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Latin American Modernism at Risk

A Panel Discussion on Preservation Challenges for World Monuments Watch Sites” presented by World Monuments Fund and The Museum of Modern Art on May 5, 2015

World Monuments Fund and The Museum of Modern Art presented a panel discussion on May 5 to a packed theater at MoMA that explored the preservation challenges—including changing economies, modernization, and development—being faced by modern buildings and sites in Latin America today. Using a selection of World Monuments Watch sites in Latin America featured in the MoMA exhibition Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980, the scholars and experts who know the sites best examined their significance and the threats to their survival.

Barry Bergdoll, curator at MoMA, opened with welcoming remarks, followed by WMF’s Executive Vice President Lisa Ackerman, who spoke about WMF’s dedication to saving modern structures.

The first panelist was Javier Ramírez Campuzano (son of Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, president of the organizing committee of the Mexico City Olympics in 1968), who presented on Ruta de la Amistad, or the Route of Friendship, which was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch. WMF helped restore and relocate two of the sculptures of the original route: "Janus," by Australian sculptor Clement Meadmore, and "Articulated Wall" by Austrian artist Herbert Bayer.

John Loomis discussed the National Art Schools in Cuba. Founded in 1961, the domed and vaulted forms of the National Art Schools were designed to bring cultural literacy to Cuba following the revolution. The project was abandoned by 1965, as the new Cuban government preferred standardized forms over the experimental. Only two of the five schools designed were completed. WMF listed the schools on the World Monuments Watch in both 2000 and 2002.

Claudio Vekstein presented on the Casa Sobre el Arroyo in Argentina, one of the most celebrated works by modern architect Amancio Williams (1913–1989), and one of few built during his lifetime. WMF included the site on the 2012 World Monuments Watch, and the municipality of Mar del Plata subsequently purchased the landmark property, now open to the public for guided tours.

The next panelist was Paulina Villanueva Arismendi, and her presentation was on Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas in Venezuela, a masterpiece of 20th-century urban planning and architecture. After outgrowing its original location, renowned modern architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva (her father) was commissioned to design a new complex on the outskirts of Caracas in 1942 to accommodate the growing academic institution. Declared a World Heritage Site in 2000, the site was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch.

The final panelist, Enrique Vivoni Farage, presented the Henry Klumb House in Puerto Rico, a significant representative of the modern movement in the Caribbean. Designed by German-born architect Henry Klumb, a former student and chief draftsman of Frank Lloyd Wright, who settled in Puerto Rico and was known for his civic buildings, he modified a typical 19th-century hacienda, removing most of the outer walls and opening the house to create a direct relationship between interior and exterior. Following inclusion on the 2014 World Monuments Watch, the chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico established Comité Casa Klumb, an interdisciplinary committee to coordinate the rehabilitation of the house and grounds, which hosts public events at the site to increase awareness.

The presentations were followed by a Q&A and a reception.

WMF is thankful to all who participated, in particular: American Express, Founding Sponsor, World Monuments Watch; Ciudad de México; Fundación Amistad; Knoll, Founding Sponsor, Modernism at Risk; and The Museum of Modern Art.

We would also like to thank additional sponsors Ají Films Argentina; AJNA Films; Juan Andrés Bello; Patronato Ruta de la Amistad A.C.; Fundación Villanueva; Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University; University of Puerto Rico; and Claudio Williams.

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