Agence Christiane Schmuckle-Mollard was revealed today as the recipient of the 2018 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize for their outstanding preservation work on the modernist Karl Marx School in Villejuif, France. And for the first time in the prize's 10-year history, a special mention was awarded to Harboe Architects for the preservation of Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois.
Established in 2008, the biennial prize honors architects or designers for their innovative solutions to preserve or save threatened modern architecture. Eligible projects, which could be located anywhere in the world, were completed in the last five years and faced threats that affected the site before preservation.
The winners will be presented with their awards during a public ceremony at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on December 4.
Karl Marx School. Preservation work by Agence Christiane Schmuckle-Mollard.
Designed and constructed by French architect André Lurçat, the Karl Marx School was described as “the most beautiful school in France” when it was inaugurated in 1933. The building's design was based on functionalist principles that prioritized logic and simple forms. By the 1990s, the building was still being used but had been poorly maintained. The school was then listed as a French National Historical Monument in 1996, which brought in resources for its restoration.
The restoration process comprised of seven years of research and three years of physical restoration, which included fixing exterior wall cracks, preserving interior ceramic sandstone tiles, and resealing windows. A new wing was also built to accommodate the present-day needs of the school.
“The Karl Marx School in Villejuif is one of the landmark school designs of the twentieth century,” said Barry Bergdoll, jury chair of the 2018 WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize, in a statement. “Restoration under the guidance of Agence Christiane Schmuckle-Mollard not only took on the challenges of recovering the interconnected interior and exterior spaces in the context of changing educational practices and standards, but recovered as well the lost color scheme of the building. It resonates today with the idealism and optimism of its original creators, the municipality and the architect through this sensitive and erudite restoration.”
Special Mention: Unity Temple. Preservation work by Harboe Architects.
Regarded as one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most iconic works, the Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois was originally built in 1908. After decades of delayed maintenance and partial restoration efforts in the 1970s and 1990s, a well-overdue major preservation project began in 2013.
Harboe Architects spent almost a year conducting in-depth research and two years physically restoring and upgrading the structure. Preservation work included: extensive structural concrete repairs, installation of new roof systems (including two large new skylights), and the restoration of all interior plaster, paint, wood finishes, art glass windows, and light fixtures.
“The significance of this gesture resides not only in the fact that this is the oldest work to be acknowledged by the prize to date, but also that it is the first North American work to be so recognized,” commented prize jury member Kenneth Frampton. “One should not overlook the seminal role that this singular work played in the development of modern architecture as a whole—not only in Europe and the US, but also in the world at large.”
In the gallery below, you can find photos of the Karl Marx School and Unity Temple before restoration.
- Barry Bergdoll (jury chair), Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University and Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art
- Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
- Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University
- Dietrich Neumann, Professor of the History of Modern Architecture and Director, Urban Studies Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Brown University
- Susan Macdonald, Head, Buildings and Sites, The Getty Conservation Institute
- Theo Prudon, President, Docomomo US, and Adjunct Professor of Historic Preservation, Columbia University and Pratt Institute
- Karen Stein, Executive Director of the George Nelson Foundation
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