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October 4, 2006
Boyd H. Gibbons III, President
The Johnson Foundation
33 East Four Mile Road
Racine, Wisconsin 53402
Dear Boyd Gibbons:
Over the past couple of years I had been in communication with Steve Branca of the Foundation
concerning a proposed conference that I have been trying to organize. I understand that Steve
has left his post at the Johnson Foundation and in talking with Wendy Butler today, she
suggested that I write directly to you.
Almost a year ago Steve replied to my original request with positive encouragement. I have a
feeling that he may have even shown you our proposal. At the risk of repetition, I am enclosing
an updated form of the original proposal below.
Let me begin by saying that I am the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the National Center for
Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT), an interdisciplinary program of the National
Park Service located in Natchitoches, LA. NCPTT’s mission, as its name implies, is to promote
the preservation of historic and prehistoric resources through the advancement and dissemination
of preservation training and technology. We reach both the preservation community and the
public at large. NCPTT was established by act of Congress only some fourteen years ago, so
that we are only now beginning to see the results of the early years of planning and nurturing.
We have decided to organize a national conference of experts in our various program areas in
order to focus on the topic of sustainability. NCPTT feels very strongly that the preservation of
the environment, both built and natural, is one of the most appropriate ways of achieving our oftstated
national goals of preserving our heritage. In all of the political rhetoric of these recent
days, we hear nothing but proclamations from both sides about the importance of preserving this
heritage – that is the stated purpose of our national actions, whatever they may be. Our built
environment is an accurate reflection of our culture; its preservation must receive the highest
priority. The preservation of the built environment is one of the single largest steps we can take
in the realm of sustainability because it advocates the use of existing facilities, rather than
construction of new.
With that as background, we would plan a conference by inviting one or two nationally known
experts in each of our program areas – historic and cultural landscapes, materials research,
preservation architecture and engineering, archaeology and collections. We would also possibly
have an outside moderator, though at this time we are also considering that role being filled by
an NCPTT Board or staff member. Building on the theme of sustainability, we would convene a
two day session with these invited outside experts first meeting in individual groups, each
teamed with one staff member and one or two Board member from NCPTT. On the second day,
in the morning the groups would be scrambled and then in the afternoon all of the groups would
meet together in a single session, pooling the ideas from many different areas of expertise in
order to arrive at our summary statement. Of course there would be assignments prior to arrival
so that we had a body of information and knowledge to work with even before gathering
We intend the results of this Wingspread conference to be the development of preservation and
sustainability strategies and doctrines, policy decisions if you will, that are derived from the
experience of expert practitioners in their fields. These would not be doctrinaire statements or
political espousals, but rather really practical techniques for achieving maximal end results with
minimal expenditure of resources. The proceedings would form a manual for action in each of
the program areas, hopefully looking at new ideas, not retreading the old. The summary
statements would be useful as policy tools for decision-makers in the realm of sustainability. As
the new science of sustainability becomes more established, we need a “second generation” of
thinking in order to accomplish the goals set forth by the first generation. We feel that now is the
opportune time to set forth these tactics. We expect that our outcome would be published as
“The Wingspread Charter.”
We would like to apply to the Johnson Foundation for support for holding such a conference.
The imprimatur of a Wingspread conference lends so much more importance and weight to its
findings and outcome. We realize that most of the funding for travel and lodging would have to
be provided by NCPTT or a co-sponsor that we might find for the conference.
Being able to meet in the environment of Wingspread would mean a great deal to us. After all it
is one of the great historic homes of America. Meeting in a Frank Lloyd Wright setting is so
appropriate for an agency of the National Park Service that is dedicated to the advancement of
preservation technology. The guidelines for preservation of landmark buildings are, of course,
written by our parent, the Department of the Interior through its Secretary. Our firm were the
structural engineers that designed the high tech repairs to the roofs of Wingspread using carbon
fiber thin shells, some nine years ago. I revisited the house several years ago while in Wisconsin
to deliver the Monona Terrace Lecture in Madison, talking about Frank Lloyd Wright and the
need for structural repairs in his buildings. Lois Berg was kind enough to show my wife and me
around the house, so I could do a post-construction inspection. I am sorry that I missed you that
day. We are also monitoring some of the problems at the Research Tower at the S.C. Johnson
office site in downtown Racine and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
We hope that you might endorse this application, recalling perhaps some fond memories of your
days as a Deputy Under Secretary in the Department of the Interior and retaining some sympathy
for that Department’s activities and needs.
I have personally had a good deal of experience in developing new ideas in the realm of
sustainable design. I formed the original Working Commission on Sustainable Engineering for
the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE), a Zurich- based
organization of more than 4,000 structural engineers from 100 countries. I was also awarded the
Anton Tedesko Medal by IABSE in recognition of my work in leading them in sustainable
causes and securing passage of a statement of ethics regarding members participating in projects
only if they promote sustainable principles. I also developed the original course in sustainable
design for the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University and, in addition, served
as a charter member of the committee that wrote the Guidelines for Environmentally Responsible
Capital Projects for New York City, one of the first municipal strategies of its kind.
We think that this may be an opportune time to offer policy suggestions. The White House has
recently announced an initiative called Preserve America and Laura Bush has invited a group of
preservationists, including the Executive Director of NCPTT (Kirk Cordell), myself and two
other NCPTT Board members to join about 100 others at the Preserve America Summit in New
Orleans on October 19 and 20, 2006. We have been working hard all summer in preparation for
this event that mandates the revisiting of the entire spectrum of historic preservation in the US as
we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Historic Preservation Act of 1966. All
areas are open for examination and discussion and I must tell you that there a good many radical
ideas being suggested. In many of the recommendations of the panels that have prepared
material for this summit, the role of NCPTT is significantly expanded.
We would like to organize this Wingspread conference in October 2007 if possible. Our Board
is scheduled to meet in Yellowstone Park on October 16 and 17, just two weeks away. Is there
some way that we could get an indication of continuing interest on the part of the Johnson
Foundation before our Board meeting so that we can continue our planning in earnest? Our
planning efforts were significantly disrupted by Hurricane Katrina because much of the Center’s
staff was assigned to temporary duty in New Orleans. But we are back on track now.
You can learn more about the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training at our
website: ncptt.nps.gov I can be reached by e-mail at: {redacted}
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely yours,
Robert Silman
Chairman, Advisory Board,
National Center for Preservation Technology and Training

Wingspread Conference Outline
Preservation and Sustainability – An Examination of Policy
To discuss and examine the parallel tracks of preservation of the built environment
(including buildings, monuments, landscapes, archaeology and artifacts) and
sustainability (as we currently broadly define it: Development that meets the needs of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Mrs.
Brundtland). To see where these two issues intersect and where they reinforce each other.
To determine and recommend measures by which a more formal statement of policy
might be drafted so that the broadest community may understand this symbiotic
relationship and the need to foster it. Further to recommend that those engaged in the
work of preservation be encouraged or even required to follow certain procedures that
will guarantee the furtherance of the principles of sustainability in their practice.
A formal declaration or “charter” that announces principles of sustainability that should
or must be practiced by the preservation community.
A two day conference is envisioned, with preparatory work being undertaken by
participants prior to arrival. The first half day will be devoted to introduction,
overarching principles that apply to all facets of preservation and sustainability; perhaps a
keynote speaker will lead this session. The second part of the first day will be devoted to
break-out groups of sub-specialists, discussing their own particular aspects of the issues.
The morning of the second day will be a scramble of break-out groups where multidisciplines
will be mixed together. The afternoon of the second day will be devoted to
drafting a statement or charter that will be the publicly disseminated outcome of the
All Board members who wish will participate, each being assigned to a specialist group
in their area of expertise. Selected staff members from the Center will also be asked to
join. Invited guests will be specialists, ideally having keen insights into the issues of both
sustainability and preservation. In some cases, these specialists may have experience
weighing more heavily on one side or the other. There will be a moderator or leader who
will direct the proceedings and keep the conference to schedule and purpose.
The total numbers of participants may therefore look something like the following:
Board members 8
Staff 4
Invited guests 16
Moderator/leader 1
Total 29
According to the staff at Wingspread, this number is feasible, but may even be a little
large for our purposes.
Day 0
Board and Staff members arrive at Milwaukee Airport in late afternoon. Check into
motel near Airport and have dinner together that evening.
Day 1
a. All-day Board meeting at venue in Milwaukee; possibly in hotel meeting room.
b. Guests and Moderator arrive at Milwaukee Airport in afternoon. All are picked
up by Wingspread at Milwaukee for transportation to Racine.
c. All check in to Wingspread Conference Center and attend welcoming dinner at
Day 2
a. Morning – Breakfast together at Center. Introduction by Moderator. Procedures,
methodology, intent. Keynote address. Establishment of break-out groups.
b. Late morning – Tour of FLW Wingspread House and Grounds.
c. Lunch at Center
d. Afternoon – Breakout groups meet, discuss and establish priorities for their input
to final statement. At end of afternoon, have each break-out group list their
e. Cocktail hour social
f. Dinner at Center. After dinner entertainment ?
Day 3
a. Morning – Breakfast together at Center. Scramble break-out groups to mix the
disciplines. Examine and question the priorities from the day before. At end of
morning, have each break-out group discuss any revisions to their priorities.
b. Lunch at Center.
c. Afternoon – Develop draft of statement or “Wingspread Charter” on Preservation
and Sustainability.”
d. Dinner at Center.
e. Leave time after dinner if there is any unfinished ‘work’.
Day 4
a. Breakfast together at Center. Farewells.
b. Morning – Transportation to Milwaukee Airport provided by

Dear Fellow Board Members,

I would like to propose a new type of activity for the NCPTT Board. To my knowledge, we have never undertaken a purely Board-organized initiative, independent of the normal staff activities of the Center. Instead of meeting twice a year and limiting ourselves to reacting to reports from the NPS cultural affairs directors, the CenterÕs Exec. Dir. and the staff, why canÕt we perform some meaningful work on our own that would enhance the image of the Center and compliment the fine work being done by the staff. We, the Board, have a tremendous collective capability, covering the entire spectrum of preservation.

Toward this end, I would like to propose a small but high-level conference of preservation specialists from all of our respective fields (and other areas that we may not encompass) to focus on the question of Sustainability in Preservation. Sustainability practices have become a favorite rallying point in all of our areas of expertise within the past 10 or 15 years. Following these practices is a formal requirement in all NPS work as well as in most other governmental and institutional projects. But just where and what is the interface between sustainability and preservation? Are we ready to formalize such a relationship, to point out the natural symbiosis, to advocate specific rules and requirements regarding sustainable practices in preservation?

Obviously I think so. Sustainable design in engineering practice has been an abiding interest for me since the mid-1970Õs. How does the rest of the Board feel?

My specific proposal for a conference would be to hold it under the sponsorship of the Johnson Foundation (JF) at Wingspread in Racine, Wisconsin. This was Frank Lloyd WrightÕs largest house, now being used as a conference center. The JF has built a beautiful adjacent building to house participants during the conference. Meetings are held either in the Wingspread house or other buildings on the property. The JF does not provide funding Ð we would have to pay for travel and lodging costs (you pay to stay at Wingspread, but it is relatively affordable considering how nice it is). They do provide the venue as well as a tremendous amount of prestige. We can discuss costs and funding sources at the Board meeting. I have sent them a preliminary letter of inquiry which is attached. Their response was, on an informal basis, favorable. However this by no means guarantees their final acceptance of our proposal. For more information on the JF, see their websiste at www.johnsonfdn.org

After you have read the proposal, could you please come back to the following questions that they asked. I have not yet replied because I would first like to see if there is interest in this proposal from the Board. If so, I would like the response to the questions to be from the Board as a whole. Also, please make suggestions for any changes to the proposal. We should discuss this at the Board meeting rather than starting a whole train of e-mails.

  1. How will we spend the time at the conference? How much will be developed at Wingspread? Specific guidelines? What is our vision of the final product (e.g. a 2 page summary or a 300 page spec.)? How the conference fits in to the whole process will prove its worthiness to the evaluating committee.
  2. They have a constant concern about conferences trying to do too much. We should pick a tight focus and hone in on it. To them, having all disciplines represented sounded like it might be too ambitious for a 2-3 day conference.
  3. What will be the level of authority for the end product? Will it be the same level as the SecretaryÕs standards?
  4. How will our end product be disseminated?
  5. Thanks for reviewing this before you get to the meeting. Looking forward to seeing you all in New York, Sunday-Tuesday, Oct. 17-19.

Bob Silman

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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119