Thursday, June 26, 2008

World Monuments Fund and Modernism

I have been working at the World Monuments Fund since January 2008. WMF is a nonprofit international organization dedicated to preserving architectural/cultural heritage sites around the globe. Our biggest advocacy tool is the World Monuments Watch, announced every other year, which highlights 100 of the ‘most endangered sites’ across the globe. We collect hundreds of nominations (from governments, organizations, individuals, etc.), and the top 100 are selected by an independent panel of experts.

At the moment, I am knee-deep in Modernism. We have a “Modernism at Risk” initiative here at WMF, to bring attention to and help save important works of Modern architecture. Our first Modernism Prize, to be awarded biennially, is being presented to a German architecture firm (Brenne Gesellschaft von Architekten mbH) on July 10 in New York. The firm restored the ADGB Trade Union School designed by Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer of the Bauhaus. It was designed and built between 1928-1930. In 1933 the Nazis took it over and used it as an SS training facility. It was used as a trade school again after the War, but then was abandoned, being saved from demolition in 2001. It has been restored and is now functioning again as a school.

At first, I found it difficult to love the Modern buildings I was researching and writing about, especially the Brutalist ones (basically anything by Marcel Breuer!). However, the ideas behind Modernism won me over, and I am proud to be taking part in this effort to preserve the recent architectural past.