A major activity (collectively and individually) of Members of the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies (ICADS) is to contribute to preservation of important buildings from the era and to assist local organizations and governments with their efforts to identify, document, and encourage visits to these buildings.
Paramount Theatre, Oakland, United States. Photo: Art Deco Society of California
ICADS AND FRIENDS HELPING EACH OTHER WITH PRESERVATION
One of the aims of the new ICADS Board is to be more active in the preservation of buildings that are threatened with demolition or inappropriate development or where local societies are seeking landmark protection to ensure protection for the future.
Generally, preservation battles are fought out at a local level and involve dealing with decision-making authorities at city or state level. ICADS members involved often seek assistance (or join with) community groups in their battles. But ICADS members can seek assistance from the broader ICADS community and members can play a role in supporting other societies with preservation efforts.
This can take the form of actions such as providing donations to fighting funds or sending messages of support to petitions on social media pages.
But the most important actions ICADS members can undertake is to provide submissions to decision-making authorities and key government figures involved (or responsible) for deciding the fate of buildings. This provides the opportunity for setting out the importance of a threatened building, both locally and in the world context of global interest in the preservation of prominent buildings. It is even more important when there is a degree of urgency, and submissions and objections need to be lodged quickly.
ICADS now has the facility to receive submissions from member societies about preservation battles which include details of a threatened building and contact details for decision-makers. These authorities are often surprised to receive submissions from around the world about local buildings. But there is little doubt that submissions from members of ICADS have been effective in demonstrating the world-wide interest in preservation of that building.
Perhaps the best example of concerted action from ICADS members concerns the campaign by the Art Deco Society of New York (ADSNY) to save the Waldorf Astoria hotel. Many ICADS society leaders and their members submitted letters of support and signed petitions to save the Art Deco interiors of the hotel when it was under threat of destruction by new owners in 2017. The response of ICADS Member Societies from all over the world helped convince New York’s Landmark’s Preservation Commission to grant Landmark status to the building’s historic interiors.
Recently ICADS made submissions to authorities in support of the Paris Art Deco Society in the preservation of the Copernic Synagogue, while members of ICADS also submitted letters of support for the Art Deco Society of Los Angles for the Fairfax Theater in 2021.
Member Societies and Friends of ICADS can now request assistance for an endangered Art Deco building in their city or state and, by getting support from other Member Societies, can demonstrate to local landmarking agencies that threatened buildings are important both locally and in an international context.
The support is available from your ICADS colleagues––so let’s use it!
Deco Eagles, Richmond, United States. Photo_ Art Deco Society of Virginia
ICADS WORLD CONGRESSES AND PRESERVATION
One of the major outcomes of World Congresses is the raising of awareness of preservation efforts, particularly in countries experiencing economic hardship.
A good example is Cuba, which still suffers from the effects of embargoes imposed by the United States over 50 years ago. Many buildings have been lost and others have seriously deteriorated, largely due to the difficulties in obtaining materials and products required for restoration.
12TH WORLD CONGRESS IN HAVANA, CUBA
A building that illustrates the difficulties is the Edificio Lopez Serrano, a 16-storey building in Vedado. In 1932, it was the most modern building in Latin America but gradually deteriorated over the years and now needs serious remediation work. A major feature is the entrance foyer, with marble-clad walls, terrazzo flooring, a magnificent nickel silver panel, representing a theme of progress, and some fabulous star-shaped lights.
Numerous other apartment buildings caught the eye of the Congress delegates as they travelled around Havana. Many buildings featured wonderful balconies and ironwork and interesting rooflines. Some were brightly painted, and many had replaced rotting wooden window surrounds with unsightly aluminum. On other buildings, one (or more) of the balconies had been enclosed, producing a jarring note to the exterior. Many of the houses were in similar condition to the apartments––in various states of disrepair.
The Congress received an enormous amount of positive publicity (press, magazines, on television and on-line) and preservationists are hopeful for the future. There is now a concerted effort occurring (led by Gustavo Lopez from Habana Deco) to preserve and restore some of the gems of Havana.
Edificio López Serrano, Havana, Cuba. Photo: Habana Deco
ICADS provides a focus for activities related to preservation of Art Deco heritage around the world and aims to build public awareness and appreciation of all aspects of the style. It also focuses on the activities of prominent architects, either as groups or individually, such as Francesco Salamone in Argentina.
Presentations at Congresses can also demonstrate the processes required to present successful nominations of interwar regions as UNESCO World Heritage sites––a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process, requiring considerable resources and commitment. But it can be done––Prominent examples are Mumbai and Tel Aviv and we heard presentations at the Buenos Aires Congress about both these cities and their successful nominations
15TH WORLD CONGRESS IN BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
The work of Salamone (in the Pampas of Argentina in the 1930s) was not well-known to many Members of ICADS prior to the Buenos Aires Congress in 2019. But ICADS Members quickly became enamored with the monumental drama of his designs.
Salamone’s influences came from many parts of the world, so it makes sense that his work is shared across our international societies.
It was a great thrill to be able to see and visit many of his works and see the preservation efforts underway and to find out that a substantial body of work on Salamone already exists. But there is much still to be discovered about his life, his work and much remains to be done to further this research and spread the message beyond the borders of Argentina. Fortunately, the expansion of social media provides a great opportunity to spread details of his works to a world-wide audience, and to gather support for preservation of important works.
ICADS regards the preservation of buildings by Salamone to be important because they provide a connection to the past through historic preservation, they inform us of the struggle between ideologies in the 1930s (often played out in the world of architecture and community infrastructure), and they demonstrate that Argentina was advanced in accepting the latest styling.
The restoration of buildings by Salamone also demonstrates the value in recycling and adaptive re-use of buildings and contributes to environmental responsibility by preserving existing buildings compared to waste of resources, energy and time in new construction.
An ultimate aim of ICADS is to have the Salamone portfolio included as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. In 2001 they were declared by the Senate and Chamber of Deputies of the Province “Cultural Heritage of the Province of Buenos Aires’. In 2014 many were also declared by the State as ‘National Historic Monuments’ and ‘Of National Historic and Artistic Interest’.
Submissions have been made to the Argentine World Heritage Committee with the intention of submitting to UNESCO. (One of the major by-products of listing by UNESCO is a huge increase in visitors––even in an area as large and diverse as the Pampas).
The eyes of the world are now being opened to the value of Salamone’s works.
Just as the ICADS Congress in Havana provided a lot of impetus and attention for preservation in Cuba, so we are hopeful that the efforts of ICADS and all the other organizations involved in this program will contribute to the push to celebrate Salamone and his work.
ICADS will continue to support our Argentine colleagues (led by Fabio Grementieri) in efforts to have the works of Salamone included as World Heritage sites.
Francesco Salamone's Azul Slaughterhouse, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Photo: Adba Art Deco