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Modernism Committee

steel house


The SHRC Committee on Cultural Resources of the Modern Age was formed in 2002 to encourage awareness, scholarship, and the exchange of ideas on resources of the mid-century and to study thresholds for significance to facilitate national and state registrations. In 2006 this committe was joined with the former Cultural Landscapes Committee and the name changed to the SHRC Modern and Cultural Resources Committee. The committee was reestablished in 2013 as the Modernism Committee.  The Modernism Committee meets on an approximately quarterly basis; all meetings are open to the public. Meeting times, locations, and agenda items are posted below.

February 2, 2016 Modernism Committee Meeting Notice
February 2, 2016 Modernism Committee Meeting Agenda

Modernism Week, Palm Springs, February 11-21, 2016

Modernism Week
Palm Springs, home to some of the premier examples of modern architecture and design, will once again host Modernism Week, one of the leading gatherings for experts, advocates, enthusiasts, and first-time explorers of California's, and America's, modern heritage. The week includes modern home tours, a lecture series on a variety of topics related to modernism, and a full week of special events. The Modernism Committee of the State Historical Resources Commission is facilitating one of the lectures, "Modernism Wars: The National Register, Defender of Modern Buildings," which looks at the challenges faced in saving modern buildings, and the role the National Register of Historic Places can play in those efforts.

Visit the Modernism Week website for a complete listing of events, dates, times, and registration information.
(Photo © David A. Lee)

Coming Soon...

Building a "Modern" Community
The Outreach Group of the Modernism Committee is developing a database of preservation groups and individuals who are concerned about Modern resources in their communities. This database will include basic contact information as well as organization affiliation and websites throughout the state. The purpose of the database is to create a mechanism through which connectivity between individual preservationists and related organizations can facilitate communication and share vital questions, information and strategies. Please consider becoming a part of this online Modern community! Details on joining the database will be posted here in the coming months. 

Modernism Contexts and Links

At the turn of the 21st century, a vast new landscape of property types approached the fifty-year mark. Such property types as auto and roadside related properties including motels, hotels, restaurants, cocktail lounges; subdivisions and tract housing; cold war properties, corporate architecture; and modern landscapes reflecting the aesthetic values, technological developments, and rapidly changing and diversifying cultures of the mid-twentieth century were now old enough for consideration as potentially significant historic resources.

The demolition in recent years of buildings by master architects Edward Durell Stone, Richard Neutra, and Rudolf Schindler, to name a few, has heightened the sense of urgency for the need to study and better understand the cultural resources of the Modern Age.

The National Park Service (NPS) is attempting to address the lack of context and scholarly material for identifying and evaluating historic resources of the Modern Age. NPS recently published National Register Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Historic Residential Suburbs. and developed a Multiple Property Listing for Historic Residential Suburbs in the United States, 1830-1960 . The National Historic Landmarks unit of NPS recently released "Essays on Modern Architecture" for use in evaluating properties for NHL status. Property types addressed in the essays include the skyscraper, the modern house, modern religious architecture, the modern college campus, and modern art museums. This draft report also provides an A list and a B list of exceptional modern architects. The NPS also sponsored two Preserving the Recent Past conferences, each with its own publication. The National Register Guidelines for Evaluating and Nominating Properties that have Achieved Significance within the Past Fifty Years provides technical guidance for evaluating and justifying exceptional significance for properties less than fifty years old.

Several organizations in California are making significant contributions in the identification and registration of mid-century resources.

  • The Los Angeles Conservancy’s Modern Committee (ModCom) has successfully listed a number of properties in the California Register.
  • The Society of Architectural Historians’ Southern California Chapter actively promotes modern architecture with tours and lectures.
  • DOCOMOMO Northern California Chapter (Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement) identifies modern resources and has also developed modern architecture tours in the Bay Area.
  • The community of Palm Springs has a Modern Committee.
  • There is also the Committee for the Preservation of 20th Century Architecture located in the Bay Area.
  • The College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley, and the Department of Landscape Architecture at CALPOLY Pomona are also involved in the study of Modern resources.
  • San Diego’s Save Our Heritage Organization held its first Modernism Weekend in September 2003 with lectures and tours.
  • In northern California, a group of volunteers called the Eichler Historic Quest Committee finalized two National Register nominations for two Joseph Eichler subdivisions in Palo Alto. These nominations were heard and approved by the State Historical Resources Commission and have been sent to the Keeper of the National Register for formal listing.
  • The National Preservation Institute in cooperation with CalTrans held two two-day seminars in March on Identification and Evaluation of Mid-20th Century Buildings. More of these seminars are sure to follow.
  • To encourage local communities to begin thinking about their recent past resources, beginning in 2004, OHP awards bonus points to Certified Local Government grant applications for projects related to the identification, evaluation, and registration of resources of the recent past.

Cultural Resources - Landscapes

Information on cultural, natural and ethnographic landscapes can be found on the following websites.

American Society of Landscape Architects

National Trust for Historic Preservation

California Preservation Foundation

National Park Service

The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Society of Architectural Historians

Los Angeles Conservancy