20th century Modern buildings are not exactly what people think of when they think of New England, yet amidst its colonial architecture, the landscape of New England is dotted with spectacular architectural examples of regional Modernism. On Wednesday June 30, 2010, architects, preservationists, landscape and architectural historians, students and modernism enthusiasts convened at Paul Rudolph’s addition to the First Church in Boston’s Back Bay to engage in conversations focusing on Modernism in Greater Boston. Trust Modern, an initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Modernism + Recent Past Program, selected the City of Boston as one of four cities to be part of the Modern Module Program aimed at increasing public support for and engaging in discussions focused on the study and protection of America’s modern architectural resources.
According to Susan MacDonald of The Getty Conservation Institute and a panelist at the Boston Modern: The Spirit of Reinvention module “modernism tells the story of change, a story with the goal of creating a better world with equal access to healthcare and education.” Selling the story of modernism has proven to be one of the biggest challenges facing preservationists and architectural historians today, a challenge that becomes more difficult as more and more Modern buildings and landscapes fall to the wrecking ball. Engaging in conversations like the one at the modern module is key to taking a proactive role in preserving modernism.
The city has taken a proactive step in the preservation of modern architecture. The Boston Landmarks Commission has been conducting an inventory of 20th century buildings and local preservation organizations have been leading tours of modern buildings in Downtown further introducing modernism to the general public.
Boston is home to some mighty and heroic modern buildings which speak to the legacy of notable architects like Walter Gropius, Eero Saarinen, Jose Luis Sert, Le Corbusier, Eleanor Raymond and many others who have all left their mark on this grand city. The opportunity for young people to become more involved in the preservation of modern architecture is wide open and ready to be explored in depth!
The module on Boston’s modernist architecture proved to be intellectually stimulating thought provoking and inspiring. With over 300 attendees, my hope is that each one of us present on Wednesday night will in turn educate others on the value and significance of the city’s modern architectural resources before it’s too late to save our recent past.