Brutalist Marcel Breuer hotel among 2022 Modernism in America Award winners

Marcel Breuer hotel

Conservation group Docomono US has announced the winners of its annual Modernism in America Awards, which celebrate individuals and projects that preserve modernism in the United States.

Docomomo US announced six winners and six citations of merit for the 2022 awards that made noteworthy contributions to modern architecture in the country.

Peavey Plaza day time
Top: The Hotel Marcel is a restoration of Marcel Breuer’s Pirelli Tire Building. Photo by Seamus Payne. Above: Peavey Plaza is a transit centre in Minneapolis. Photo by Elizabeth Felicella

According to the group “reimagined iconic modern sites, restrained residential projects, innovative documentation, and women in architecture” were the guiding categories for the awards.

“This year’s award winners demonstrate that doing the ‘impossible’ is possible,” said executive director Liz Waytkus. “These projects represent what we should all be looking for in preservation outcomes: holistic, sustainable and inclusive design that benefits us all.”

Peavey Plaza restoration
Peavey Plaza’s sunken pool was raised to preserve water. Photo by Peter Kerze

Three structures were among the winners selected. These included the restoration and conversion into a hotel of Hungarian-American architect Marcel Breuer’s Pirelli Tire Building in New Haven.

Architecture studio Becker + Becker purchased and restored the brutalist building, which had fallen into a state of disrepair, and turned it into what’s set to be the first Passive House-certified hotel in the United States.

The building is an “ambitious transformation that achieved the difficult task of making a hotel out of an office building — while maintaining the original aim of providing a visual gateway to New Haven — and making it solar and net-zero in the process!” according to jury member Caroline Constant.

UMassBRUT plamphet with building
UMass Amherst student reads Brutalist Campus Guide. Photo by John Solem

Minneapolis’ Peavey Plaza — originally designed by M Paul Friedberg — was also named a winner.

Landscape architecture studio Coen+Partners led the restoration of the transit mall, which included the raising of the sunken water feature to make the site more accessible and have it use less water. Accessible entrances were also added.

“Unlike Friedberg’s Pershing Park in Washington DC, which was significantly altered, this project is an excellent example of a site that has been successfully adapted for a modern age of universal access,” said jury member Glenn LaRue Smith.

Stockmayer House
Stockmayer House was originally designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by Robert Umenhofer

On a smaller scale, Allan J Gelbin’s Stockmayer House in Vermont won a design award for its restoration under the guidance of owners Tammy Heesakker and Gregory Russo.

The home, which the jury cited as an example of Usonian design, was originally built in 1961 by Gelbin, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The floors, countertops and some of the woodwork were restored. Additionally, a new roof was added and the heating system was updated.

“It manages to be contemporary where needed while not falling into trendy midcentury modern redesign pitfalls – it still feels like a 1960’s house,” said jury member Angel Ayón.

 Lucabe Coffee Co.
Lucabe Coffee Co won a citation of merit. Photo by Hadley Fruits

An award for excellence in surveying went to UMassBRUT, a project that highlighted the legacy and importance of brutalist architecture on university campuses.

Two advocacy awards were also awarded. The first to the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation’s Pioneering Women in American Architecture led by Cynthia Kracauer.

And the second went to Eugenia Woo for her work in lobbying for the protection of modernist architecture in western Washington State.

Five structures also gained citations of merit from the jury.

Martin Luther King Jr Library
The restoration of the Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr Library was awarded a citation of merit. Photo by Robert Benson Photography

These included Clauss Haus II at Little Switzerland, originally by Alfred & Jane West Clauss and restored by Sanders Pace Architecture; Gagarin II originally by Marcel Breuer & Associates and restored by Kyra and Robertson Hartnett; Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library originally by Ludwig Meis van der Rohe and restored by Mecanoo; Lucabe Coffee Co. originally by Harry Weese and restored by Tyler and Alissa Hodge; and Oakland Monster originally by Robert Winston and restored by Amedee Sourdry.

For citations of merit in the survey category, SurveyLA Historic Context Statement was cited for its deep-dive into 20th-century modernist architecture in Los Angeles, commissioned by the city.

Founded in the Netherlands in 1988, Docomomo set up shop in the US seven years later, and 2022 marks the ninth year of the awards. This year, the institution released a list of the most endangered modernist buildings in America.

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