Modern architecture is one of the defining artistic forms of the 20th century. Set free from traditional structural requirements, architects and engineers used experimental materials and novel construction techniques to create innovative forms and advance new philosophical approaches to architecture. The crowning achievements of modern architecture, from Walter Gropius's Bauhaus buildings to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building and Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer's Brasilia have come to symbolize the broader 20th century ideals of progress, technology, and openness.
Today this modern architectural heritage is at considerable risk. The cutting-edge building materials and structural systems that define the modern movement were often untested and have not always performed well over time. Heritage professionals do not always have enough scientific data on the nature and behavior of these materials and systems to develop the necessary protocols for conservation treatment.
To address these challenges, the Foundation developed Keeping It Modern, an international grant initiative that continues our deep commitment to architectural conservation
with a focus on important buildings of the twentieth century. Keeping It Modern will support grant projects of outstanding architectural significance that promise to advance conservation practices. Grants focus on the creation of conservation management plans that guide long-term maintenance and conservation policies, the thorough investigation of building conditions, and the testing and analysis of modern materials. In select cases, grants may support implementation projects that have the potential to serve as models for the conservation of other 20th century buildings.
The Foundation created Keeping It Modern to complement the Getty Conservation Institute's Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI)
The latest grants for fourteen projects in eight countries extend the program’s reach to new regions ranging from Brazil to India. Each project is a model that reinforces the initiative’s focus on the conservation of modern architecture around the world.
The fourteen projects selected to receive funding this year are, like the ten projects awarded in 2014, of the highest architectural significance: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, Walter Gropius’ residence ‘The Gropius House,’ Erich Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House, Pierre Jeanneret’s Gandhi Bhawan (Gandhi Center), João Batista Vilanova Artigas and Carlos Cascaldi’s School of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo (FAUUSP), Marcel Breuer’s Saint John’s Abbey and University Church, Gerrit Rietveld’s Schröder House, Michel de Klerk’s Het Schip, George Nakashima’s Arts Building and Cloister, the Giancarlo de Carlo ‘Collegi’ buildings at the Università degli Studi di Urbino, Paul Rudolph’s Jewett Arts Center at Wellesley College, Jorge Ferreira’s Arthur Neiva Pavilion, and James Strutt’s residence ‘The Strutt House.’
“Last year’s launch of Keeping It Modern emphasized that modern architecture is a defining artistic form of the 20th century at considerable risk, often due to the cutting-edge building materials that characterized the movement,” says Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation. “This new round of Keeping It Modern grants includes some of the finest examples of modern architecture in the world. The grant projects address challenges for the field of architectural conservation and will have impact far beyond the individual buildings to be conserved.”
The new Keeping It Modern grants focus on a number of pressing concerns within the conservation community, including the continued need for conservation planning for 20th century architecture, the call for models that demonstrate how to integrate conservation planning more comprehensively into the general stewardship of modernist buildings, and the lack of understanding about the aging and proper treatment of architectural concrete. The latter issue is being addressed in many of these projects.
“The use of concrete, while visually striking and radical for its time, has created a unique set of challenges for conserving some of the world’s most important modernist structures,” says Antoine Wilmering, senior program officer at the Getty Foundation. “Our new grants offer an excellent opportunity to advance research and conservation practices for this material. The accumulated knowledge that will result from the projects will be of tremendous benefit to the field.”
While the focus of Keeping It Modern is on conservation planning and research, exceptional projects that have the potential to serve as significant models for the preservation field may also be considered for implementation support. This year the Foundation is announcing the first Keeping It Modern grant at the implementation level to support the conservation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s celebrated Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois.
In the first year of Keeping It Modern, applications were by invitation only so that the Getty Foundation could demonstrate the type of project the initiative would support. The second year was an open call for proposals, and many high-quality projects were submitted for consideration. The projects were evaluated by an expert advisory committee that made recommendations based on a number of factors, including architectural significance, the strength of the work plan, international diversity, the potential to make a meaningful contribution to the field of conservation, and to serve as a model for conservation practice.
Keeping It Modern is part of the Getty’s strong overall commitment to modern architecture, as demonstrated by the Getty Conservation Institute’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI), the extensive and growing architectural collections of the Getty Research Institute, and the 2013 Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture initiative which focused on Los Angeles’ modern heritage. With these combined efforts, the Getty continues to advance the understanding and preservation of 20th century modern architecture.