The Present of Modernity

11 June 2021

Moderation Nikhil Joshi

Nikhil Joshi, Architect, activist, lecturer at the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore

Nikhil Joshi is an architect-academic-activist, currently working as a senior lecturer at the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore (NUS). He studied at the University of Pune (India), the University of York (UK), and NUS and has research and practical experience in built heritage conservation and community development.

Keeping It Modern Antoine Wilmering

The survival of many modernist buildings around the globe is under acute threat: The cutting-edge building materials and structural systems that define the modern movement were often untested and have not always performed well over time. Heritage professionals do not always have enough scientific data on the nature and behaviour of these materials and systems to develop the necessary protocols for conservation treatment.

To address these challenges, the Getty Foundation developed Keeping It Modern, an international grant initiative that continues Getty’s commitment to architectural conservation with a focus on important buildings of the twentieth century. Since 2014, Keeping It Modern has supported 77 grant projects of outstanding architectural significance that through research and planning contribute to advancing conservation practice.

Antoine Wilmering, Senior Program Officer at the Getty Foundation, will give an overview of the initiative and report on the results of the programme, and share his view on the challenges and opportunities of preserving modernist buildings using selected examples from the programme.

Antoine Wilmering, Senior Program Officer, Getty Foundation, Los Angeles

Antoine Wilmering has been Senior Program Officer at the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, California, USA since 2004. There he was involved in the conception and implementation of the fellowship programme Keeping it Modern. Previously, he was an Advisory Board Member at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, The United Kingdom 2012-2017, Curriculum Advisor and Consultant at the World Monument Fund, New York, New York (2009-2015) and Professor at the Graduate Institute of Conservation of Cultural Relics, Tainan National University of the Arts, Taiwan (2000-2004). He received his BA in Conservation from the National Training Programme for Conservators, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1983.

The House of Statistics: From demolition plan to future project Konrad Braun, Manfred Kühne

The Haus der Statistik (House of Statistics) is a building complex in Berlin. It was constructed in 1968–1970 as the headquarters of the State Central Administration for Statistics of the GDR. The complex was due for demolition, but thanks to initiatives to save the building and an open public debate on the topic, it was possible to transform it into a model project for the collaborative production of space, which is currently being implemented.

Konrad Braun, ZUsammenKUNFT Berlin Cooperative for Urban Development, Haus der Statistik

Konrad Braun is a co-founder and board member of openberlin e.V. and has been involved in participatory urban development since 2012 with the aim of achieving a more common good-oriented approach to public and private land. As a freelance architect, urban researcher and project developer, he deals with the topics of urbanity, society, culture, politics, law and economics in a transdisciplinary manner. He pays special attention to user-driven and public welfare-oriented urban and real estate development. He lives and works in Berlin and is board member of ZKB eG and part of the initiative to save and revitalize Haus der Statistik.

Manfred Kühne, Head of the Department of Urban Planning and Projects, Senate Department for Urban Development, Berlin

Manfred Kühne studied architecture in Kaiserslautern and Berlin, graduating in 1987. After passing a state examination in structural engineering at the Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing in Berlin in 1991, he worked as a freelance urban planner until 1995. He then worked in the architectural workshop of the Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing. From 1997 to 2000, Manfred Kühne was head of Urban Planning for the city of Stralsund. He then moved back to Berlin and became head of the Historic Preservation Authority in the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development from 2001 to 2008. Since 2008, Manfred Kühne has been head of the Department of Urban Planning and Projects in the Senate Department for Urban Development Berlin.

Gelora Bung Karno: From a heritage sports complex to a modern public park d-associates

Video presentation

In 1958, the Asian Games Federation appointed Jakarta to host the fourth Asian Games. In order to provide adequate infrastructure to hold international sports championships, the construction of a sports complex amongst other structures was mandatory. This originated the start of vital developments in Jakarta, most importantly the Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex (GBK), which, along with other city markers, became an important part of the daily life of Jakartans. The Asian Games and the design of GBK not only significantly shaped the face of Jakarta and Indonesia as a nation, it also made an important contribution to the richness of architecture in Indonesia.

On 20 September 2014, Indonesia was announced to host XVIII Asian Games 2018, which called for the renovation of Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex. Gregorius Yolodi and Maria Rosantina were part of the team appointed by the Association of Indonesian Architects to plan, coordinate, and execute the renovation design of the masterplan and the buildings in Gelora Bung Karno.

The renovation included a technical update of the buildings, but more importantly resulted in more public engagement with the area and an activation of the spaces. Gelora Bung Karno was transformed into a modern urban public park in Jakarta that is actively used by Jakartans today.

With the video produced for Contested Modernities, d-associates reflect on the design process and discuss the result with several parties that were involved in the renovation process.

The production of this video was made possible through the support of The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Senate Chancellery and the Goethe Institute Jakarta.

d-associates, Jakarta

d-associates is one of the most acclaimed architectural practices in Indonesia today. It is led by Gregorius Yolodi and Maria Rosantina. Since 2000, they have established a consistent presence on the Indonesian architectural scene and produced a considerable body of works.

They consistently develop their repertoire of sleek modernist forms and spaces using refined raw and locally-sourced materials such as reinforced concrete, bricks, wood, and metal with sensitive regard to the hot, humid tropical climate. Their effort to push their design language beyond private commissions is a notable exception among Indonesian architects.

Their recent work on significant public buildings, such as the renovation of the historic Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex for the 18th Asian Games venue (2016–2018), originally commissioned by former president Sukarno for the 1962 Asian Games, brought the firm’s profile under the national spotlight.

Gregorius Yolodi and Maria Rosantina, among seven other colleagues, were commissioned to undertake the refurbishment and design of the historic complex. Gregorius Yolodi was in charge of the renovation design of the 1962 historic Main Stadium, Maria Rosantina was in charge of the renovation design of the 1962 historic Athletic Stadium and the new Baseball Stadium.

Their practice has received numerous awards and recognition including a mention from ARCASIA (Architects Regional Council of Asia) Awards for Architecture for their DRA House in Bali, the Indonesian Institute of Architects Award in 2008, several recognitions from the Indonesian Institute of Architects Jakarta between 2008 and 2014, and they have won several national architectural competitions.

Stop Architectural Deforestation Ho Weng Hin

Video presentation

A video by Jonathan Yee Chenxin, Freda Yu Bing Jie, Ge Luyao

The rate at which modernist buildings in Singapore are being demolished is a cause for concern. Often referred to as “ugly”, “run-down”, and “urban blight”, large modernist structures are primarily perceived at face value and people are reluctant to look beyond these labels to see their potential, architectural or otherwise. By steering the conversation towards a larger and more ethical discourse of environmental and social sustainability, we hope that the modern built heritage can be saved by virtue of its universal good to the climate and environment, moving the discussion away from subjective perceptions.

Three leading industry practitioners – Ho Weng Hin (Studio Lapis), Dr Hossein Rezai (Web Structures), and Immediate Past President of the Singapore Institute of Architects, Mr Seah Chee Huang (DP Architects) – give their take on the issue, calling to save both our heritage and the environment before it is too late. Iconic modern structures such as Golden Mile Complex as well as the “everyday modern” landscapes of HDB estates will frame the discourse.

The video will be presented by Ho Weng Hin, who provided guidance for the production.

Freda Yu Bing Jie
is a recent architectural graduate who is currently pursuing the multidisciplinary study of art and global sustainability.

Ge Luyao
is a recent architectural graduate interested in health-restoring design in urban settings as well as therapeutic architecture and cognitive learning.

Jonathan Yee Chenxin
is an assistant consultant at Studio Lapis, an architectural conservation consultancy. His research interest centres around Singapore’s modernist architecture.

The production of this video was made possible through the support of the Goethe Institute Singapore.

Ho Weng Hin, Partner Studio Lapis and Chair Docomomo Singapore

Ho Weng Hin is founding partner of Studio Lapis, an architectural conservation specialist consultancy based in Singapore with local, regional, and overseas projects. Its work has garnered accolades such as the URA Architectural Heritage Awards, and the UNESCO Asia Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

Ho Weng Hin is Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture, School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore (NUS). He studied architecture at NUS and obtained his postgraduate diploma in architectural conservation from the University of Genoa, Italy, with full honours.

He is a founding Board Member of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), Singapore National Committee, an Expert Voting Member of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on 20th Century Heritage, as well as Founding Chair of the Docomomo Singapore Chapter. He also serves on government advisory panels on heritage policy and planning.

An ardent advocate for Singapore’s built heritage, Weng Hin is co-author of several publications including Our Modern Past: A Visual Survey of Singapore Architecture, 1920s–70s, a groundbreaking book commissioned by the Singapore Heritage Society. He is a former co-editor of The Singapore Architect, the professional journal of the Singapore Institute of Architects.

Q & A

Online symposium
Friday, 11 June 2021, 2 – 5 pm CEST (CET+1 / UCT+2)

Upon gaining independence in the mid-20th century, many cities in Southeast Asia changed dramatically in terms of their physical appearance. The task of becoming an independent nation was accompanied by the desire for a symbolic new beginning in architecture and urban planning. International modernism not only offered an aesthetic programme that reflected expectations of progress and prosperity, but also served as a means of emancipation from the colonial powers. Local modernities were created, based on an understanding of cultural specifics and the climatic requirements of building in tropical regions.

Today , however, the built legacy of this transformational period is increasingly under threat. Rapid urbanization and the accompanying rise in property values, reassessments of local architectural histories that are often politically motivated, and demands to adapt old buildings to new uses are causing ever more iconic structures to be razed or disfigured through careless modifications. And such developments are not limited to Southeast Asia. In Germany as well, architecture from the 1950s to 1970s is increasingly falling victim to demolition for very similar reasons.

Nevertheless, there are precedents of the preservation and adaptive use of modernist architecture around the world. The symposium will discuss examples such as the Getty Conservation Institute’s Keeping It Modern programme, the model project at Haus der Statistik in Berlin, new approaches in Singapore to evaluating buildings beyond mere aesthetics, and the renovation of the Gelora Bung Karno Complex in Jakarta. Lectures and videos produced for Contested Modernities will explore how the path from the past to the future can succeed and what considerations can be helpful in this process.