Oscar Niemeyer’s Permanent International Fairground in Tripoli, Lebanon. (© UNESCO Beirut Office; Courtesy of the Getty Foundation)

To adapt a quote from Thomas P. Campbell, former Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, all architecture was once contemporary. But what was once modern, both aesthetically and materially, is now in need of repair, reconstruction, and preservation. Luckily, the Getty Foundation announced on October 11 that it has earmarked $1.7 million in grant funding for conservation efforts of 11 landmark 20th-century structures. This effort to identify and conserve Modernist buildings around the world is an extension of the foundation’s Keeping It Modern program, founded in 2014.

The structures to be remediated in this round are situated in a host of international locations, including the first stipends for the structures at the National Art Schools designed in 1961 in Havana, Cuba; the Rashid Karami International Fairground in Tripoli, Lebanon; the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo; the Chess Palace and Alpine Club in Tbilisi, Georgia; and St Brendan’s Community School in Birr, Ireland.

National Schools of Art of Havana in Cuba (Photo by Leonardo Finotti; Courtesy of the Getty Foundation)

Other recipients have received funding in the past to help in the continued maintenance and conservation of structures including the Gateway Arch in St Louis, MO; the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA; the auditorium of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands; the School of Mathematics at the Universitá degli Studi di Roma and the Collegi Universitari at the Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo in Urbino, Italy; and the Engineering Building at the University of Leicester in England.

Many of these projects highlight the challenges posed by the experimental nature of Modernist architecture, particularly the maintenance of concrete and steel — whether it be wear on once-shiny exterior materials; expansion or cracking of poured concrete elements; or discoloration or deterioration from interactions with weather and water. The Getty is also allowing funds for the National Art Schools’ project in Cuba to be dedicated to the collection and evaluation of historical documentation, related to the fascinating domed structures, and the development of a conservation management plan. As the field has progressed, hopefully new ideas can be applied retroactively to maintain the integrity of this once-revolutionary movement in contemporary architecture.

Aerial view of the School of Ballet, part of the National Schools of Art of Havana (Vittorio Garatti Archive; Courtesy of the Getty Foundation)

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...