article for The Atlantic Cities, "Why Gentrification Is So Hard to Stop," that this process isn't a recent phenomena but something that's been around for a very long time.  It's a fact that cities are organic, they transform and that metamorphosis is palpable.  The modest coffee shop has given way to the Mexican vegan restaurant, followed closely by the gluten-free artisan bakery.  The corner barber shop is replaced by a chain salon.  These scenes, and many more like them, have become common occurrences in the daily life of the urban dweller from coast to coast.  The story always starts out the same way, educated middle-income (predominantly white) twenty- and thirty-somethings move into a working-class neighborhood in search of affordable housing.  Soon, the community becomes the backdrop for their preferences.  Property values go up, long-time residents are displaced, and whatever sense of uniqueness that drew the new residents in becomes this sea of boring blandness.  How did things get this way?

"The Plan"
Over the past ten years, there have been volumes of articles, books, and policy papers that issued the Siren's call about this "new" form of urbanization.  This "new" form of urbanization isn't so new, it's been part of the economic driving force of urban development since the fifties.  If we want to deal with the side effects, we need to understand the underpinning force.  Following decades of economic depression and war, the newly flush Americans began to subscribe to the economic philosophy of neo-liberalism.  Neo-liberalism gave Americans the license to freely exercise their right to consume beyond their limits.  This philosophy began flourishing in the seventies as deindustrialization, globalization, and international finance reconfigured to fit this paradigm.  Within the economic context of cities, this ideology encourages free enterprise, open competition, deregulation, and the dismantling of public goods.  Neo-liberalism relies on on the private sector for daily issues such as education, health care, housing, transportation, and entertainment.  In short, these daily matters become commodities for purchase rather than rights or services.

"A Map of Polk Street Gentrification"
Why does this matter to cities and what does it have to do with gentrification, you may ask.  James Frank DY Zarsadiaz explains, "In part because neo-liberalism hasn't only changed cities-it's changed city dwellers and their expectations.  When Boston, Chicago, and New York grew in stature during in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century, cities were seen as places of innovation, opportunity, and heterogeneity, where people and government worked together for the common good. Obviously, this was a myth.  However, these widely popular ideas have stayed in the greater civic imagination.

Yet, in the last thirty years, quotidian needs and resources, once considered the purview of government, have been given over to private entities whose scope, comprehension, and concern for day-to-day life in the city is limited, at best. Entertainment is confined to the malls, chain stores, sport venues, and money-making festivals.  In this environment, small-businesses must compete with the Targets and Gaps of the world.  The beer concession person at Staples Center cannot afford to live close to work, so he or she settles for a place in the outer rings of the city.

"Gentrification and You"
Sarah Morton
Meanwhile, those who can afford to live in the city have come to expect more a personalized lifestyle.  The for-profit companies curry to those urban dwellers with upscale residential developments, creative marketing campaign, making once blighted and working-class neighborhood (not that the two necessarily go hand-in-hand) into "livable" urban corners.  For some, the city has regained its reputation.  It's a great place to be, if you have the time and the money. However, for other, the city is quickly becoming a hostile environment.  The daily struggles of the concrete jungle are harsher than ever.  Consumer-driven solutions stimulate urban economies through shopping, tourism, and luxury by offering a seductive vision of urban development.  James Frank DY Zarsadiaz suggests, "...ultimately, this pattern of neo-liberal problem-solving reinforces gentrification."  Thus, by ignoring the role this ideology repeatedly plays in gentrification, and the related suburbanization and "Manhattanization" of cities, Americans will continue consciously or unconsciously continue to support this economic order.  
"Thans Gentrification"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A New Approach to Construction and Demolition Debris

Hello Everyone:

I was just checking the page view count today and we're at 9393 page views.  That's great, keep up the good work.  We can do 10,000 pages views by the start of April easily.  I'm confident that'll you'll come through.  So keep it up.  I'll keep writing and you keep reading.

Bay Area Green Business logo
Environmentally sustainable construction is one of the big subjects in the building trades and their allied fields.  One of the goals of doing more green construction is increasing the rate of landfill diversions.  One way to accomplish this goal is encouraging homeowners to renovate rather than tear down existing buildings.  Aside from making the occasional preservationist happy, it also reduces the need for more landfills.  In a February 2014 article for Northern News,  titled "Deconstructing and Salvaging The Past To Build a More Sustainable Future," Scott McKay discusses the city of Palo Alto, California's pilot construction and demolition program as way to increase the city's landfill diversion rate for non-inert construction and demolition generated by single-family residential work-i.e. remodels and new construction.  Mr. McKay reports that since the start of the program, three years ago, the number of building permit applications granted to homeowners who chose to deconstruct, rather than tear down existing homes has gone up.  The deconstruction program has also attracted nonprofit businesses that accept and resell salvaged materials.  A win-win situation.

Home under construction
The City of Palo Alto has always been a desirable place to live with its high-quality public schools and well-paying jobs.  Like most San Francisco Bay Area cities, it is built out.  These two factors have combined to make Palo Alto one of the most expensive places to live. To give you an idea of how expensive it is, residential land can sell for as much as $400 per square foot in some places of the Silicon Valley city.  One the results, is that Palo Alto is seeing more buyers choosing to build new homes rather than renovate or build add-ons.

The demolition process in Palo Alto is as follows: the City's Development Services Department handles and issues all building and demolition permits.  A property owner is required to take out a separate demolition permit for each detached structure over 120 square feet.  Typical and previous practice for a whole house take down or detached garage has been for Palo Alto to review and approve plans for replacement buildings before issuing a demolition permit.  This was necessary to protect against potential blight that occurs in between the time a building is razed and a new one goes up.

Benatar Residence
Under the new test program, owners typically apply for a demolition permit at the same time they apply for a new home building permit, thus streamlining the process which could take anywhere between three months or more to review and approve.  However, the demo permit could be issued in a short a time as ten to fourteen days.  Therefore, under the pilot deconstruction program, the time gap could be used to remove the existing home and prepare the site for new construction.

A typical single-family home demolition can take only a few days from start to finish, i
Reclaimed sinks
ncluding, removing the foundation and (re) grading the site so the property is ready for new construction.  The process to deconstruct a single-family usually takes a little longer, seven to ten days, depending on the size of the home and construction type.  Prior to the new program, the extra time it took to pull apart a home for renovation, as opposed to a complete tear down, was a roadblock to wider use.  Under the program, the longer debris removal, through deconstruction, is not a barrier.  The early issuance of the demolition permit, under the pilot program, is still being reviewed.  Aside from the faster start offered through deconstruction and the ecological benefits of salvaging and reusing building material, there are also substantial tax benefits for donating used building material to be gleaned from this program.  Depending on the property owner's financial status, the tax savings could be large enough to pay for the costs of deconstruction.

Salvaged lumber
Scott McKay uses a sample project to illustrate the City of Palo Alto's deconstruction pilot program.  First, an applicant plans and applies for a building permit for a new single-family residence.  Concurrently, the applicant also requests a demolition permit for existing home.  The applicant also submits a copy of the signed deconstruction contract specifying a whole house deconstruction, as opposed to selective deconstruction. When standard conditions are met, i.e. utility disconnects, street tree protection fencing, issuance of Bay Area air Quality Management District clearance (J number), and so forth-usually within ten to fourteen days from the date of the application-a demolition permit can be issued and home deconstruction can commence.  Links for time-lapsed videos are at the end of the post.

Salvaged windows
 Next, Mr. McKay takes the readers through a  typical deconstruction process.  Second, the property owner chooses a deconstruction contractor and signs the deconstruction contract. An appraiser is selected to prepare a pre-inventory of potential salvage material that can be donated.  Once the demo permit is in the hands of the property owner, deconstruction can begin and feasible material is salvaged and put on a pallet(s) for donation and reuse.  Salvaged material can include lumber, plywood, appliances, cabinets, plumbing and electrical fixtures, architectural details, roof tiles, pavers, door, windows, and sometimes landscape elements.  The type of material can vary widely depending on the age and type construction.  For example, in homes built before World War II, the buildings used old growth redwood or other trees which are either very expensive or no longer available.  This wood is coveted by builders and artisans and can be sold at a premium.  Once the process is complete, the materials are brought to a nonprofit salvage company.  The appraiser then does the final appraisal of the material, completing the appropriate tax paperwork (of course) in conjunction and in agreement with the nonprofit.  The materials are then sold for reuse.

Architectural details

There is a bit of a down side to this more ecologically sensitive approach to renovation. The immediate cost of deconstruction is typically twice that of standard demolition.  If you compare the costs, deconstruction is significantly more labor intensive, which requires careful dismantling of a house including removing the nail from the lumber and cutting to size.  Standard demolition usually involve heavy equipment and only a few people to take down a home and load the construction and demolition debris into a truck or bin and haul it off to the nearest landfill.  The silver lining in this is, depending on the property owner's tax status, the deconstruction process may end up costing less than standard demolition once the tax savings are factored in.

What's on the horizon?  Plenty.  The City of Palo Alto's deconstruction pilot program continues to gain popularity as more and more homeowners become cognizant of the possible time and cost efficiency. At the present time, over half of all single-family residences that are razed every year in Palo Alto are deconstructed.  With the success of the pilot program, the City is aiming to incorporate deconstruction as a standard part of the development review process.  As older homes yield to new construction, Palo Alto is moving toward a future where existing homes that are being replaced are taken apart rather than taken down.  Other municipalities investigating ways to divert construction and demolition debris from landfills should be able to create similar programs with like results.

Here are links to time-lapsed video related to deconstruction:

Time lapse video for 172 Park Avenue, Palo Alto October 2013

Time lapse video for Palo Alto October 18, 2013

"The Demolition Discount" by Pui-Wing Tam, The Wall Street Journal, December 21 2012

"Deconstruction is a growing trend in the West Coast housing," WSJ's Monika Vosough reports. Video December 20, 2012

Just one quick note, please make sure you go to and help RTKL/JAMA build their canned food sculpture.  When they finish, the "sculpture" will be donated to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.  Thanks

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The "Monuments Men" of Japan

Hello Everyone:

In light of yesterday's post on the real "Monument Man," David Finley, I thought I would share with you an excerpt from my thesis on Japanese historic preservation law.  My thesis looked at the cultural influence on the development of modern Japanese preservation law.  I focused on the period between 1868 and 1950.  I picked this period because it was a time of great transition.  In 1868, the Feudal period and the modern era began in ernest.  The beginning of the modern period touched off a wave of often violent iconoclasm aimed at all things connected to the Samurai culture.  In 1871, in response to the wholesale destruction and theft of cultural properties, the Japanese government began to enact a series of historic preservation laws.  The most important of these early laws was the Ancient Temples and Shrines Preservation Law enacted on June 5, 1897.  This law became the template for the  1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, which, in turn, became the basis for all future laws.  What follows is an analysis of how this law came into being and the role of the "Monuments Men" in Japan.

Nara, Japan
The disastrous fire that struck in January 1949 at the Golden Hall at Hōryū-ji, in the Nara Prefecture and the near loss of precious its Buddhist murals were not the only catalyst for the passage of the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties (the 1950 Law hereafter). The years following Japan’s defeat and the Allied occupation found Japan in an appalling state. Most of the major cities were in ruins; Japan’s fishing industry deteriorated, the economy had virtually collapsed, and the nation suffered from the devastating fall out of two nuclear bombs. Preservation certainly did not register in the consciousness of the people. While existing cultural property laws were not suspended during the occupation, the Japanese government reoriented them in compliance with basic occupation policies and was permitted to continue with normal power over domestic issues. In 1948, the agency began implementing a five-year reconstruction program. The tireless and dedicated work of the Arts and Monument Branch, a subgroup of the Religion and Cultural Resource Division of the Supreme Command of The Allied Powers (SCAP), helped pave the way for a new preservation law that would remain in force until contemporary times.

General Douglas MacArthur with the members of SCAP
Following Japan’s surrender, SCAP was placed in power over the country according to the terms of the Unconditional Surrender signed by the major allied powers. General Douglas MacArthur was selected to head SCAP on behalf of the Allies. Cultural matters within SCAP were the responsibility of the Civil Information and Education Section (CIE). The Cultural Resource division of CIE was merged with the Religion Division in 1947 to form the Religion and Cultural Resource Division. Its subgroup, the Arts and Monuments Branch (A&M; alternately the Division) became the primary force in protecting postwar Japan’s cultural resources. The A&M was responsible for:
...initiation and recommendations regarding management and finance of numerous projects for the protection, preservation, restitution, salvage, or other disposition of works of art, antiquities, cultural treasures, museums, archival repositories, historic and scenic sites, and historical and natural monuments.

The official stance of SCAP regarding the protection of cultural and ethnographic property during the occupation was, “...historical, cultural and religious objects and installations (including several Imperial Palaces) will be carefully protected.” The protection of cultural treasures was so paramount that it became policy:
The immediate postwar problem consists of the reconstitution of the artistic and historical heritage of occupied countries [i.e Japan, Germany, and Italy]...The protection of art in time of war is based upon the universally accepted principle that cultural property is inviolable...The artistic and historic treasures of a nation are regarded as that Nation’s patrimony, and the great public collections of the world as an international heritage. It is the preservation of this irreplaceable cultural heritage of all nations that is recognized,...

Woman going shopping in post-War Japan
Why was the preservation of Japan’s traditional cultural heritage a priority for SCAP? After more than three and a half years of war, unreasonably prolonged in the final months by unbending fanatical rulers, Japan was morally and spiritually exhausted. The death and destruction rained upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear bombs rendered the nation so physically and emotionally spent that surrender was the only option. The decision to make the protection of cultural property, in Japan and Europe as well, important was part of a larger program to keep cultural icons intact to reduce domestic tension in the short run. By extension, actively protecting cultural property would send a message to the Japanese people that SCAP respected Japan’s traditional culture. To accomplish this task, A&M was tasked as a liaison between the various agencies responsible for promoting similar policies. It was through A&M that new preservation policies were implemented and executed.  

A&M concluded that it was necessary to use a firm hand in guiding the course of preservation activities at the administrative level. CIE documents record directed efforts by SCAP to reeducate the Japanese people about the value of their culture and instill an understanding of cultural property preservation. While this may seem condescending and ironic, it should be noted that SCAP did engage in significant ideological reorientation and  censorship.  The Americans hoped to instill the political values of freedom, individualism, and democracy in the minds of young Japanese.218 One influence that led to the 1950 Law was the staff of A&M.

Sherman E. Lee
Langdon Warner

The staff was composed of an advisory committee of American officers with backgrounds in museum work and art history. Two individuals are worth particular mention: Langdon Warner (figure 31) and Sherman E. Lee. Warner (figure 32), a professor at Harvard University and head of Oriental Art at the Fogg Museum. He was an acquaintance of Okakura Tenshin from the time when they worked at the Boston Museum. Lee was a Curator of Oriental Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Their empathy for the Japanese people and its art was demonstrated through their commitment to the protection of cultural treasures. Their helped expose the West, particularly the United States, to traditional Japanese culture.

Food stall in post-War Tokyo
It appeared that the A&M felt the existing preservation scheme in Japan was inadequate and that the government was less than cooperative in securing and promoting the protection of cultural properties stolen during the War. According the 1929 Law, Article 2, the minister responsible for designating a treasure was required to publish his decision in the official gazette. This register was supposedly burned at the time of surrender. The ministry was also required to keep a record of Important Art Objects but did not exercise due diligence in this task. Some records did survive however and were accessible to the A&M. Further, in accord with an order issued by SCAP, the Japanese government was given the job of inventorying foreign cultural assets in its possession.  A report issued by Charles Gallagher, the A&M Fine Arts Advisor to the Chief, Religion and Cultural Resources in 1949 suggested that efforts by the Japanese government,... Did not make “an honest effort” to comply with SCAPIN 1774. They were dilatory, evasive, haggled over questions and finally produced two institutions out of a total of 800 that had objects coming under the definition of SCAPIN 1774. The fact that only four looted items were reported from private collections of individuals (the basis for the directive) is highly suspicious. It is also the firm opinion of the undersigned that there is a great deal of looted property still around, but that much stronger methods than those heretofore taken will be necessary if it is to be uncovered.

In addition, the statutory structure of existing preservation laws were considered insufficient by the A&M. As part of the effort to improve existing preservation laws, it attempted to create a category between National Treasures and Important Art Objects called Important Cultural Property. The point was to restrict the group of Important Art Objects and make administrative changes between categories less frequent.  The Agency for Cultural Affairs abided by the recommendations of the A&M.  However, it held views that were opposed to the Japanese government, regarding the government’s relation to the people and their property.  

Tokyo bombed
The Japanese people had reservations about the postwar preservation efforts of the Ministry of Education. In an article appearing on January 28, 1946, “...[s]trange to say the Ministry of Education which was full of formality and bureaucratic egotism has for a long time been nothing but a sort of state organ hindering the elevation of culture and the arts.”  As we can conclude from this quote, the Japanese people wanted a change in the way cultural resources were dealt with. The 1950 Law provided a new structure for dealing with historic and cultural assets.  The A&M was extremely active in the promotion of cultural property protection. The A&M’s regular involvement with such activities was part of the sweeping actions taken by SCAP to demilitarize and democratize Japan. There was evidence that suggested the A&M had intimate knowledge of plans to modify and improve previous cultural protection laws during the Occupation.

Post-War reconstruction
For example, during early attempts to reform existing preservation laws concerns arose within the Ministry of Education regarding the classification of objects.226 A&M noticed that the categories could be manipulated in such a way that made locating and identifying cultural property immensely difficult. The A&M archives contained a handwritten document, “A Private Draft Concerning the Revision of the National Treasure Laws,” in which recommendations in consultation with the Agency for Cultural Affairs were given with explanations and analysis for suggested for changes to the 1929 Law. 227 The ministry did prepare revisions of the 1929 Law which included:
1) A shift of emphasis of ownership [private] as a foundation for preservation as found in existing law to state control of cultural assets;
2) Clarification of state subsidies for the repair of national treasures;
3) Measures that would allow the government to purchase national treasures from temples and shrines if preservation could not be properly carried out;
4) Significant government control over cultural property;
5) The curtailment of the export of cultural treasures;
6) Exemption of certain transactions concerning cultural property.

Kagoshima following an American bombing raid
In its own analysis, the A&M found the Ministry’s proposals contrary to the 1946 SCAP- manufactured Constitution, declaring that it violated Article 29, “1) The right to own or to hold property is inviolable. 2) Property rights shall be defined by law, in conformity with the public welfare. 
3) Private property may be taken for public use upon just compensation therefore...”  
The A&M was genuinely committed to protecting Japan’s cultural property and held fast to the belief that the people had a right to protection of their heritage. In essence, the concern was that the ministry’s suggestions appeared as government overreach and create a compulsory designation system that infringed on the personal rights of property owners.

The work on legislation that would become the 1950 Law began in earnest in February 1949. To say that that the fire at Hōryū-ji and post war looting by the American and Allied soldiers were the catalysts for the 1950 law would mean dismissing more urgent factors regarding the protection and administration of cultural resources that required legislative attention. These factors were:
1) The pressure of the Japanese tax scheme, including the property, estate, and sales tax; 
2) The sale of objects in response to other needs perceived by the indigenous population;
3) The fear of export of cultural property following any form of transfer; 
4) Theft; 
5) Vandalism affected upon objects and monuments; 
6) Risks of fire;
7) The use of objects by occupation forces; 
8) Perceived Japanese perspectives, including gender attributions, concerning the place that art should occupy in the life of the Japanese people; and 
9) Perceived Japanese perspectives, concerning the role that government should play in protecting such goods.

Seventeenth century Kabuki theater
Of the nine factors listed above, the last two stem from purported trends suggesting that protection and administration of cultural resources was not a priority in the immediate postwar year.232 The 1950 Law was passed unanimously in the Japanese House of Representatives on May 30, 1950, and became effective on August 29, 1950, by Cabinet Order Number 276 of August 1950.233 Chapter One, General Provisions (Purpose of this Law) states,
Article 1. The purpose of this Law is to preserve and utilize cultural properties, so that the culture of the Japanese people may be furthered and a contribution made to the evolution of world culture. Article 2. “Cultural properties” in this Law shall be the following:

1) Buildings, pictures, sculptures, applied arts, calligraphic works, classical books, ancient documents, and other tangible cultural properties, which possess a high artistic historical and/or artistic value in and for this country...archeological specimens and other historical materials of high scientific value... 
2) Art and skill employed in drama music, and applied arts, and other intangible cultural products which possess a high historical and/or artistic value in and for this country... 
3) Manners and customs related to food, clothing and housing, to occupations, religious faiths, etc., to folk-entertainments and clothes, implements, houses and other used therefor[sic], which are indispensable for the understanding of changes in our people’s mode of life... 
4) Shell mounds, ancient tombs, sites of palaces, sites of forts or castles, monumental dwelling houses, and other sites which possess a high historical and/or scientific values in and for this country; gardens, bridges, gorges, seashores, mountains, and other places of scenic beauty, which possess a high value from the point of view of art or visual appreciation in and for this [sic]; animal...plants...and geological features and minerals...which possess a high scientific value in and for this country... 
5) Groups of historic buildings of high value which form a certain antique beauty in combination with their environs...

Ryoan-ji gardens
Upon effective date, some of the prior laws were abolished and all previously identified designated cultural resources were covered by the new law. Pursuant to Article 116, “...With respect to the objects classified under the provision of Article 2 paragraph 1 of the Law Concerning the Preservation of Important Objects [the 1933 Law], etc. Up to the time of enforcement of this Law, the old Law shall continue to be in force...” 

The next article states, The designation of historic sites, places of scenic beauty and/or natural monuments made prior to the enforcement of this Law, in accordance with the provision of Article 1 paragraph 1 of the Law for the Preservation of Scenic Sites, Places of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monuments...shall be regarded as the designation made in accordance with the Article 69 paragraph 1 of this Law,...The new law collapsed the 1919, 1929, and 1933 laws into an all-inclusive cultural heritage package and went further by including designation for intangible cultural properties, defined as manners, customs, clothes, and folk-entertainment. This was expanded by a 1954 amendment that set up three new categories of cultural properties: intangible cultural properties, buried cultural properties, and folk materials. The 1954 amendment also created a designation system for Important Intangible Folk Materials separate from Tangible Cultural Properties and established a method of documenting selected Intangible Folk Materials.

Uji, Kyoto, Japan
The process of designating Important Cultural Properties was codified and incorporated the proposed revisions by the Ministry regarding more government control over cultural property. The 1950 Law gave authority to the Ministry of Education to designate tangible important cultural properties as important cultural properties. From these properties, the Minister may designate those which are especially high value from the context of world culture and unrivaled national treasures.238 This differs from Article 1 of the 1929 Law which places the responsibility of designation in the hands of the National Treasures Preservation Committee and the appropriate Minister. Upon designation, an announcement was placed in the Official Gazette and formal written notice was given to the owner of an asset in a manner similar to the second article in the 1929 Law.  Designation can be annulled in cases when an important cultural property has lost its value or for other reasons. In this case, an official announcement is made in the Gazette, the owner receives official notice, and is required to return the certificate within thirty days.240 This is based on Article 11 of The 1929 Law, which permits the responsible minister to abolish the designation of a national treasure through the consent of the NTPC when it was deemed necessary for the public benefit or other special reason.

Custody of important cultural properties and national treasures is addressed in Subsection of the 1950 Law. The Agency for Cultural Affairs is directed to give the owner instructions regarding the stewardship of important cultural property, when necessary. Specifically, “The owner of an important cultural property shall undertake custody therefor in accordance with, this Law, as well the Ministry of Education Ordinances and instructions of the Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, issued thereunder...” The owner may appoint a surrogate if extenuating circumstances exist and must notify the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs within twenty days. However, if the owner is found to be unacceptable or untraceable, a provision in the 1950 Law allows the Agency for Cultural Affairs to appoint a custodial body to manage the resource.  This differs from the previous laws which appeared to put primary custody of a cultural asset in the hands of the property owner but allowed the ministry to impose tight restrictions on use and movement.

Samurai with sword[
The 1950 Law places the responsibility of repair in the hands of the custodial body. In particular, “The repair of an important cultural property shall be conducted by its owner. It shall, however, be conducted by the custodial body, if such has been appointed.”243 The 1950 Law also provides for government subsidies for repair and maintenance costs in a similar manner to the 1929 Law, “Subsidies shall be given according to the amounts estimated for maintenance repairs, but the surplus balance after exact expenses shall be returned.”244 The difference is that under the 1929 Law, repair and maintenance subsidies were used as a reward for compliant owners, whereas, under the 1950 Law, subsidy allocation appear to be based on need. This is consistent with ministry proposals to clarify state subsidies for repair. When a National Treasure requires repair, the Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs can act in advisory capacity regarding the work. Finally, under the new law, penalties were considerably strengthened. For example, according to Article 106,
Any person who has, in contravention of the provision of Article 44, exported any important cultural property without obtaining the permission of the Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs shall be liable to imprisonment, with or without hard labor, for a term not exceeding five (5) years or to a fine not exceeding one million (1,000,000) yen.  Further, the 1950 Law proscribes penalties of imprisonment or fines for individuals who damage, destroy, or alter cultural properties without consent of the Agency for Cultural Affairs.246 There are also administrative penalties, such as fines for individuals who are negligent in their custodial
responsibilities.  The influence of A&M can be felt throughout the 1950 Law. The irony is that at the same time A&M was exerting pressure on the Japanese government to reform its historic preservation laws, the United States still did not have a comprehensive national historic preservation program.

The tireless activities of the Arts and Monument Branch and the near catastrophic fire at Hōryū-ji prompted a reconsideration of Japan’s relationship to its heritage. The 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties and its subsequent amendments are the enduring legacy of the Arts and Monuments Branch. The protection of cultural property was an important was part of a larger program of reeducation, preservation of cultural icons, and demonstrate SCAP’s respect for Japan’s traditional culture. The new cultural properties protection law combined the previous laws into a more comprehensive law, and was refined with a 1954 amendment that set up three new categories of cultural properties. The provisions of the 1950 Law put more control of cultural properties in the hands of their owners. This could be considered proof of the A&M’s concern about the careful balance between private property ownership and the central government’s need to control the stewardship and movement of cultural property. Further, the 1950 Law collapsed the 1919, 1929, and 1933 laws into a comprehensive piece of legislation that was expanded upon in 1954 with additional categories for intangible cultural properties, buried cultural properties and folk materials. In the years following the Occupation, the 1950 Law continued to expand incorporating new categories that signaled Japan’s readiness to contribute to world culture.

Just one quick note, please make sure you go to and help RTKL/JAMA build their canned food sculpture.  When they finish, the "sculpture" will be donated to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.  Thanks

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