Massive concrete spans, buoyant sculptural forms, and shimmering stretches of glass: these are some of the celebrated innovations that define modern architecture. They also pose significant challenges to preservation, as the experimental materials and techniques developed by architects and designers worldwide age differently with time. Their spirit of questioning has brought us to a moment of reckoning if these building are to endure in the future. And this is where the Getty is making a difference.
To address this challenge, today the Getty Foundation announced ten new grants as part of its Keeping It Modern initiative, which will fund needed research, testing, analysis, planning and/or treatment for innovative twentieth-century buildings. These range from a Soviet-era monument to a soaring exhibition hall, and from an inventive railway station to a beloved church. (See all 10 of the buildings below.)
For the first time in the initiative’s six-year history, grants have been awarded for important sites in Argentina, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Mozambique, Spain, and Uganda. The majority of the projects support conservation planning, and many include proposals for adaptive reuse—the repurposing of buildings for uses other than the ones for which they were originally intended.
Including these new grants, Keeping It Modern has supported 64 conservation projects since launching in 2014. Each is a model for how to approach the preservation of other related buildings worldwide—knowledge that is shared through the Keeping It Modern Report Library, which offers free access to completed technical reports and conservation management plans.
In addition to preserving individual buildings of significance, each of the new grant projects will contribute to our growing knowledge of how to study, treat, and preserve modern architecture.
1. A Concrete Monument to Bulgarian Socialism
Buzludzha Monument, Buzludzha Peak, Bulgaria
Architect: Georgi Stoilov
Year built: 1981
Looking like a concrete UFO that landed in the Shipka Pass of the Balkan Mountains, the brutalist-inspired Buzludzha Monument was built to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Bulgarian socialist party. It was one of the most popular heritage sites in Bulgaria, until it closed with the end of communist rule.
The discus-shaped structure and its accompanying tower will undergo thorough analysis to determine the best possible conservation approach, as well as a new public purpose.
2. An Italian Convention Center that Soars like a Cathedral
Torino Esposizioni, Turin, Italy
Architect: Pier Luigi Nervi
Year built: 1954
With a dramatic dome and soaring nave, this Italian convention center and exhibition hall is reminiscent of a modern cathedral. Designed to house an annual auto show, it was also host to the 2006 Winter Olympics. But today it stands mostly abandoned.
Rigorous testing of this daring concrete structure will reveal the seismic strength of the structure’s gravity-defying features, helping inform proposals for its future adaptive reuse.
3. A Postwar Train Station in Mozambique
Beira Railway Station, Beira, Mozambique
Architects: Paulo de Melo Sampaio, João A. Garizo do Carmo, and Francisco José de Castro
Year built: 1965
This train station in central Mozambique once stood as a symbol of postwar progress. Abstract sculptures and glass mosaic panels complement the distinctive postwar architecture, which features an open floor plan, sunshades, and reinforced concrete stilts. Once a hub for the country’s railway system, the station is still in use—but has seen a dramatic drop in traffic.
The new Getty grant will enable the station to undergo planning for alternative uses, all while retaining the modernist details that make it unique.
4. A Famed Modernist House of Worship in the Heart of the Midwest
North Christian Church, Columbus, Indiana, USA
Architect: Eero Saarinen
Year built: 1964
Known for its distinctive hexagonal plan and elongated, needle-like spire, this Indiana church features a dramatic oculus that floods the interior with natural light.
Stewards of the iconic church will develop a strategy to ensure the house of worship remains an active and vital presence in the civic life of Columbus.
5. A Midcentury Indiana Home with Distinctive Skylights
Miller House and Garden, Columbus, Indiana, USA
Architect: Eero Saarinen
Year built: 1953
This archetypal midcentury modern house is distinctive for its blocks of gridded skylights and for its garden designed by landscape architect Daniel Urban Kiley, who also created gardens for the Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis and the Art Institute of Chicago.
The house was donated to the Indianapolis Museum of Art (Newfields) in 2009, but faces significant conservation issues such as water leaks and surface damage. Through the new Getty grant, the house will receive a systematic conservation management plan to handle current and future challenges stemming from its open layout, skylights, and glass and steel walls.
6. An Open-Air Argentinian University in Concrete and Stone
Escuela Superior de Comercio Manuel Belgrano, Córdoba, Argentina
Architects: Osvaldo Bidinost, José Gassó, Mabel Lapacó, and Martín Meyer
Year built: 1968
One of the finest examples of brutalist architecture in Argentina, this university building combines reinforced concrete and local stone. It is distinctive for its sloped “floating” roof that covers a vast patio space still actively used by university students.
The school will perform a study of the building’s current condition in order to develop technical specifications that will guide conservation efforts. Their research will also inform architectural conservation elsewhere in in Latin America, where exposed concrete is a common building material.
7. A Light-Filled Laboratory in Lithuania’s Distinct Modernist Style
Laboratory for Faculty of Chemical Technology at Kaunas University of Technology, Kaunas, Lithuania
Architect: Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis
Year built: 1935
With its flat roof, open floor plan, and long spans of windows, this laboratory building is an example of Lithuania’s significant contributions to 20th-century architecture. Completed in 1935, it was part of a construction boom that followed the country’s declaration of independence in 1918.
The creation of a conservation management plan will help protect the regional modernist features of this laboratory, just in time for the designation of the city of Kaunas as the European Capital of Culture in 2022.
8. The First Modern Building in Uganda
Uganda National Museum, Kampala
Architect: Ernst May
Year built: 1954
This popular landmark is one of the earliest cast-in-place concrete structures in the capital city of Kampala. The architect, an exile from Nazi Germany who worked in Uganda for two decades, adapted the International Style for the local climate with perforated partitions for cooling airflow and angled walls for diffuse interior lighting.
To address cracks, moisture from groundwater, and other conservation challenges, the building will receive a thorough structural investigation so it can be preserved for future generations.
9. A Dramatic Auditorium in an Educational Complex in Spain
Paraninfo at the Universidad Laboral de Cheste, Spain
Architect: Fernando Moreno Barberá
Year built: 1969
With its bold geometry and prominent structural ribs, this wedge-shaped auditorium is the best-known symbol of a massive educational complex for workers’ children built under Francisco Franco’s rule in Spain. Unfortunately, its experimental materials have failed over time, and today it stands vacant.
A team of experts will explore how this striking auditorium can be updated to current safety and sustainability standards, as well as reopened with a new function.
10. The Seaside Retreat of A Pioneering Female Designer
Villa E-1027, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Architect: Eileen Gray
Year built: 1929
Designed by architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray as her own vacation home, this 90-year-old modern villa enjoys a picturesque location overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, exposure to sea air and water runoff from the abutting coastal slope has weakened the structure over time.
Caretakers of this seaside home will use cutting-edge preservation technologies to conserve the building’s reinforced concrete, implementing strategies from the conservation management plan developed due to a first Keeping It Modern grant received in 2016.
Interested in proposing a building for grant support? The Getty Foundation will offer one more year of project grants in 2020. Learn how to apply.
Trainstation, Xuchou, China
It would be great to consider two possible candidates for a 2020 Getty Grant in Chicago. The two structures would include the Mies van der Rohe inspired Lakeside Center of McCormick Place, by Gene Sommers and Helmut Jahn of C.F. Murphy. It was the world’s largest convention center, with tinted glass walls, overlooking Lake Michigan and the Chicago Loop. It also employed the world’s largest space frame structure–overwhelming in every way — elegant and a horizontal skyscraper, at the same time and unveiling as the Sears Tower and Hancock superstructures buildings in Chicago.
The second, would be the Thompson Center/ State of Illinois Building, a 17-story “spaceship” by Helmut Jahn in the heart of the Loop. This Post-Modern building, with its vast plazas and striking interior atrium, is falling apart and the State of Illinois wants to sell it. Same with McCormick Place, where demolition is being considered. Both buildings and structures are unique and warrant preservation and restoration.
Ward Miller, Executive Director
I am curious to know if Notre Dame has asked for input from the Getty Research Institute or any other Getty Preservation Departments.
Classical buildings, not all of them.
Will keep looking for the improvements. A big thank you.
I keep wondering what it is that makes these modernist landmarks so needy. Experimental materials, nobody likes their style (why?)? We have many such works in NC, but are losing them fast despite the best efforts of preservatiionists.
I spent almost 40 years living in an 110 year old house and it stayed strong, sturdy and stood up to the elements all those years since it was built. Now granted, these are fabulous buildings but in every case the architects in their grand visionary designs failed to produce buildings that stood up to the environment and their choice of building materials.
So I’m left wondering just how great are these “visionary” architects if they failed the very basics of building. Just how great are these building if 75 years later they need millions of dollars to fix them again. Shouldn’t there be some reevaluation of their greatness in terms of real life