Previously, we wrote about Oscar Niemeyer’s architectural legacy and the relatively non-Eurocentric direction of Latin American modernism. While Niemeyer’s undulating buildings present unique restoration challenges, the U.S. is also facing trials with its own, typically rectilinear modern buildings. Looming large are the weather extremes of climate change and the quest for energy efficiency, making it apparent that the worst aspects of our mid-century buildings are their envelopes.
Designers of concrete and masonry architecture in our temperate zones often disregarded energy consumption and thermal comfort in the last century. Their buildings are a virtual list of today’s “don’ts”…too much glass, single-pane glass with an R-value of one, concrete thermal bridges with a flywheel effect in the wrong direction, zero insulation, and poor air and vapor barriers.
Elson Arts Center, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
Perfectly rectilinear yet large single-glazed openings allow significant heat loss and solar heat gain. The school replaced the windows with new “oversized” insulated glazing units with low-emissivity glass, nearly doubling the R-value of the walls.
The building that houses the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is an exquisite disc that enhances the National Mall in Washington, DC. Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute, the Hirshhorn is shaped like a perfectly round donut that rests on …