Preservation of historic buildings is alive and well in the United States and France. The Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship is truly one of the most amazing professional fellowships. The laureates are chosen by an international jury for their accomplishments, value to the profession, and potential as future leaders in architectural preservation. The vision of one woman, Michele le Menestrel Ullrich, has awarded nineteen laureates and touched the lives of countless people who have supported the supercharged recipients of the prize. It is more than a professional sabbatical; it is six months of inspiration, open doors to leading practitioners, hands-on understanding of projects, philosophies, and applied techniques. It is a lifetime commitment to the advancement of the profession, as we demonstrated with our recent reunion in France.
Richard Morris Hunt (1827-1895) was the first American architect to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He was a highly influential architect as well as the founder of the American Institute of Architects. The mission of the fellowship is that as the architects of the two countries studied together, so should the practice of historic preservation be mutually influenced. Architectural preservation transcends physical and cultural boundaries with the Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship. The program is co-sponsored between the French Heritage Society and the American Architecture Foundation. In alternating years, one French or American architect is welcomed as a visiting professional within offices, job sites, conservation laboratories, and preservation agencies of the United States or France. This highly coveted international honor requires applicants to be licensed architects, practicing historic preservation, and conversant in French and English.
Two buildings visited by our group demonstrate interventions which respect the historic character, space, and materials of a building, while valuing the contributions of modern aesthetics and technologies. The Musee des Arts Decoratifs was designed by Daniel Kahane and our current laureate Diego Rodriguez (RMH 2008). The progressive glazing and lighting details enhance the historic architecture and ornamentation while creating an innovative display of the industrial arts. It is the balance of a museum within a palace, and technological innovation within a historical setting. Musee des Arts Decoratifs, RMH 2008 reunion.
A second project which was influential for modern preservation design in France was the 13th-century Abbey Toussaints in Angers, now the Galerie David d’Angers (architect, Pierre Prunet, 1984). The tensions between old and new, restored and reconstructed, are beautifully interconnected with layers of history visibly enhanced by modern design. (Photo 2) (photo by Kyle Brooks) The original walls are limestone, new walls are brick. A glass and steel roof and clear glass windows fills the masonry openings and voids. The slate floor includes a plan of the Romanesque church that predated the 13th century ruin. The missing elements were not recreated, as their destruction is part of the building’s history. The building has been given new life with a design that is to the highest ability of the technology of the day. Local slate construction techniques were modified in keeping with the local landmark guidelines.
Context of a historic building is valued differently in the two countries. Anything within five hundred meters in all directions from the property line is protected in France. Entire vistas in France are within the domain of a building. This protection of place can be beneficial for the setting and historic character of the immediate surroundings, but it can also create a museum streetscape which hinders the ongoing life of the neighborhood. The United States’ approach limits protection of a historic property to the historic elements; unless the building is within a historic district. A negative consequence of the limited boundaries is that the context is lost, and a historic building may be perceived as out of scale with the new constructions. Interestingly, all four options do exist, all are correct, and all have value.
To progress in the Craft of Architecture, we must know from where we evolved. The ability to continue to evolve is equally important to the presence of history. Discussions between the Fellows provided the inspiration as leaders in the profession, to value our association as Fellows, and to recognize the unique network that we have through the culture of preservation, and the rich variety we represent as practitioners in the field.
For more information, please visit: www.archfoundation.org, www.marybrush.com, www.christopheloustau.com
Mary Brush, AIA is the 2005 Richard Morris Hunt Fellow, and the Preservation Group Leader at Holabird & Root, Chicago Illinois.
1990 John Robbins, AIA, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 1991
Pierre-Antoine Gatier, Architecte en Chef des Monuments Historique, Paris, France
1992 Bonita Mueller, National Park Service, Denver, CO
1993 Jean-Christophe Simon, architect, Paris
1994 Ruth Todd, architect, San Francisco, CA
1995 Linda Stevens, Florida
1996 Jerome Francou, Lyon, France
1997 Yves Patrick DeFlandres, New York, NY
1998 Stephanie Celle-Riccio, Architecte des Batiments de France, Paris, France
1999 Elizabeth Newman, Portland Me (and Nepal)
2000 Stephanie Zugmeyer, Arles, France
2001 Raymond Plumey, AIA, New York, NY
2002 Sabina Fabrise, Paris
2003 Kyle Brooks, Government Services Administration, New York, NY 2004
Pascal Filatre, architect, professor, Nantes, France
2005 Mary Brush, AIA, architect, Holabird & Root, Chicago, IL
2006 Christophe Loustau, architect, Paris, France,
2007 Wendy Hillis, architect UNC Chapel Hill
2008 Diego Rodriguez, architect, Paris, France
And Announcing: 2009 Tina Roach, Quinn Evans, Washington, DC
(Group Photo): Left to Right: Pascal Filatre (RMH 2004), Yves Patrick DeFlandres, AIA (RMH), Wendy Hillis (RMH 2007), Sabina Fabris (RMH 2002), Pierre-Antoine Gatier (RMH 1991), Mary Brush, AIA (RMH, 2005), Simone Monnerone, John Robbins, (RMH 1990), Daniel Kahane, acmh, Mary Felber, Diego Rodriguez (RMH 2008), Renata Cortinovis, Directrice du Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Michele le Menestrel Ullrich, Stephanie Celle (RMH 1998), Ruth Schwartzman, Jose-Maria Ullrich, Linda Stevenson, (RMH 1995) Kyle Brooks, AIA (RMH 2003), Alan Schwartzman, FAIA (Photo by Kyle Brooks)