Special Initiative

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Modernism at Risk

Modern structures are subject to the same risks as aging structures, including neglect, inappropriate renovation, the effects of climate change and even demolition, but additional risks arise from the very qualities that make them modern: innovative technologies, experimental materials, and novel design.

However, public apathy, the lack of understanding that buildings of our own time can be important enough to be kept for the future, or that modern buildings might need the same care as older structures, may be the greatest challenge.

WMF’s concern for modern sites began in the 1980s, but the establishment of WMF’s Modernism at Risk Initiative, launched in 2006 with founding sponsor Knoll, allows WMF to take a more active role in addressing the distinct threats facing great works of modern architecture around the world. This program focuses on advocacy, conservation, and public education.

  • For buildings facing demolition, the Initiative supports the development of design solutions that present alternatives to preserve the buildings and adapt them to new or expanded uses. This advocacy is intended to bolster community efforts already taking place.
  • The survival of some modern buildings can be threatened by the technical challenges of conserving experimental materials and innovative building systems used in their design. The Initiative funds select conservation projects at internationally significant and endangered modern sites.
  • To address the larger issue of public awareness about preserving modern architecture, the Initiative will develop an exhibition and lecture program in cooperation with museums and educational institutions.

A major component of the Initiative is the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize. Since 2008, the Prize has been awarded biennially to a design professional or firm in recognition of an innovative architectural or design solution that preserves or enhances a modern landmark or landmarks.

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Interested in hosting Modernism at Risk: Modern Solutions for Saving Modern Landmarks? Please send an email to modernism2012@wmf.org.

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