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  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    Rome’s start to architectural hubris

    Granted that Rome was not built in a day, the unresolved question among scholars has been just how long did it take. How early, before Julius Caesar came, saw and conquered, did Romans begin adopting a monumental architecture reflecting the grandeur of their ambitions?Most historians agree that early Rome had nothing to compare to the sublime temples of Greece and was not a particularly splendid city, like Alexandria in Egypt.Any definitive insight into the formative stages of Roman architectural hubris lies irretrievable beneath layers of the city’s repeated renovations through the time of caesars, popes and the Renaissance. The most imposing ruin of the early Roman imperial period is the Colosseum, erected in the first century A.D.

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    Frank Lloyd Wright's NY showroom a memory

    A small landmark of New York City architectural and automotive history disappeared recently, almost without notice. The theatrical auto showroom designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at 430 Park Avenue, at 56th Street, had displayed a number of European brands over the years, notably Mercedes-Benz from 1957 to 2012.The space, with a spiral ramp and turntable interior, was designed in 1954 for the pioneering auto importer Max Hoffman.In early April, the Wright interior was demolished by the owners of the building, Midwood Investment and Management and Oestreicher Properties. Debra Pickrel, a preservationist and co-author of “Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years, 1954-1959” (Gibbs Smith, 2007) wrote about the showroom’s destruction in Metropolis magazine....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Fifty years of the MetLife Building

    THIS MONTH MARKS the 50th anniversary of the completion of Park Avenue’s Pan Am Building, later renamed the MetLife Building, an occasion that a cursory Google search indicates is receiving no particular celebration. What is to be marked, really, is a half-century of evinced distaste, though some of it waning under the grip of nostalgia, for a building that existed as an assault on Grand Central Station, its visual foundation bifurcating and marring views of Park Avenue and casting dark shadows on crowded streets beneath it. The enmity actually dates back further. From the moment designs for the building were presented, the response in the architectural press was one of displeasure and reproof. Long in its development phase, enormous, expensive, controversial, denounced, the building became, in a sense, the city’s structural “Ishtar.”...

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Glossop battles over fate of town's historic gothic hall and new library

    It is probably the only town in Britain campaigning against a new library. But many in Glossop, nestled on the western edge of the Peak District, are very attached to their old one, Victoria Hall, a grand gothic revival hall purpose-built in 1888 on land donated by Francis Edward Howard, 2nd Lord Howard of Glossop.The hall, which is in need of major renovation after years of neglect, including to its unused upper floor with its retro-sprung dancefloor, is now at the centre of a complex and entrenched battle over a £4m pot of public money waiting to be spent.High Peak borough council is trustee of Victoria Hall but leases the ground floor for free to Derbyshire county council, the library service authority....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Are mod. buildings worth preserving?

    Even with its glistening emerald-green glass, the boxy 1960s-era Zalco Building in downtown Silver Spring is hardly noticed by many passersby, let alone thought of as a historic structure.The very idea makes John Cranston, the building’s engineer, chuckle. “I don’t think George Washington slept here or anything,” he said.But to Clare Lise Kelly, a historic-preservation planner for Montgomery County, and to other architectural experts, the office building at Georgia Avenue and Cameron Street is a shining example of International style. It’s time, they say, for it and other “mid-century modern” buildings and homes — those with sleek, boxy designs from the 1950s and 1960s — to be considered for historic preservation....

  • Originally published 03/04/2013

    Insurance When Your Home's a Piece of History

    A home in Massachusetts has been in the same family since it was built in the 1600s -- less than 20 years after the Mayflower landed. Though nearly four centuries have passed, one room in the home remains just as it was in the 1600s, with the same hand-hewn floorboards. There are special -- and more expensive -- historic-home insurance policies to protect houses such as this. But they vary in what they'll pay for. You might be able to replace 1775 windows with something close to the real thing, or just historic look-alikes....  

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Amazing find in Dartmoor Bronze Age grave

    A rare discovery dating back 4,000 years has been described as the most significant find on Dartmoor (Devon, England), and has given archaeologists a glimpse into the lives of the people who once lived there.  The undisturbed bronze age granite cist uncovered in 2011 in a peat bog on White Horse Hill revealed the first organic remains ever found on the moor, and a hoard of about 150 beads, including two amber beads. Previously only eight beads in total had been found on the moor.... 

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    A Fight Over Historic Preservation Brews in Art Deco Country

    MIAMI BEACH — When South Beach was little more than a forlorn chunk of beachfront property, preservationists clung to the idea that the faded, often derelict pastel buildings lining the streets were too precious to knock down.Their campaign to preserve the area’s fanciful Art Deco buildings ushered in one of the country’s most successful urban revivals. Years later, South Beach is still a juggernaut.Preservationists are now pushing hard to bolster historic preservation laws, a move that has ruffled wealthy property owners (and potential buyers) and stepped up pressure on local commissioners who are reluctant to wade into the politically precarious battle....

  • Originally published 10/04/2013

    Cooking at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater [INTERVIEW]

    Ellie Henderson. Photo courtesy the author.Elsie Henderson, who cooked at the famed Frank Lloyd Wright house Fallingwater outside Pittsburgh, turned one hundred on September 7. Ms. Henderson worked for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, the Pittsburgh department store magnates, and later their son Edgar jr. (he preferred that jr. not be capitalized) for more than 15 years. Asked what contributed to her longevity, she said simply: “Good food.” Ms. Henderson’s kitchen was a hub of activity at the unique Fallingwater house, hailed as the most significant private residential structure in the United States Author Suzanne Martinson tells the story of Ms. Henderson and shares her recipes in The Fallingwater Cookbook: Elsie Henderson’s Recipes and Memories (with the late Jane Citron and chef Robert Sendall; University of Pittsburgh Press).

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