Under Treat : International Buildings in Belgium, Hong Kong, Italy, France, England, Russia

(republished from Docomomo International)
Petition: Municipal Swimming Pool in Ostend
by Paul Felix and Jan Tanghe, Ostend, Belgium, 1976
DATE: 22/4/2016

The Municipal Swimming Pool in Ostend (1976), designed by the architects Paul Felix and Jan Tanghe, currently faces the threat of demolition. The association Archipel launched a petition pleading for a respectful renovation and reuse of the building. Please sign the petition here and spread the word to help raise awareness on this case.

The complex is a remarkable example of brutalist architecture, especially rare in Flanders, featuring a monumental concrete structure in the swimming hall. As a significant architectural legacy of the 1970s that is part of the urban identity of Ostend, the building must definitely be preserved for future generations. docomomo International fully supports all initiatives against its demolition.

Petition: sign here
More details: website

Photo © Lieve Colruyt

Under Threat: State Theatre in Hong Kong
by G.W. Grey and S.F. Liu, Hong Kong, 1952
DATE: 23/3/2016

State Theatre is the last grand Post-War stand-alone theatre structure still remaining in Hong Kong today. Originally known as Empire Theatre when it opened to the public in 1952, it is a towering landmark in the district of North Point in Hong Kong.

Designed by G. W. Grey and S. F. Liu, this representative example of Modern Movement architecture is exceptionally valuable because of its singular roof construction. The remarkable use of “parabola-like” concrete arches rising over the building is unique for a theatre in the entire world. This striking design carries the reinforced concrete roof slabs over the auditorium, enabling a capacity of over 1.300 seats. Further features of this rare roof construction include favourable acoustical conditions due to the special curvature of the roof slabs, and beneficial isolation from external sounds for the main hall.

The theatre´s value also comes from the pioneering spatial solutions it offered to Hong Kong in the 1950s. It was the first in Hong Kong to provide underground parking facilities for customers. After a conversion in 1959, which was also when the theatre name changed from Empire to State, the carpark was turned into a shopping arcade and an apartment block was added behind the theatre. State Theatre was in operation up until 1997, after which it was converted into a snooker hall.

Unfortunately, State Theatre is now endangered and there are rumours about its possible demolition. The greatest threat to its existence is an on-going buyout of the complex that houses the former theatre. Upon completion of the buyout, it is expected that the theatre will be demolished in favour of a high-rise commercial/residential development to be constructed in its lot.

State Theatre is enlisted as one of the buildings to be assessed for potential grading by the Antiquities Advisory Board of Hong Kong. However, it remains unclear when the assessment will take place. Despite significant alternations done to the interior of the building, State Theatre is still undoubtedly a piece of valuable built heritage, for its historical and cultural significance, as well as for the rarity of its architectural structure. Therefore, the demolition of such a significant building for the understanding of innovative architectural solutions must definitely be reconsidered, as it would be a major loss not only to the city of Hong Kong, but also to the recent history of architecture and to the research of pioneering construction methods using concrete.

Please refer to the enclosed report by Professor Dr.-Ing. Jos Tomlow of Zittau/Görlitz University of Applied Sciences and also a member of docomomo International Specialist Committee on Technology: Tomlow, J., Report on the preservation of the State Theatre in Hong Kong and its possible nomination on a Heritage list (1952). Zittau, Hochschule Zittau/Görlitz, 2016.

docomomo International would like to raise awareness on this case and express its full support to all initiatives conducted against the possible demolition of such a significant example of built heritage.

Under Threat: 1960s Central Hill estate
by Rosemary Stjernstedt, London, England, 1966
DATE: 0/0/0

“Central Hill in south London is a case in point. It is an estate of more than 450 homes built in 1966-74 on the steep slopes that rise near the hill on which the Crystal Palace once stood. […]

Now is endangered by the borough of Lambeth’s plans to redevelop the estate so that it can contain 400 or more additional homes, as part of a borough-wide plan “to improve the conditions for existing residents and explore opportunities for new homes so the next generation of Lambeth tenants and residents have somewhere they can afford to live”. The idea is to build new homes for private sale, to help finance new council flats and the refurbishment of old ones.

There is nothing wrong with the basic intentions, and Lambeth deserves credit for trying to achieve them despite severe pressures placed on it by central government, and they do not have to mean the destruction of all of Stjernstedt’s work. There is scope for infilling slack pockets of space between the housing blocks with new development, or selective demolition of the existing. The council has been discussing such options with a panel of representatives of residents. […]

This suggests sensitive, incremental and respectful changes, but those residents who have been meeting the council say that it is now considering only demolition of the vast majority of the estate. […]

At the very least, the existing community will be severely disrupted by having to move out during construction and then move back in. And the replacements promised to tenants and leaseholders probably won’t include the outdoor spaces, the terraces and patios that are the best features of the existing ones. […]

No one should imagine Lambeth has an easy job, but Central Hill is accused of failings it doesn’t have because it is of a type – 1960s council housing – to which these failings are usually ascribed, and perhaps because it looks administratively easier to sweep it all away and start again. This attitude gives no value to what might be good about the existing or the qualities that almost any place acquires just from people living their lives there for several decades. It takes no account of the colossal cost in energy and carbon of destroying so much existing fabric and building it again. Which kind of mistakes sound very much like history repeating itself.”

More details: website

Abandonment: Musée national des Arts et Traditions Populaires
by Jean Dubuisson, Paris, France, 1972
DATE: 0/0/0

“Closed in 2005, private collections in favor of the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) and cut up progressively the heretofore “Louvre the people” abandoned its last occupants in 2013 is the subject of closed-door negotiations. Since the end of the agreement – 31 December 2014 – which tied the Ministry of Culture assignee of the equipment and the City owner, the clause which provides for the rehabilitation of the building lease end is a stone of stumbling. The state of inexplicable abandonment of the Musée national des Arts et Traditions Populaires (MNATP) and argument of its asbestos compromise retrocession whose building may pay the price. The Bois de Boulogne has continued to attract the votes of owners and reputable contractors. In line with these exceptional creations that are the Madrid Francis I, the Bagatelle Count of Artois or the Albert Kahn Gardens, MNATP emanates also from the fertility of a partnership between two unusual characters:Georges-Henri Rivière, the magician showcases, inventor of the concept of the museum and Jean Dubuisson, one of the most talented practitioners of his generation, who signs here a little known masterpiece.”

“At one point in his life where the former National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions (MNATP) hardly find a prominent place in a programmatic and cultural environment that is not limited to the Bois de Boulogne, it comes to the review the architectural interest, potential and forth to give a flagship building for the production of the postwar boom. Specialists of the architectural heritage of the twentieth century and its reconversion, French and foreign architects, former officials and users MNATP, beneficiaries of the work of Jean Dubuisson, representatives of the City and State are expected. Foreshadowing a development of the building, the work of fifty students made as part of studios devoted to MNATP at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne and at the ENSA Paris-Val de Seine in 2014- 2015 will be presented.”

More details: website

Petition: Shukhov Tower
by Vladimir Shukhov, Moscow, Russia, 1922
DATE: 19/3/2016

From 19th March to 20th March 2016, it will be held the “Shukhov Tower Watch Day”, in Moscow, Russia. The event is organized by the World Monuments Fund to call the attention for the endangered Shukhov Tower, by launching a petition to be addressed to the President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin. Please sign the petition here.

“A two-day event will take place on Saturday, March 19, and Sunday, March 20, 2016, in Moscow, Russia, to celebrate Shukhov Tower’s 94th anniversary and the launch of a petition to save the modern icon, which currently faces the threat of demolition. The tower is on the 2016 World Monuments Watch, World Monuments Fund’s biennial list of at-risk cultural heritage sites around the globe.

A press conference on Saturday, March 19, at 3:00 p.m. (Moscow Time Zone) will be held to address Shukhov Tower’s current state and the petition to President Vladimir Putin on change.org to help save it. Events also include tours around the tower, a film screening, activities for children, tower reconstruction demonstrations, and more.

Shukhov Tower, known after the name of its designer Vladimir Shukhov (1853-1939), is a landmark in the history of structural engineering. Built between 1919 and 1922, it is an emblem of the creative genius of an entire generation of modernist architects in the years that followed the Russian Revolution. Currently, the tower suffers from corrosion, a process which was accelerated due to inappropriate repairs carried out in the 1970s. The tower also sits close to the center of a growing Moscow, and demand for land, coupled with its poor condition and lack of public access, have led to the looming threat of demolition. […]”

Short video: website
More details: website + website website

Under Threat: Maison 8×12 in Royan
by Jean Prouvé, Royan, France, 1951
DATE: 0/0/0

It is with great deception that docomomo International informs that Maison 8×12 (1951), a housing prototype designed by Jean Prouvé in collaboration with his brother Henri Prouvé, has been sold and is expected to be displaced to an undetermined location.

Originally placed in Royan, it is an innovative architectural experiment with very high heritage significance. As a pioneer example of prefabrication and industrialisation of individual housing, it is made of a steel structure and aluminium panels for a rapid and economic assemblage.

It is part of a series of identic housing prototypes built to provide shelter to the underprivileged affected by the World War II. It has a unique local value, as it was the only placed on the seaside to test the use of aluminium panels in a maritime environment, which resistance was confirmed after withstanding the storm of 1999. Maison 8×12 is also the only prototype remaining in a 20th century urban context from the Modern Movement. The property used to be the architecture studio of Marc Quentin, one of the architects in charge of the reconstruction project for the city of Royan, severely damaged during the World War II.

Unfortunately, Maison 8×12 remains one of the prototypes not properly classified and currently faces the threat of displacement to an undetermined location, since the owner, Mr. Didier Quentin, Mayor of Royan (Charente-Maritime) and son of the architect Marc Quentin, sold the building but not the entire property. The displacement of such a relevant built heritage from its original location must be definitely reconsidered, as it would be a disrespect for the work of Jean Prouvé and a major loss to Royan, labelled as «City of Art and History».

docomomo International fully supports the initiative taken by its chapter docomomo France and the association Artichem to raise awareness on the preservation of Maison 8×12 in Royan and to encourage its nomination as historical monument.

More details: website + website + website

[by Docomomo France]

Under Threat: Palazzo del Lavoro
by Pier Luigi Nervi and Antonio Nervi, Turin, Italy, 1959-1961
DATE: 31/3/2016

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: cristiana@pierluiginervi.org

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.

Between 18th February and 31st March 2016, is taking place the Exhibition “Forza Lavoro” by Marzia Migliora at Via Stilicone, Milan, Italy.

“The project takes its inspiration from the history of the Palazzo del Lavoro in Turin, which was designed by Pier Luigi Nervi to celebrate the 1961 centenary of the Unification of Italy. It was part of an international exhibition dedicated to work, curated by Gio Ponti. This glorious beginning was followed by years of neglect and decay, ultimately leading to the 47,000-square-metre building being abandoned.
In a period of transition for the building, which included a serious fire in August 2015 and the imminent transformation of the building into a luxury shopping mall, Marzia Migliora has chosen to frequent the Palazzo in a number of different ways. The artist has given body and word to the building, turning it into a privileged observer of an era, and her individual works link it to many of the recurring themes in her artistic research: memory as a tool for articulating the present and an analysis of work as a statement of participation in society.”

More details: website

Europa Nostra Programme 2016: Helsinki-Malmi Airport shortlisted for ‘The 7 Most Endangered’ 2016
by Dag Englund and Vera Rosendahl, Helsinki, Finland, 1936-1938
DATE: 10/12/2015
“Built in the mid-1930´s in the functionalist architectural style, the Helsinki-Malmi Airport is one of the best preserved still active pre-World War II international airports in the world. With about 40.000 landings per year, Malmi is by far the busiest airport in Finland after Helsinki´s Vantaa International. The terminal and hangar are in good shape thanks to good maintenance over the years. The airport is now under serious threat from a new development project. The City of Helsinki´s new General Plan proposes that the site be used for new residential development to be constructed in the early 2020s. Europa Nostra Finland, supported by the Friends of Malmi Airport (FoMA), submitted the nomination for “The 7 Most Endangered 2016″, advocating that the site can continue as a training and commercial airport with added value from cultural tourism and its free-schedule services, which are otherwise unavailable within a 150km radius.”
More details website

#SOSBrutalism, a rescue campaign to save endangered Brutalist buildings.
DATE: 0/0/0

“#SOSBrutalism is a growing database that currently contains over 700 Brutalist buildings. But, more importantly, it is a platform for a large campaign to save our beloved concrete monsters. The buildings in the database marked red are in particular jeopardy. This is an unprecedented initiative: #SOSBrutalism is open to everyone who wants to join the campaign to save Brutalist buildings! It is a powerful tool that allows fans of Brutalism to communicate with one another across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and so on. […].

#SOSBrutalism will also lead into an exhibition which will be jointly organized by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) and the Wustenrot Stiftung. It will be on display at the DAM, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, starting in April 2017.”

More details: website