Minnesota's Modernism Gaining Historic Status

It might seem like a contradiction of terms, but many buildings labeled "modern" when built some 50 years ago are now considered "historic."

2 minute read

May 12, 2016, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Northwestern National Life

Michael Hicks / Flickr

According to an article by Peter Callaghan, "as buildings defined by glass, steel and concrete reach the 50-year standard for minimal eligibility, more are being considered for historic status."

Callaghan explores this coming of age in Minnesota, "where two buildings constructed during the first attempts to stimulate a moribund downtown St. Paul may be the first post World War II buildings nominated for the honor." The owners of the Degree of Honor Building and the Minnesota Mutual Life Insurance/Pioneer Press building, both located on Cedar Street, have requested applications for historic designation from the National Park Service. Moreover, the "state has agreed that both are eligible, and the park service has approved the request for the Degree of Honor building. The service is currently considering the request for the Minnesota Mutual building."

The article describes the incentives behind the designation for these buildings and others, and also introduces readers to the growing political movement seeking preservation of modern buildings. One group leading that movement, International Committee for the Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement (Docomomo) has created a website, Modernism on the Prairie, to archive "lectures, tours and events around modern architecture in the state," according to Callaghan.

The feature-length article also digs deeper into concepts and narratives that are useful for understanding and appreciating the debate over the preservation of modernist buildings.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 in MinnPost

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