Track 3: Conservation of modern and post-modern heritage
Many buildings of the 1940s-1970s incorporate large-scale built-in façade artworks. These murals, mosaics, and integral sculptural reliefs sometimes gain in cultural and/ or historic value even if the buildings on which they are installed do not. When a building that supports a monumental artwork is slated for demolition or redevelopment to maximize the real estate potential of a site, architectural artworks whose scale and installation never accounted for future repositioning are often endangered. Frequently, owners or developers are loath to consider any option besides demolishing the artworks along with the building, due to cost, or a fear that doing so will hold up construction. Because of this, many iconic artworks of the recent past are lost to the wrecking ball. Examples of this abound in South Florida, particularly in coastal cities like Miami and Miami Beach with high real estate values. In the last ten years, the pressure from developers coupled with weak preservation ordinances for modern buildings have resulted in an extraordinary rate of loss of mid-century architectural artworks. Examples of this include the mosaic façade of the 1963 Miami Herald Building, mosaic murals on 1960s Publix Grocery Stores throughout the region, and most notably, artist Jack Stewart’s 17’ x 92’ long aluminum and mosaic mural of Apollo pulling a chariot of the sun across the sky that was hastily torn off the 1955 addition to the Art Deco Versailles Hotel.
This paper will demonstrate alternatives to the reckless destruction of mid-century modern architectural artworks by demonstrating successful solutions for their dismantling, removal, and reinstallation. The case studies will include the removal and relocation of the 1963 Extending the Arms of Christ mosaic at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX; the dismantling and storage of the 1961 brick and concrete block mural on the façade of the José Martí Building in Miami, FL; and the removal and relocation of a Millard Sheets mosaic on the former Home Savings and Loan Building in Santa Monica, CA. The authors will discuss the strategic approaches that were taken to help the clients understand that these endeavors were possible. The specific methodologies, challenges, budgetary considerations, and pitfalls of undertaking this work in a sustainable manner will also be discussed. Best practices will be presented in order to illustrate that the once-thought impossible endeavor of relocating a monumental mid-century artwork should be considered in earnest if the building that supports it cannot be salvaged.