Docomomo’s 2023 Modernism in America Awards recognize 13 technically innovative, culturally rich, and climate sensitive projects

Feather in Your Cap

Docomomo’s 2023 Modernism in America Awards recognize 13 technically innovative, culturally rich, and climate sensitive projects

Frank Lloyd Wright's Christian House in Indiana was restored recently. The refurbishment by Harboe Architects was the recipient of a Docomomo Modernism in America Award. (Alexander Vertikoff/Courtesy Docomomo)

The preservation advocacy group Docomomo U.S. announced this morning thirteen recipients of Modernism in America Awards. Each project demonstrates excellence for employing a “technically innovative, culturally rich, and climate sensitive” approach according to the organization.

Awards of Excellence were given to seven projects. They include the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Samara: The John and Catherine Christian House in West Lafayette, Indiana; the Schwann House and Studio in Lincoln, Massachusetts; Demerec Library at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York; Bakar BioEnginuity Hub in Berkeley, California; Eldorado Ballroom in Houston; Modern Survey Pittsburgh; and Ebony Test Kitchen in both Chicago and Washington D.C.

Citations of Merit were given to six projects. They include Birch Knoll in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania; Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle; the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in Riverside, California; Jackson Lake Lodge in Moran, Wyoming; Dogan-Gaither Flats in Knoxville, Tennessee; and the former San Jose City Hall in San Jose, California.

Dogan-Gaither Flats rear courtyard elevation (Keith Isaacs Photo/Courtesy Docomomo)

2023 marks the Modernism in America Awards’ tenth year. This iteration’s jury chair was Barbara Bestor, the founder of the Los Angeles–firm Bestor Architecture. Bestor was joined by a distinguished panel of experts well versed in modernism, preservation and advocacy including Celia Bertoia, Ann E. Komara, Mark Lamster, Meredith Arms Bzdak, and Theodore Prudon. The advocacy jury consisted of Todd Grover, Flora Chou, Barbara Campagna, and Eugenia Woo. Tom Jester, the founding president of Docomomo’s Washington D.C. chapter, and Ann Mullins from Docomomo’s Colorado chapter were also on the Awards Committee.

Bakar BioEnginuity Hub is the conversion of a historically significant campus building deemed seismically unsafe into a structurally sound, state of the art laboratory and workspace facility. The project is a private/public partnership in conjunction with the University of California, Berkeley. (Courtesy of Bruce Damont)

Samara: The John and Catherine Christian House was completed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956 and recently renovated by Harboe Architects. The renovation comes after the building was granted National Historic Landmark status in 2015, followed by a critical $500,000 Save America’s Treasures Grant from the National Parks Service which went toward the meticulous refurbishment. Harboe Architects noted that challenges included “stabilizing the terrace and lanai wall, salvaging and reusing original pavers, and adapting living room ductwork while respecting the original design.” Barbara Bestor applauded the “detailed documentation of the restoration process and special care that were taken every step of the way.” Celia Bertoia echoed Bestor, noting that the architects “took the time and effort to do things right.”

Schwann House and Studio (Courtesy Matt Andersen Miller)

The 1947 Schwann House and Studio by Walter Bogner was also recognized following a successful renovation undertaken by Andersen Miller Design. The restoration returned the home to its 1947 former self while making critical infrastructural upgrades. According to Docomomo, the architects stayed true to Bogner’s original intentions. “Bogner’s original color palette was painstakingly revived, drawing inspiration from nature and the site’s organic hues,” the jury stated.

Modern Pittsburgh Survey (Logo and photograph by Brittany Reilly/Courtesy Docomomo)

Academic and research excellence was recognized as well. Modern Survey Pittsburgh was a collective effort between multiple organizations to document Greater Pittsburgh’s 20th-century Modern and Postmodern architecture, design, and public art through a map with 20 structures, dating from 1945 to 1990. Modern Survey Pittsburgh is something that Bestor said “every city should have.”

Lisa DiChiera, former Landmarks Illinois Director of Advocacy; Jean Nihoul, Former Curator & Culinary Operations Manager at the Museum of Food & Drink; and Charla Draper, former Ebony magazine’s Director of Food & Home Furnishings; in the Ebony Test Kitchen in February 2022. (Landmarks Illinois/Courtesy Docomomo)

Used for decades by Ebony magazine food editors, the Ebony Test Kitchen is inside Ebony’s Chicago headquarters, a landmark designed by John Moutousammy, the first Black architect to have a building on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. Ebony Test Kitchen is known for its “signature funky aesthetic” co-designed by interior designers William Raiser and Arthur Elrod from Palm Springs, California. An Award for Excellence was given to the project after it was saved from demolition in 2018. “It is rare to find a site that combines midcentury design, historic foodways, and Black history in such a symbolic way as the Ebony Test Kitchen,” said Docomomo U.S. vice president of advocacy Todd Grover. “It is a gift to us all that it is being preserved and we look forward to when the public is able to visit it in-person once again.”

The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture was recently restored by Page & Turn and wHY Architects. The restoration was given a Modernism in America Award by Docomomo. (Eric Staudenmaier/Courtesy Docomomo)

A Design Citation of Merit was given to The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in Riverside, California by Moise, Harbach and Hewlett following its recent restoration by Page & Turnball and wHY Architects. The twentieth century modernist building now hosts over 500 examples of art by Chicano artists. The building’s mission is to solidify the message that “Chicano art is American art.” Architecture critic Mark Lamster commended the architects, saying they stayed “true to the original, but with excellent treatment.” Jury member Celia Bertoia called it “fun and creative. An excellent re-purposing.”

For the full list of project winners, follow this link.