The Getty is putting the financial and research muscle of its Conservation Institute into tackling what is emerging as one of the trickiest areas of historic preservation - the protection and renovation of modern architecture. As Hawthorne notes, "Modern buildings present a challenge for preservationists not simply because they're aging, with the earliest breakthroughs in modernism now nearly a century old. At the center of their work, modern architects put experimentation in materials and structure; many embraced the idea that their buildings would be lightweight and flexible -- even temporary -- rather than solidly monumental."
Hawthorne was clear to distinguish that the program is focused on technical solutions, rather than preservation advocacy. "Tim Whalen, director of the Getty Conservation Institute, said that the program was not designed as an advocacy organization, like the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee, dedicated to keeping landmarks from the wrecking ball. The point instead is to forge partnerships with architects and organizations already doing research on how to preserve modern masterpieces."
And the Getty is kicking off its new program, called the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, in its own backyard in Los Angeles with one of the icons of mid-century architecture - the Eames House, built in 1949 by the husband-and-wife designers Charles and Ray Eames. "In that effort and subsequent ones, the Getty initiative will focus on supporting research on the materials and structural systems unique to -- or at least highly common in -- modern architecture before making the results available to architects and preservation specialists around the world."