Denver hyper over loss of Pei paraboloid


Denverites trying to save the 1950s Zeckendorf Plaza by I.M. Pei, which had a notable hyperbolic paraboloid, failed. But they have started a movement, the Modern Architecture Preservation League, and issued a manifesto. It goes beyond preserving popular roadside architecture or symbols of modernism approved by the establishment (such as the Lever and the Seagram’s buildings in New York).


The thought of accepting modernism on its own terms may be a hard sell in locales still suffering from the imposition of those terms on workable, livable cities. Save destroyers of cities for the fact they were destroyers of cities? As Mr. Spock would say, “fascinating.”


Elvis’s public housing unit to be demo’d


In between a shack in Tupelo and Graceland, Elvis Presley lived for an impressionable decade in a public housing project in Memphis. He later recalled soaking up the sounds and rhythms of the multi-racial stew. Three years after his family left the project, Elvis was a phenomenon. That public housing development will be demolished this winter, according to the New York Times.


The former Presley unit is reportedly barely habitable. From what one can tell from a picture of the current tenant out on the King’s stoop, it looks similar to Buffalo’s Commodore Perry and Langfield projects – three story Bauhaus versions of penury. A preservation problem with these developments, even when associated with local or national figures, is that they fail to muster the broad community affection necessary for their preservation.


Welcome to historic Levittown


The Levittown Historical Society of Levittown, L.I. is looking for a museum, preferably a Cape Cod house with its integrity intact. 17,000 were built, but with cheapness a watchword among the developers, owners soon desired, or had to, replace original materials and expand. (A good place to observe that dynamic locally is Tonawanda’s Green Acres subdivision, west of Niagara Falls Blvd. and south of the Youngman.) Levittown’s 50th anniversary is in 1997.


Baltimore\'s horse-drawn fruit carts threatened


Well, there goes the neighborhood. New townhouse construction in old Baltimore is threatening the historic stables used by fruit vendors to store their carts and horses. The vendors, called arabbers, are a colorful and ancient local tradition. Their plight has led to the creation of an Arabber Preservation Society (which has helped restore one of the stables), but has also drawn the attention of the Maryland Horse Protection Coalition, which claims the horses are mistreated. Many of the horses were bought at auction, saving them from slaughterhouses.


‘Malled’ town unmalls its Main Street


Rock Hill, South Carolina, fought the symptoms of decline–shabby downtown brought on by mill closings in the 1970s–with a solid roof over its Main Street, from building façade to building façade. The mall thus made, buildings around it were demolished for parking. Upper floor offices looked over a surreal landscape of roofing and utilities. Soon it was evident that a mistake was made. Years of study confirmed what everyone knew – the roof had to go.


“The only way to revitalize downtown was to return it to a village atmosphere,” said Stephen Turner, the director of a private/public development corporation. It has proved to be an expensive lesson – 20 years and untold millions of dollars tossed to the winds – but at least Rock Hill didn\'t toss all its buildings to the wind. Restoration to pre-1970s conditions is underway.