Docomomo International Sites Under Threat

Garden-City of La Butte Rougeby Joseph Bassompierre, Paul de Rutté, Paul Sirvin, André Arfvidson and André Riousse (landscape designer), Châtenay Malabry, France, 1931-1965

Docomomo International would like to raise awareness about the demolition threat that the Garden-City of La Butte Rouge, in Châtenay-Malabry, is currently facing. 

The Garden-City of La Butte Rouge is under threat by an intended demolition of 8 buildings. This unique and outstanding achievement of 4.000 flats on a 70-hectare ground is a paradigm of the successful combination of social reform and architectural innovation. It was designed by the architects Joseph Bassompierre, Paul de Rutté, Paul Sirvin, André Arfvidson and the landscape designer André Riousse. The completion of this project lasted over seven phases, from 1931 to 1965.

The Garden-City of La Butte Rouge is an internationally acknowledged urban model, in terms of architecture and landscapes as well as in terms of social and economical issues. The demolition of even the smallest part of this whole and coherent masterpiece, without due consultation of the stakeholders, may result in the de-characterization of this exceptional project that should continue to exist for the benefit of future generations. 

Docomomo International would like to support and appeal to all kinds of efforts to protect and respect the Garden-City of La Butte Rouge. We also take this opportunity to thank Docomomo France for its efforts regarding this case and for notifying us regarding this concerning situation.

You can find an open letter written on this case, “Appeal from architects and town planners” regarding the demolition threat of the Garden-City of La Butte Rouge, in the pdf below.
Download PDF

Under threat: Pearl Bank Apartments by Tan Cheng Siong, Singapore, 1976

Docomomo International wishes to draw your attention to the alarming future of the Pearl Bank Apartments, a high-rise private residential building in Singapore that is also a landmark of so-called Brutalist architecture.

Completed in 1976, the Pearl Bank Apartments, designed by Singaporean architect Tan Cheng Siong, are an iconic horseshoe shaped residential block with 272-unit apartment, comprising three types of split-level units. The units are a mix of sizes to prevent the development being colonized by one type of resident. Its cylindrical shape allows for daylight, ventilation and maximum panoramic views to all units. There is a shopping area with seven units on the first story. The twenty-eighth story was given over to the community.

On February 2018, the Pearl Bank Apartments were sold en bloc in a collective sale. It is now under threat of a massive transformation, even if the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), national urban planning authority of Singapore, had previously agreed that there were merits to conserving the apartments, as it has been one of the pioneering high-rise residential projects of Singapore. 

Conservation efforts were spearheaded by architects, the owners, heritage lovers as well as students to preserve the Pearl Bank Apartments for its high architectural and historical significance and value. However, there is no conservation mentioned in the collective sale agreement. The actual owner plans to redevelop the site into a high-rise project of around 800 units. 

Docomomo International would like to raise urgent awareness to this case and express its full support to all the initiatives conducted in order to preserve the Pearl Bank building for future generations.

You can find more details about this case in the following articles: website website.

For more information about the Pearl Bank Apartments, please visit: website.

You can see a photo essay about the building in website

Image: Bob T, via WikiMedia, October 2018.

Urgent Demolition Threat: Vila Real Industrial Bakery by Nadir Afonso, Vila Real, Portugal, 1965

Vila Real Industrial Bakery is now under immediate and serious threat of demolition since its classification process by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage (DGPC) had not a successfully result, ultimately discharging the case leaving it in an extreme risk situation.

This building designed by the Portuguese architect Nadir Afonso (1920-2013), was completed in 1965, and it’s abandoned since the beginning of 1990s, showing today, clear signs of major degradation.
This is a modern industrial building, which stands out for the vaulted coverage with lags allowing good lighting and natural ventilation. The impact of the formal language of the building was recognized and admired in the time of its construction because of the newness value, difference and innovative character, becoming one of the most important buildings in the daily life of the population regarding its regular and economic use. 
Vila Real Industrial Bakery is a project with clear influences of the work experience that Nadir Afonso had while working with Le Corbusier, in France, and with Oscar Niemeyer, in Brazil.

After significant efforts on saving the building, DocomomoInternational would like to raise urgent awareness for this case and express its full support to all the initiatives conducted against the demolition of aforementioned modern example, in order to preserve it for the future generations, either within the original function or reused for public purpose.

Sign the petition: website [portuguese] + open letter (pdf below) [portuguese]

More details on the current situation: website [portuguese]
More details: Facebook page [portuguese] + Facebook page [portuguese]Download PDF

Under Threat: Coal Processing Plant of the Beringen CoalmineBeringen, Limburg, Belgium, 1923 – 1924

The Flemish Association for Industrial Archeology – Industrieel Erfgoed in Vlaanderen – is campaigning for the protection of a classified industrial monument in Belgium, the Beringen coal treatment plant. 
This coal preparation plant, which began to be built in 1923, was protected by the Flemish Government as a monument in 1993 and 1994. However, this status was not considered and the company assigned for the redevelopment of the site – PPS company BE-Mine – applied for a demolition permit.

“This huge coal preparation plant is part of the Beringen mining site, a large former coalmine in the Flemish province of Limburg (Belgium). The coalmine is an important example of the large-scale developments in coal extraction in Europe and the rest of the world in the 20th century. 
The construction of this large coal preparation plant started in 1923-1924 (coal preparation plant 1) and this first part was later expanded with coal washers 2, 3 and 4. The four parts together form one massive building in iron, steel, brick and glass, which not only dominates the mine site but also the surrounding area.

The entire coal mine of Beringen, including the four parts of the coal preparation plant, was legally protected as a monument by the Flemish Government in 1993 and 1994.

In 2009, the redevelopment of the mine was assigned to PPP company, with the main partner being LRM for 50% (the Limburg Reconversion Company – a company set up and controlled by the Flemish Government) together with a number of construction and real estate companies. They concluded that the maintenance of the complete coal preparation plant would not be possible and decided – without a thorough study of the building history – on the imminent demolition of coal preparation plants 1 and 3. On the site of coal preparation plant 1 a car parking would be developed.

One of the arguments for the demolition are the costs of maintenance and the lack of subsidies. However, the Flemish Government being 100% owner of LRM, this means that subsidizing the PPS company BE-Mine means that the Flemish Government is subsidizing itself for at least 50%.
Being aware of the danger a dossier of the coal preparation plant of Beringen was sent in for the 2018 ‘The 7 Most Endangered‘ programme. This is a campaign of Europa Nostra, the leading heritage organization in Europe, the European Investment Bank Institute, supported by the Creative Culture program of the European Commission. 
On January 16th it was announced that the coal preparation plant at the Beringen coalmine was selected by an international panel of experts to be one of the 12 heritage sites on the shortlist – and thus was considered one of the most endangered and most important heritage sites in Europe.

Just before the summer break of 2017, the PPS company BE-Mine had applied for a demolition permit for the coal preparation plant 1. It was also announced that once this coal preparation plant 1 had been demolished, the procedure to demolish plant 3 would be started. While the plant was mentioned as one of the 12 most important endangered sites, without the legal protection of the building being lifted, a demolition permit was granted in mid March 2018. This was illegal.

After a procedure filed by the Flemish Association for Industrial Archeology, together with local associations, the permit was suspended by the Court.
In order to circumvent this ruling, the strategy now is is to remove at first the protected status, and then grant a demolition permit again and as soon as possible.
The demolition of a large part of this legally protected building ignores the importance of the integrity of a historic building. The demolition of the first part could create a dangerous precedent for further damage and destruction, leading to the loss of the value of the entire plant. It will also create a dangerous precedent for other protected buildings in Flanders, if one is permitted to demolish part of a historic monument without obeying to the legally prescribed procedures.”

Text by The Flemish Association for Industrial Archeology – Industrieel Erfgoed in Vlaanderen

To know more about this case, please visit: website

Renovation: Hilda Besseby Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis, Oxford, England, 1971

“The Hilda Besse building was commissioned as part of a larger scheme in 1960 with the final design completed in 1966 and was built in 1967-71. The architects were Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis with the partner in charge being John Partridge.
This is a major example of a university building by the practice HKPA, who are acclaimed for their post-war university buildings a number of which are listed. It has special architecural interest for its application of concrete in a modern interpretation of the traditional hall. It also received the RIBA Architecture Award and Concrete Society Award in 1971 in recognition of its structural ingenuity and architectural elegance.
The British Library has a vast quantity of oral history collections that cover a wide range of subject areas, including architecture.”
Docomomo International congratulates the strong collective initiative on the preservation of Hilda Besse Building, hoping that necessary means can be collected in order to pursue this purpose, protecting and preserving such modern example. 
More information: PDF below + websiteDownload PDF

Sign the Petition: Save the Y-blockby Erling Viksjø, Oslo, Norway, 1969

After starting a compaign in 2015, Docomomo International asks for your attention and consideration regarding the threat the Y-block in Oslo, Norway, is facing.

The building was designed by Erling Viksjø, with contributions by Carl Nesjar and Pablo Picasso, to complement the monumental high-rise H-block, also by Viksjø. Both buildings are part of the government quarter of Oslo. 
The Directorate for Cultural Heritage proposed in June 2011 to list both buildings as protected monuments. That process was brought to a halt on 22 July, when the building was whitness to a terrorist attack. 

Highlithing the special features of the building, in the petition can be read:
“The Y-block is one of Viksjø’s most beautiful buildings that is constructed in Naturbetong, a special concrete casting technique he developed together with engineer Sverre Jystad that was patented in 1955/-57. The possibilities that lay in this new material with sandblasted surfaces were decisive for Picasso’s contribution and lead to a 17-year long collaboration with the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar. The development of Naturbetong with its integration of art is a unique contribution to Norwegian and international modernism. Only one more building worldwide, the House of Architects in Barcelona, have this kind of integral art by Picasso and Nesjar in public space.”

The architectural and artistic value of the buildings are, therefore, well documented and unquestionable. However, the Norwegian Government is again putting forward the demolition of this historic building.

A petition to save the Y-building can be signed here

Docomomo International supports the ongoing efforts by ICOMOS, ISC20C and ICOMOS Norway, in the sense of protecting and fighting for the preservation of the Y-Block.

For more information provided by ICOMOS-ISC20C, please see: here

To keep up with this campaign please visit ´Save Oslos Y-Block´ facebook page: link

Picture © Norsk Teknisk Museum/Sparebankstiftelsen, photo by Teigens Fotoatelier, 1969.

Under Threat: Nakagin Capsule Towerby Kisho Kurokawa, Tokyo, Japan, 1970-1972

Docomomo International wishes to draw your attention to the alarming future of the Nakagin Capsule Tower, in Shimbashi, Tokyo, Japan, a symbol of cultural revival and optimism for post-war Japan. 

Built in 1972, the tower was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa and it was conceived to serve as a mixed-use residential and office building, with the intention to host traveling executives. 
The Nakagin Capsule Tower was the world´s first precedent of capsule architecture built for permanent and practical use. 
The tower is made of detachable modular-steel capsules, which are connected to two concrete cores that contain stairs and elevators. The height-alternated stair landing, to which the 140 original capsules were aligned with, provided the building with the embodiment of the dynamism the entire project represented. The initial design contemplated the replacement of the capsules once they became obsolete, but, unfortunately, this strategy has never been carried out.

During the Summer of 2018, the plot site of Nakagin Capsule Tower was sold by the Nakagin Group, the developer of the building, to a limited liability company, the CTB GK. The apartment owners’ association of the Capsule Tower was then informed by the new owner of their intent to redevelop the site which comprehends the possible demolition of the building.

Docomomo International believes that the Nakagin Capsule Tower possesses great historical and cultural value, as it is a unique example of Japanese Metabolism, showcasing how its architecture responded to the surrounding circumstances and how flexibility could be the answer to a growing hyper dense and dynamic society.

Docomomo International urges the community, the regulatory authorities and anyone concerned with the fate of the Nakagin Capsule Tower to take this issue very seriously, to join efforts towards the protection of this unique landmark in the world and to prohibit any prospective work that might compromise the historic integrity of this structure.

Photo by Zara Ferreira
To know more, please read: article