Did you know that St. Louis is a city filled with mid-century modern buildings? Participants at the Mid-Century Modern Structures Symposium learned of the city’s exemplary structures during the event held April 13-16, 2015. The symposium was a result of a partnership between the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT), the Friends of NCPTT, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM), the American Institute of Architects St. Louis Chapter (AIA STL), Washington University in St. Louis, and the World Monuments Fund (WMF). The symposium was the kick-off event for the National Park Service’s Centennial symposium series. In addition, it marks the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.
The Legacy of Eero Saarinen was featured in a free public lecture given at Washington University in St. Louis on April 13. Eero Saarinen was a Finnish Architect and designer of the Gateway Arch. Susan Saarinen, the granddaughter of Eliel and daughter of Eero Saarinen, delighted the audience with tales of growing up in this highly creative family. Robert Moore and Ken Kolkmeier rounded out the evening with a question and answer style presentation on the construction of the Arch.
The symposium opened Tuesday morning, April 14 with a welcome by Franklin Mares, the deputy superintendent of the JNEM, and Kirk Cordell, the Executive Director of NCPTT. The renowned architect, Gyo Obata, opened the session with a brief presentation about the American Zinc Building in which we were meeting. He then showed participants some of his work including the Priory Chapel at St. Louis Abbey and the airport terminal building at Lambert Field.
Gunny Harboe, a registered architect with over 25 years of experience, was the keynote speaker for the meeting. He raised interesting questions about materials issues associated with mid-century architecture now that these buildings are entering a cycle of renewal. He noted that modern architecture was by its very nature experimental.
The second day of the symposium featured presentations about the long-term study of and the preservation plans for the Gateway Arch. Steve Kelley, a registered architect and structural engineer in private practice, and Alan O’Bright, a historical architect with the National Park Service, offered insights to the history of the arch and efforts to study the conditions of the changing stainless steel surface. Catherine Houska discussed her observations and evaluation of the Gateway Arch Stainless steel, the welds, and the discoloration. Christine Freisinger and David Megerle, from Wiss Janey Elstner and Associates, showed exciting videos of the industrial rope access of the external areas of the Gateway Arch and explained the observations along the height of the north leg of the arch. Ann Weber and Jennifer Wiley presented the results of their re-evaluation of fire protection and life safety strategies.
David Bright, a Senior Vice President with Knoll, Inc., opened the third day of the symposium. He spoke about mid-century modern structures from an international perspective. He introduced the World Monuments Fund (WMF) Modernism at Risk initiative, as well as the WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize.The event closed with a guided tour highlighting exemplary mid-century buildings led by John Guenther and Andrew Raimist from the Sam Fox School of Architecture at Washington University. Participants were treated to visits of the Frank Lloyd Wright house at Ebsworth Park, and the Priory Chapel at St. Louis Abby. The tour also included the non-denominational Ethical Society by local modernist Harris Armstrong, FAIA, the B’nai Amoona Synagogue (now COCA) by legendary modernist architect Erich Mendelsohn and structures by local modernist leader Isadore Shank framing the early and high period of MCM architecture.
Check back soon to see videos of the presentations! We look forward to publishing the proceedings this year as well.