Preservation Advocacy

Preserving important structures, landscapes and other aspects of the built environment is a key tenet of the Society's mission. One way the Society has taken a leadership role is by developing guidelines for architects and historians who have been asked to testify about the significance of a building or landscape. As a matter of policy, the Society only becomes involved in preservation issues of national or international significance. Preservation issues of local significance should be directed to your State Historic Preservation Office or to local preservation organizations. 



HERITAGE CONSERVATION COMMITTEE


Committee Chair

Bryan Clark Green, PhD, LEED AP BD+C, Commonwealth Architects

​Committee Members
Kenneth Breisch, University of Southern California School of Architecture
Jeffrey Cody, Getty Conservation Institute
​Anthony Cohn​, Anthony Cohn Architect, New York
David N. Fixler, FAIA, LEED® AP, EYP/
Deborah Slaton, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. 

Ex Officio

Ken Tadashi Oshima, SAH President, University of Washington
Pauline Saliga​, SAH Executive Director


LETTERS OF SUPPORT/CONCERN


Below you will find links to recent letters of support/concern produced by the Heritage Conservation Committee as well as summaries of the issue addressed and the position of SAH.


Letter to The Chairman Kevin Brady and Ranking Member Sander Levin of the House Appropriations Committee expressing support for the retention Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (14 March 2016)

HSAHARA__1113_24912786Issue:
The House or Representatives Ways and Means Committee, as a part of a larger tax reform consideration, is evaluating the revocation of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. Since 1981 the Internal Revenue Service has issued $21 billion in historic tax credits. Over $26 billion in direct federal tax revenue has been generated in the process. Even the Tax Reform Act of 1986 declined to repeal or modify the credit, following a House Ways and Means Committee determination that revocation of the credit would leave property owners and developers with no incentive to rehabilitate our urban areas, leading to further urban deterioration.

SAH position:
SAH strongly supports the preservation of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, and encourages any efforts to retain this important program. The program provides essential incentives for the preservation and adaptive reuse of our nation’s historic buildings, which in turn protects the vitality of our communities, neighborhoods, and cities. On behalf of preservationists, property owners, and municipal governments across America, we find the proposal to repeal this essential credit deeply disappointing.  The Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit has been a beacon for neighborhood preservation within the tax code for over 30 years, and has become the most significant federal investment in preservation across our nation. Since its inception this credit has leveraged approximately $109 billion in private investment, resulting in the creation of more than 2.4 million jobs. In these economically challenging times, we believe that this program is not only good public policy, but it is a proven job creator and engine of economic expansion, something which benefits all Americans. 

Follow-up:  
This situation is very much in flux.

More information: 
Why We Need the Historic Tax Credit - National Trust for Historic Preservation
Historic Tax Credits - National Trust for Historic Preservation
 

Izumo-Shrine-Administration-Building-(credit-Ken-Oshima)The Administration Building of the Great Shrine of Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, Japan (9 March 2016)

Issue:
The Administration Building of the Great Shrine of Izumo is imminently threatened by demolition. The demolition is proposed in response to moisture infiltration issues experienced in the building. The Administration Building of the Great Shrine of Izumo, designed by architect by Kiyonori Kikutake (1928-2011), is perhaps the most important extant building adjacent to the Grand Izumo Shrine. The Administration Building of the Great Shrine of Izumo, a landmark of postwar Japanese architecture, uniquely translates traditional forms using post-tensioned concrete beams and precast concrete infill screen pieces. The Administration Building of the Great Shrine of Izumo is an important example of Metabolic architecture, which embraced the forces of renewal, recycling, and transformation, themes which remain critical to our relationship to our ever-changing environment. Kikutake drew inspiration from centuries-old Japanese timber construction traditions to rebuild a nation ravaged by war and natural disasters, and his approach to address societal and technological changes was one of continuous evolution through the present. For this structure adjacent to one of the oldest and most important Shinto shrines in Japan, Kikutake’s scheme used state-of-the-art construction technology of pre-stressed precast concrete to rebuild the original administration building, which had been lost to fire.

SAH position:  
SAH expressed sympathy for the difficulties in maintaining historic buildings, and offered the assistance of our membership with preservation or maintenance advice, or support of the efforts of those charged with those undertakings. SAH expressed its belief that the loss of the Administration Building of the Great Shrine of Izumo would be a tragedy for Japan and for the world. 

Follow-up:
The leadership of the shrine met in mid-April 2016 to discuss the situation, which is very much an active issue. The SAH letter was mentioned in the newspaper accounts of the situation, and the fate of the building is very much in flux at the moment. 

More information: 
Tectonic Visions Between Land & Sea: Works of Kiyonori Kikutake - ja+u
Kiyonori Kikutake: Structuring the Future by Mark Mulligan - Places Journal
 

Letter to the New York Landmarks Commission in support of the designation of the Kaufmann Conference Rooms, Lecture Hall, and Elevator Lobby, 809 United Nations Plaza, Manhattan (12 November 2015)

21-Kaufman-Conference-Rooms-1-300x225Issue:
The Kaufmann Conference Rooms, Lecture, and Elevator Hall at 809 United Nations Plaza had long languished on the docket of the New York Landmarks Commission, along with 94 other properties that had been nominated but for which no action had been taken. A series of hearings were scheduled to consider which, if any, of these 95 buildings would be removed from any additional consideration or forwarded for listing. The owner objected to the designation of these interiors. These backlogged properties had all been nominated before 2010; most had been calendared for over twenty years.  

Commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., the conference room suite and lobby are a wonderful and highly significant suite of rooms that represent a rare North American work (one of four extant properties) by an architect who is unquestionably one of the great artists and humanists of the twentieth century. Occupying a double-height penthouse suite in the Institute of International Education, Aalto skillfully shaped a raw volume into an exceptionally evocative procession of spaces. Many of Aalto’s signature design tropes are in evidence. These include his virtuosic sculpting of the space—building to the crescendo of the double-height but subtly modulated window wall that enables the view out across the UN and the East River—his skillful use of both natural and artificial light and familiar, sensual material choices such bent wood bas reliefs—here evoking the boreal forest—and blue, tubular Arabia tiles, all of which impart a distinctive and unmistakable character to the suite.

SAH position:
SAG expressed strong support for the designation of the Edgar J.  Kaufmann Conference Rooms, Lecture Hall, and Elevator Lobby, 809 United Nations Plaza, Manhattan. We strongly urged the Landmarks Preservation Commission to grant designation to the Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Rooms. In encouraging this designation, the Society of Architectural Historians joins with supporting organizations such as the American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter; the Preservation League of New York State; Docomomo US; Docomomo US/New England Chapter; The Municipal Art Society of New York; and individuals including Jukka Leino, Consul General of Finland in New York City; historians and curators including Peter Reed, curator of a retrospective exhibition about Alvar Aalto, Between Humanism and Materialism, at the Museum of Modern Art in 1998, Glen Lowry, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, and Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University; and many accomplished architects, including Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Fumihiko Maki, Robert A.M. Stern, and Robert Venturi.

Follow-up:
On 22 February, the New York Landmarks Commission recommended 30 of the 95 resources for designation, including the Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Rooms, Lecture Hall, and Elevator Lobby.  

More information:
Big Risks as Landmarks Preservation Commission Moves to Prune Proposed Gems - The New York Times
Landmarks Commission Acts on Backlog Properties - NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
Landmark Status Is Urged for 30 New York City Properties - The New York Times


Letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry on the Cultural Impacts of Earthquake Damage in Nepal (9 July 2015)

Issue:
Durbar_Square_2010The Kathmandu Valley lies at a historic crossroads of Asian trade routes, religion, and cultures, and represents a rich tradition of art and architecture dating back centuries. Its internationally treasured monuments and cultural sites are of extraordinary quality and importance, mixing Indian and Tibetan styles as well as Hindu and Buddhist iconography. The Kathmandu Valley was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Nepal was devastated by widespread destruction associated with the 25 April 2015 earthquake and its continuing series of aftershocks. The loss of these sites, many of which are numbered among the most significant in the world, will forever separate us from the priceless information that they contain and, by extension, from our collective past. While the humanitarian crisis, the need to care for the injured, and the demand for food, shelter, and medicine in one of the world’s poorest areas must take precedence, in the wake of these immediate losses great cultural damage has taken place, and continues to take place.

SAH position:
SAH strongly endorses and supports all efforts to document, salvage, and restore the cultural heritage of the parts of Nepal damaged by the earthquake and its aftershocks. Several members of SAH are experts in the historic architecture characteristic of the areas currently under threat. SAH offered its assistance, either as an organization or by facilitating communication between Secretary Kerry’s staff and individual SAH members with particular expertise.

Follow-up:
Some 8,000 people were killed, and more than 21,000 injured. The destruction of cultural and historic icons from the recent earthquake is staggering. In Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the 1690 Maju Deval temple was destroyed; the seventeenth-century King Pratap Malla Statue fell from its column and was smashed; and many historic buildings in and around the square were leveled. A portion of the Taleju Temple complex, one of Kathmandu’s most important Hindu sites, also collapsed. Elsewhere in Kathmandu, the Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple was destroyed. The Dharahara Tower, a nine-story brick structure constructed in 1832 which was recently restored and reopened to the public, was also destroyed. The losses were by no means confined to Kathmandu. Much of Patan’s Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site south of Kathmandu, was reduced to rubble. In Bhaktapur, east of Kathmandu, the Vatsala Shikhara Temple was devastated. According to UNESCO, some 30 monuments collapsed, and another 120 were partially damaged. In total, some 1,000 monasteries, temples, historic houses, and shrines across the country were damaged or destroyed. UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture immediately began efforts to strengthen damaged monuments before the monsoon season; repair estimates begin at $160 million. [143]

More information:
UNESCO Office in Kathmandu
 

Letter to Dominion Power on Planned High-Voltage Transmission Lines Crossing the James River near Jamestown, Virginia (9 July 2015), and a second version of the letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (10 November 2015)

Issue:    
HSAHARA__1113_31184956Dominion Power proposes construction of a high-voltage transmission line to cross the James River near Jamestown, Virginia. The proposed project, which may include as many as seventeen towers, some of which are designed to be up to 295 feet tall, would have a serious and negative impact upon the nationally significant historic and cultural resources in the area. The area is home to Historic Jamestowne, Carter’s Grove (the site of the 17th-century English settlement known as Wolstenholme Towne), the Colonial Parkway, the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail (managed by the National Park Service), and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails Network. This region receives approximately 3.5 million visitors annually, drawn to the area’s significant cultural and historic resources as well as the beauty of the James River drainage and its surroundings.

SAH position:
The Society of Architectural Historians joins with Jamestown Rediscovery, Preservation Virginia, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, together with other leading national and regional institutions, in opposition to Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed siting of the transmission line in this location. We strongly urge Dominion Power to consider alternatives such as adopting a different route that involves less historically-sensitive locations, burying the transmission lines, or exploring alternative energy options.

Follow-up:
The issue is still working its way through the federal regulatory process. 

More information: 
National Treasures: James River - National Trust for Historic Preservation
Corps Still Sees Power Needs, Few Alternatives to Skiffes Creek Line - Daily Press
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