The Postmodern Watchlist

As preservation battles rage, will architecture from the 1970s and 1980s get its turn?

(page 6 of 16)

Townhouse for Matt Sabatine (1984)
 Diana Agrest and Mario Gandelsonas
110 East 64th Street

Because the townhouse was in a historic district, the mullions had to be thickened to more closely match the others in the neighborhood.

Some of the Postmodern buildings now eligible for preservation once had to contend with landmarking decisions themselves. Matt Sabatine’s townhouse, designed by Agrest and Gandelsonas Architects after Manhattan’s Upper East Side was landmarked in 1981, is a fine case in point.

“We wanted to make an interpretation, quite clearly,” Agrest says. “We didn’t want to replicate a historic building.” The solution, which had to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, was to build a curved limestone facade that, in Agrest’s words, was a “hinge between two institutional buildings that had almost opposing styles”—the Modernist Asia House by Philip Johnson and the Gothic Central Presbyterian Church. During the approval process, the rectilinear base, originally designed as an indoor garage, remained as a way to echo the edge of the street. “We had to compromise at some point, because of the commission. A lot of other people got away with things, doing whatever,” Agrest says, ruefully. “But that’s a long story.” —Avinash Rajagopal

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Nov 10, 2014 09:42 pm
 Posted by  Stanley jay friedman

Thank you all for the lovely article...... It sure brings back memories.
Stanley Jay Friedman

Nov 13, 2014 12:16 pm
 Posted by  Donald L.

This represents important issues for architectural preservation. Postmodern architecture remains controversial, however, many of its buildings are quite good. We find it hard to recall the time when the saving of Grand Central Terminal required yeoman's work; who would question the significance of Beaux-Arts monuments now?

The AT&T, and now Sony Tower, by Philip Johnson is one of his finest compositions. It shouldn't matter that some architects still don't like or understand it.

It's been my experience that architects and architectural historians often have very different takes on what good architecture is or should be. Since I belong to the latter group, I have often wished that architects were more conversant with their own traditions. Moreover, even in Postmodern architecture there are substantive distinctions to be made. If we take Venturi and Scott Brown to be Postmodern (and this is a label they didn't like), we'd really need to differentiate them from Michael Graves, for example, who the Venturi's regarded as having "gone further" in his use of historical references than was wise.

Nov 19, 2014 05:48 am
 Posted by  postmodern

Nice to see a piece on postmodern architecture preservation. This comment is off-topic in that it is not about New York, BUT topical if we are to discuss postmodern preservation. One of the first postmodern structures to get official recognition by city, state, and federal authorities in the U.S. is the Perry Harvey Sr. Park Skateboard Bowl in Tampa, Florida, otherwise known as the "Bro Bowl." Conceived of in 1975 and built in 1978, the structure was recognized on October 7, 2013 by the NPS and placed on the register of National Historic Places. The inclusion of this structure, which can be compared to concrete sculpture, is remarkable as it was less than 50 years old and the first piece of architecture related to skate culture to be placed on register. It also achieved recognition in less than 6 months due to the hard work of the people behind its registration. The two parties responsible for this are a local resident named Shannon Bruffett and the Skateboarding Heritage Foundation, a non-profit that is focused around preservation. By all accounts, they broke records more than once in getting this piece of architecture recognized.

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