My numerous hats have helped me to ponder "What is the true value in preserving Mid-Century Modern architecture?".
As a commissioner with the local Historic Preservation Commission, it's rare that we are presented with arguments for saving properties built anytime after the 1930's. As an architect I am often disappointed with the local indifference to quickly tearing down fantastic, but overlooked WWII-era public buildings only to be replaced by non-descript EIFS and synthetic stone-scabbed edifices that are sure to be replaced again in 20 years when their shiny facade has rubbed off. As an advocate and community member concerned about the state of our environment and expendable, throw-away culture, I'm horrified to see that prominent sites with mid-century modern structures are scraped of all meaningful materials to make way for certified "sustainable" big box, commercial behemoths.
It seems that the Mid-Century Modern movement, although having a niche of admirers that are often seen as "quirky" and "eccentric", has often been treated as the stepchild of culture and architecture - young, misunderstood and often pushed aside for the more familiar styles such as Craftsman, Victorian or Neoclassical. Add to this the nonsensical and disrespectful moniker that those who dismiss this distinct style refer to it as - MODERNISTIC. A term that screeches in my ear about as much as hearing a contractor refer to "masonary" in an OAC meeting.
So, imagine my excitement when I attended last month's Colorado Preservation Inc. Saving Places conference and found 2 sessions specifically dedicated to mid-century modern architecture on top of the presentation of several prominent Denver projects on the prestigious "Endangered Places" list that often warrants manic preservation efforts on a large scale! Not only were these sessions packed with attendees, but the presentations actually kept us awake and hungry for more...this after a 1.5 hour power-carb lunch which is saying alot.
Along with this, the recently celebrated "Modernism Week" (February 13-23) pounded home the message of "foster appreciation of mid-century architecture and design, as well as contemporary thinking in these fields, by encouraging education, preservation and sustainable modern living".
Perhaps my optimism is getting the best of me, but as time passes and we continue to lose more and more of our modern timepieces, the pendulum seems to be swinging back onto the side of preservation as these endangered projects acquire voices to advocate on their behalf. However slow this momentum may be, it's worthwhile to ponder "What is the true value in preserving modern architecture?" and I think Christine Madrid French and Mike Singer, both authors of relevant articles asking these very questions sum it up quite nicely.