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News July 2016

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A Modern Affair, our June 15 gala at The Four Seasons Restaurant, was a witness to history both momentous and bittersweet. With the Modern landmark closing permanently on July 16, design community luminaries gathered to honor architect and philanthropist Phyllis Lambert, whose vision enabled the creation of the landmark interior space, and to bid farewell to the restaurant itself.... MORE

A Modern Affair, June 15, 2016, The Four Seasons. All photos ©Aislinn Weidele

In June Mayor DeBlasio signed City Council bill Intro 775a, turning into law a new set rules for the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. The new rules impose strict deadlines for considering new individual and historic district designations. For individual properties, the commission will have one year from calendaring to vote. For districts, the period is two years. Further, action must be made on all existing backlogged items, including the Alvar Aalto’s Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Rooms, within the next 18 months. If action isn’t made in stipulated timeframe, the property or district must be withdrawn from consideration. ... MORE

Interior, facing south, Kaufmann Conference Center, Alvar Aalto, architect, 1964. © 2014 Andrew Hinderaker

Eero Saarinen’s Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, NJ, has roller-coastered from its heyday as a beehive of technological innovation to a white elephantsitting empty and forlorn for nearly a decade as town officials debated its future. Today, thanks to Ralph Zucker of Somerset Development and visionary preservationists who saw great potential in the site’s reuse, this Modern corporate campus is being repurposed for 21st century needs. This is no easy task considering the campus comprises 472 acres and includes a water tower, two man-made lakes and a 2,000,000 square feet building (half of which is offices). Nonetheless, as of June 1, 20 percent of the office space has been leased to a variety of companies. Ten tenants have moved in, including a co-working space and several food vendors. An eleventh, the tech firm WorkWave, will occupy a 72,000 square foot space by next year. The site is proving ideal for conferences and other large events; it hosted a networking event with Holmdel Mayor Eric Hinds, and weekly soccer games take place on artificial turf in the large atrium. However, it is not all roses. ... MORE

Rendering of Bell Labs courtesy of

A recent wind storm felled a tree at the James Rose residence in Ridgewood, NJ, heavily damaging its roof garden and Zendo (a place for Zen meditation). The residence, now home to the nonprofit foundation the James Rose Center for Landscape Architectural Research and Design, is the magnum opus of maverick landscape designer James Rose (1913–1991). The tree has been removed and an important native rhododendron edge beneath the Zendo has been replaced, but the destabilized roof structure calls for a costly and complicated repair. This ethereal space was originally used by Rose to practice his Zen Buddhism and in recent years has been used by the Center for public programming such as the Suburbia Transformed exhibition. The center is seeking professional, volunteer, and financial help. ... MORE

James Rose Center, roof garden.

With the July 26 auction of the Four Seasons Restaurant bearing down, Brent Lewis, head of the New York Branch of Wright Auctions, has provided some insight into how the auction house is handling the hotly contested selling-off of one of Modernism’s most iconic interiors. In an interview with Diana Budds of FastCo Design, Lewis explains that when making decisions as to what items may and may not be included in the sale, they have erred on the side of caution, being “as sensitive as possible to the Landmark designation to make sure that we're not overreaching in terms of the works available for sale." For example, a cracked glass screen in the bar area, installed by Philip Johnson in 1980 for the restaurant’s 20th anniversary, will remain in place, even though it would be considered permissible to sell. However, the vast majority of the furnishings will be on the auction block. Approximately 500 lots will be up for sale, ranging from tableware (estimated to fetch $300-500) to banquettes (estimated $2,000 each) and bar stools ($5,000 per pair). ... MORE

In November 2014, New Jersey voters approved a ballot measure that would provide permanent funding for open space, farmland, and historic preservation. Previously, these efforts were funded by bond measures, requiring repeated voter approval. The new measure is a constitutional amendment that allocates a percentage of the state’s corporate business tax to those initiatives every year. Of relevance to DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State is preservation funding. Five percent of tax money would go to the New Jersey Historic Trust to provide grants for capital preservation projects and historic site management grants. Since 1990, the Historic Trust has directed over $137 million in matching grants to historic resources throughout the state, including Modern sites such as Louis Kahn’s Bath House and Day Camp in Ewing.... MORE