Last week I presented at the Midcentury Modern Materials and Preservation symposium sponsored by the National Park Service. This was a wonderful opportunity to spend three days with architects, engineers, conservators and historians discussing the new issues both philosophical and practical related to preserving Midcentury Modern structures and sites.  
 
The opening speaker was Gyo Obata, founding partner of HOK and the conference was held in his American Zinc Building seen in the photo above, now part of the Drury Hotel. Hearing first hand about his Midcentury designs and his back story about design and construction of some of his buildings makes one appreciate them even more.  
 
In his keynote, Gunny Harboe, Harboe Architects, asked the group to consider questions such as should buildings die? His discussions on understanding intangible heritage and on material authenticity were ones we should all be having as we work on historic sites. He advocated for supporting preservation advocacy groups such as The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Docomomo.  
 
The presentation on the Farnsworth House was a very interesting study on ways to address the periodic flooding. Is it right to move the houses whose siting was so important? Can you install a hydraulic lift system to raise it out of harms way when needed as designed by RobertSilman Structural Engineers? 
 
The symposium was held in St. Louis in the shadow of the Arch and the presentations on the investigative work on the arch were fascinating. I now know that the blemishes on the skin are due to construction not deterioration . I know what the view from rappelling down the leg of the arch is like. And I know I could make it down the long winding stair on one side in time to avoid the smoke of a fire coming up the other leg.  
 
For those unable to attend, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training will be publishing the conference papers on all these topics and so many more. The presentations will also be available as videos so check out their website for more information.