News May 2022

Willert Park Court, Buffalo, NY. Photo: courtesy Buffalo Rising
Photo: Joe Cascio.

Eleven of the most under-threat modern buildings in the United States

May 13, 2022

DOCOMOMO US Advocacy Committee has shared a list of 11 modernist buildings under threat across the country. Marcel Breuer, Paul Rudolph, Natalie de Blois, Hilario Candela, and Kevin Roche are among some of the architects who’s designs could be demolished. Docomomo US Executive Director Liz Waytkus says, “With land values high, owners and municipalities are looking to make the highest return on these investments by offloading properties or constructing something shiny and new. Many sites are now 50-70 years old and suffer from years of deferred maintenance and the perception they are obsolete. Combine that with a lack of understanding or interest in the design, and it is a recipe for disaster.”

In the Tri-State area, Willert Park Courts in Buffalo has been in the news since 2017 when its demolition was first under review. Designed by Frederick C. Backus, it is an early public housing project inspired by Le Corbusier and Bauhaus ideals. The original 175-unit, 10-building complex was completed in 1939 with funding from the Federal Housing Authority and constructed as the first public housing complex specifically for Black residents. The Buffalo Municipal Housing Agency (BHMA) believes there are too many hurdles, financial and architectural, to make preservation of the buildings possible. In 2021, Preservation Buffalo Niagara asked to be named interim developer for two years in order to fundraise and build a redevelopment team that would work in collaboration with the local community to thoughtfully retain the project.

There are some actions that individuals can take to help document and protect sites of the Modern Movement such as creating or strengthening local preservation ordinances, engage with a local Docomomo US chapter or friend group, join or renew your membership, submit a modern site to Docomomo US’s Explore Modern register, or support the Advocacy Fund.

“The 11 most threatened modern sites,” Docomomo US, April 29, 2022.