International | Buildings at Risk

Palazzo del Lavoro, by Pier Luigi Nervi (Torino 1961)
Palazzo del Lavoro, by Pier Luigi Nervi (Torino 1961)

Damaged by fire: Palazzo del Lavoro
by Pier Luigi Nervi and Antonio Nervi, Turin, Italy, 1959-1961

The Palazzo del Lavoro (Labour Palace) designed by the architect Pier Luigi Nervi together with Antonio Nervi, in Turin, built between 1959-1961, is under threat after having been damaged by fire on last August 20th night. This significant Modern Movement masterpiece was built within the framework of the Centenary of the Italian Unification celebrations – Italia ’61 – in order to host the international section dedicated to the myths of labour and technical progress.

The building, listed by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage in 2011 (according to D. Leg.vo n.42/2004) has faced, over time, some reuse problems. “Progressive inappropriate usage and related unsuitable interventions, internal additions, and a total lack of essential maintenance have strongly harmed the appearance of the building and the durability of its structural and architectural components.”

A Master plan approved by the Turin City Council and dating back to 2008, referred to the transformation of the Palazzo del Lavoro into a shopping centre, together with some facilities that accompany, like boutiques, restaurants, public recreational spaces and a large car parking. This decision was blocked in 2012 and, therefore, this iconic building continues to face a neglected scenario and an awful state of abandon.

Being an important example of Modern Movement architecture in Italy, with great historic interest, “symbol of an extraordinary typological exactness and of an extreme constructional coherence in terms of absolute integration between structural and architectural invention”, we have a duty to preserve its original principals and maintain its legacy within the international world of architecture, urbanism and landscape.

Thus, a new re-use and transformation project must be undertaken with the monitoring of a scientific board of experts.

For that reason, docomomo International would like to express its fully support to the conducted efforts being carried on by the architects and experts worldwide, particularly by the PLN Project and the PhD architect Cristiana Chiorino(docomomo International member and Scientific advisor to Pier Luigi Nervi Knowledge and Management Project Association for the conservation of Nervi’s architectural heritage), with the intention of defending and promoting the preservation and the respectful reuse of Palazzo del Lavoro, according to its original design and pursuing the final aim of obtaining its insertion in the UNESCO World Heritage List (together with another Nervi’s building: the Torino Esposizioni Hall).

Ana Tostões, Chair of docomomo International, addressed a formal letter to the local authorities, in Turin, in order to call the attention to the necessity of safeguarding and preserving the Palazzo del Lavoro. The formal letters can be downloaded in PDF below.

Anyone interested can sign the petition by sending an e-mail with contact information to the PhD architect Cristiana Chiorino:

Texts by the PhD architect Cristiana Chiorino, docomomo Italy member, advisor for the preservation of the architectural heritage for the Pier Luigi Nervi Project Association chaired by Marco Nervi.

Under Threat: International Congress Center (ICC)

by Ralf Schüler, Berlin, Germany, 1973-1979

“The discussion about the future of the International Congress Centre (ICC) Berlin has been going on for more than ten years. Demolition, renovation and conversion into a shopping mall (the latter would equal a demolition of the interior) have all been discussed. Since March 2014, the building complex has been vacant; new uses are being debated – despite the fact that since the closing of the ICC the city of Berlin has no alternative venues for holding largescale conferences. Therefore, precious potential lies idle – architecturally and economically. The monumental building, opened in April 1979 after only three and a half years of construction, is quite unique in its futuristic shape and design. It is a Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art), preserved largely intact and in its authentic state, including the interior. It is not easy to define the style of this building which is outstanding and unique in every respect. This is because nothing comparable was built before or after. Due to the building’s technologyinspired appearance it is reminiscent of high-tech architecture – and therefore of such buildings as the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (Renzo Piano/Richard Rogers, 1971-77), Lloyds in London (Richard Rogers, 1978-86), and the clinical centre in Aachen (Wolfgang Weber/Peter Brand, 1971-85). The buildings in London and Aachen are listed, the Centre Pompidou is undisputed as a national cultural good. The ICC Berlin is a landmark of former West Berlin. Its relevance has long been accepted by the scientific community in Germany. […]”

More details: website.

Download PDF 

Demolition Threat: La Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM), Les Briques Rouges
by Paul Chemetov, Vigneux, l’Ile de France, France, 1972

“La Caisse Primaire d´Assurance Maladie” (CPAM) designed by the architect Paul Chemetov, in Vigneux, and dating back to 1972, is facing an eminent complete demolition that will irretrievably destroy this significant Modern Movement architecture. This building integrates the “Briques Rouges” – a housing complex made up by 273 low-rent housing spread over several buildings built between 1964-1967 in Vigneux (France).

The “Briques Rougex” was certified 20th century heritage (December 2008) by the Ministry of Culture, together with the facilities that accompany, among those the mall, the home to the elderly (1963) and “La Caisse Primaire d´Assurance Maladie” (CPAM). A recent order of the city council of Vigneux refers to the destruction of this last one. It will be a great loss to erase the original principals of the project that made possible the creation of an outstanding exemple of architectural quality with great historic interest. In addition to its architectural quality, the CPAM building is distinguished by a ceramic mural made by Paul Foujino (1925-1982). Part of the work of Paul Foujino has just been accepted by the Museum Modern Art of the City of Paris to join to his background.

It is urgent to act before the complete demolition. For that reason, DOCOMOMO International would like to encourage everyone to join the conducted efforts of the architects and experts, worldwide, in the struggle of preserving the identity of this architectural example for the future generations. Anyone interested to react has just two months from 18th June 2015, that is until next 18th August.

The “Briques rouges” (7 buildings, the shopping center and the CPAM) will be subject for a publication and an exhibition at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, dedicated to AUA (l’Atelier d’Urbanisme et d’Architecture) from 29th October 2015 to 29th February 2016.

Under Threat: GTC Shopping Centre
by Zivko Popovski, Skopje, Macedonia, 1969-1973

The Gradski Trgovski Centar, also Known as GTC Shopping Centre – a post-war commercial building in Skopje – designed by Zivko Popovski and dating back to 1973, is facing an eminent complete renovation that will irretrievably transform and destroy this significant Modern Movement architecture.

The changes proposed to redesign the Skopje GTC Shopping Centre are associated with a major urban development program, sponsored by the government, known as Skopje 2014 plan, which aims to change the image of much of the city centre inspired by a classical antiquity language.

It will be a great loss to erase the original principles of the project that made possible the creation of an outstanding exemple of architectural quality with great historic interest. It is urgent to act before the complete alteration.

For this reason, DOCOMOMO International would like to encourage everyone to join the conducted efforts of the macedonian architects and experts in the struggle of preserving the identity and authenticity of this architectural example for the future generations.

Ana Tostões, Chair of DOCOMOMO International, will address a formal letter to the local authorities in order to call the attention to the necessity of safeguarding and preserving the Skopje´s GTC Shopping Centre for postority.

Many protests have been held to fight against the destruction of the building, such as the protection campaigns organized by the Association of Macedonian Architects (AAM) – “I Love GTC” and “I Love GTC More Than Ever” – which can be access through the following link: website.

Image by Sinisa Jakov Marusic.

Demolition Threat: Square Viger
by Charles Daudelin, Claude Théberge & Peter Gnass, Montreal, Quebec, 1970s

The Square Viger is threatened with complete redevelopment that could cause its disappearance. On June 17th, the elected councillor in charge of urban planning projects for Montreal city Mr Richard Bergeron presented his new project whose questionable design didn´t reach consensus. Most of all because it involves the demolition and modification of Agora and Mastodo. These two important works were conceived by internationally renowned sculptor Charles Daudelin who also created the work Embacle (1984), donated by the government of Québec to the city of Paris. Restored in 2011, this sculpture is the highlight of Place du Québec in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

As a work of public art, the Square Viger is part of Montreal´s modern heritage. Still, the memory of the old 19th century Victorian park prevails even if it vanished with the digging of the Ville-Marie expressway in 1976. Commissioned by the Ministry of Transportation the new Square Viger had to cover a portion of the highway underpass. Three major artists designed the park in the manner of a roof terrace divided in three blocks. Charles Daudelin (1920-2001) created an Agora, Claude Théberge (1934-2008) designed a park that recalled the Victorian past of the former park, and finally Peter Gnass (1936-) proposed a playground dedicated to children. At the time, this project represented an innovative response to both technical constraints and artistic aspirations: landscaping despite the thickness of the concrete slab, designing with the ventilation casts of the expressway, and integrating four massive sculptures (Mastodo, Force, Jeux d´enfants and Fontaine). The park perpetuates the tradition of landscape architects Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) and Garrett Eckbo (1910-2000).

Abandoned by his owner (the City of Montreal) since its inauguration, the Square Viger has soon been criticized for problems largely attributed to an unconventional layout. It gradually suffered from deterioration, lack of maintenance and squatting. Nowadays, it is stigmatized as a deserted and dangerous place.

The new project of demolition and alteration announced by the City aims especially at Charles Daudelin masterpieces Agora and Mastodo. We wish to denounce the scandalous attitude of the municipal authorities towards its built heritage and its utter despise for the moral rights of its most important artists. At a time when this sector is undergoing urban revitalization, many academics and experts appeal to the authorities that itstabula rasa approach is outdated and unacceptable. Agora can and should be renovated and animated to become safe and friendly again, but not destroyed and cleared out of our collective heritage.

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Picture: Agora and the sculpture Mastodo, Charles Daudelin, 1983. Source: Éric Daudelin, 2013

Under Threat: Villa dei Direttori
by Renzo Zavanella, Mantua, Italy, 1931-1939

The “Villa dei Direttori” (“House of the Directors”), designed by the architect Renzo Zavanella, located in Mantua, is one of the best examples of the Italian “Nautical Rationalism”. This house, designed and built between 1931 and 1939 to accomodate the families of the two directors of a large sugar refinery, is now in a severe state of neglect that is likely to become irreversible in the short time. The building is a clear example of the architectural language that featured significantly the beginnings of the Italian Rationalism. The free organization of the openings and the dynamic composition of the exterior reminds, on one hand, the “Cubism” of Robert Mallet-Stevens and, on the other hand, the “Novocomum” of Giuseppe Terragni, apart from the experiments carried out in Weissenhof Estate, in Stuttgart.

The location of the Villa, in a paradigmatic example of abandoned industrial area (the former sugar refinery), and therefore subject to a long and bureaucratic process, becomes an additional element that encumbers its management. It is urgent to take protective measures and to recognize the importance of this building in its cultural context of the beginning of the 20th century.

More details: website (Italian).

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