Challenge #10: The Frankenstein Catch-22
The creators of Modern and recent past places are often groundbreaking architects and designers, ahead of their time and pioneers in an era of great experimentation and new innovations. Communities all over the country served as proving grounds to test out new ideas and have left us with a rich legacy of Modernist design.
The problem is that buildings and landscapes designed by still-practicing and living architects are generally not considered to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The justification for this rule is their work is yet to be completed, and, therefore, cannot be holistically assessed for historical significance. Even widely acclaimed and recognized works that meet the minimum 50-year old threshold for eligibility will face this hurdle if the architect is still around.
With people living longer than ever before, it is great to have a designer still around to learn from and hear about their design inspiration and intent. Yet it presents an additional challenge for those working to save Modernist places and routinely use National Register eligibility as a tool to strengthen the case for importance and access to financial resources.