DOCOMOMO US Honors Effort to Preserve the Lewis and Clark Branch Library; Demolition Underway

docomomo-awardThis update comes with mixed feelings, both grateful and bittersweet. Yesterday Docomomo US announced the recipients of its second annual Modernism in America Awards, and Modern STL is honored to be among them. Our board, members, and partners have won a Citation of Merit for our concerted efforts to save North County’s Lewis and Clark Branch Library. According to the jury, comprised of nationally-recognized architects and preservationists,

The Docomomo US Board of Directors awards a Citation of Merit to Modern STL for its advocacy efforts to save the Lewis and Clark Branch Library in St. Louis, Missouri. The Board of Directors notes the project addresses a typology is often threatened and bridges two things: innovative, passionate campaign with threatened iconic building typology.

As stated by Docomomo US, this is “the only national program that celebrates the people and projects working to preserve, restore and rehabilitate our modern heritage sensitively and productively.” Thankfully, and rightly, the organization considers advocacy efforts that both succeed and fail, for all too often our communities pour their hearts and time into saving buildings against institutional forces too powerful to overcome.

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For our part, Modern STL could not be more proud of our own community’s sustained efforts in regard to Lewis and Clark. For more than two years we fought to show the St. Louis County Library how this building was both culturally and architecturally important; that it could be easily expanded to accommodate the system’s stated programmatic needs; that preserving the building would be the most fiscally responsible course to pursue. Our board, members, and partners sent hundreds of emails, penned editorials, held events, testified at public meetings, signed petitions, and garnered national media coverage on behalf of this beloved building. This is preservation at its best, and we are honored to have led this fight.

Docomomo US’ awards announcement, however, could not have come at a more poignant time. St. Louis County Library has accelerated its demolition schedule in order to open the replacement branch by September. Last week construction crews began removing select panels of Lewis and Clark’s famed stained glass windows. Despite our efforts to convince SLCL Director Kristen Sorth to commit to a responsible preservation plan for these masterworks, only some of the stained glass panels appear destined to be relocated in the new building. Broken glass was spotted on site, and the rest, we fear, are headed for the landfill.

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Every preservation battle teaches its advocates something valuable for the next go-round; in this case, Modern STL has come to learn that the Saint Louis community harbors some of the most passionate, caring, and thoughtful citizens that any region could hope for. When our next modern landmark is threatened, we know whom to call.

Lambert Terminal Renovations Return a Spacious Feeling

The Lambert Terminal in its glory days, with the screen divider designed by Harry Bertoia in the background.

The Lambert Terminal in its glory days, with the screen divider designed by Harry Bertoia in the background.

If you haven’t been to the historic Main Terminal at Lambert Airport lately, your eyes have not seen some of the old shine return. Work on replacing the copper roof, a $6.7 million project started last March, is nearly completed. Inside, the main level has regained its spacious feel due to the removal of a ticketing counter in one of the vaults and new terrazzo floors. The open vault houses a seating area, and returns a transparency lost for decades. While the west end cafe area remains shut off by a solid wall where once Harry Bertoia’s famous screen stood, the airport feels very modern again. Kudos to the City of St. Louis for making Minoru Yamasaki’s masterpiece shine brighter. The jet-set vibe is strong once more.

Reflections on Harris Armstrong at the Ethical Society

Modern STL members explore the Ethical Society on a bus tour in 2011.

Modern STL members explore the Ethical Society on a bus tour in 2011.

Andrew Raimist, AIA helps the Ethical Society celebrate its 50th Anniversary with a lecture on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 2:00 pm with his reflections on Harris Armstrong’s designs, shedding light on the architect’s creative process and the Society’s journey from its original St. Louis City home in the Sheldon Memorial to the current iconic mid-century modern structure on Clayton Road in 1965.

Preliminary design and models will be presented as well as the evolution toward its ultimate form. Armstrong’s other designs for religious structures will be discussed as well as significant modernist religious structures designed by his contemporaries.

Date: Saturday, April 25, 2015

Time: 2:00 pm lecture, reception following the lecture

Location: The Ethical Society, 9901 Clayton Road

Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park’s Annual Lecture, April 29

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Details here.

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