Archive for December, 2014

Presents

December 27, 2014

A little over a year ago my dear friend Victoria Young guided me to the Winton Guest House, a Frank Gehry design in Owatonna, Minnesota.  Owatonna is of course the site of one of the great early 20th century Louis Sullivan Midwestern Bank designs.

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Owatonna is also home to a 1987 Frank Gehry design, the Winton Guest House, which was originally designed in 1987 in Orono, Minnesota.  In 2009 it was moved to the Gainey Conference Center of the University of St. Thomas.

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Sadly, the house is threatened again due to a change in ownership of the Conference Center and must be moved by next June.  The University of St. Thomas is inviting proposals to move the house, which is a fetching combination of solid geometries and colors.  The bedroom is a great curve of pink dolomite limestone, the living room and another bedroom are sheathed in black metal, its freplace unit is brick and the eight-room complex was judged an “architectural masterpiece and work of art” in its 2007 appraisal.

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Known as a California architect, Frank Gehry had plenty of experience in Minnesota dating to his work with Victor Gruen in the early 1950s designing the first modern shopping mall in Edina.  The Winton Guest house was designed in the 1980s and completed in 1987, two years before Gehry won the Pritzker Prize, which first launched him onto the international stage and led to such famous commissions as the Bilbao Guggenheim and Walt Disney Concert Hall, and of course the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

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I saw a Gehry building in Cleveland in 2003, all white but the usual concupiscent curds of form he had become known for since Bilbao in 1997.  The Winton Guest House reveals a more experimental use of various forms and materials, similar to the experimentation that was his own Santa Monica house int he 1970s, although resolved with a clarity provided by the absence of any distracting exterior appurtenances, a village of forms pinwheeling about the central tower.

The high artistry of the composition makes it more likely to retain its significance should it be moved again.  The first move was 110 miles.  Another 70 and it could make it to the Twin Cities, where more might be able to appreciate it, visit it and understand a key period in the development of one of our most famous living architects.

Many thanks to Chris Madrid French and Victoria Young for their advocacy and support!  If you are interested in the Winton Guest House, take a look at this site.  If you want it, contact Dr. Victoria Young, Dept of Art History, University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Avenue, Mail 57P, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55105.

Investing In the Future

December 3, 2014

The investments that pay off over time are ones that are made with a complete understanding of the context. What or who are you investing in? What is the potential for growth? What are the obstacles, and conversely, the opportunities? The act of investing is future-oriented, so there is always risk, but successful investors learn to minimize risk.

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Philanthropists often look on their donations as investments, especially here in Silicon Valley. This makes it incumbent on organizations like Global Heritage Fund to measure those investments for our donors. We need your help, yes, but we know we need to prove to you how much you can help.

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In the value sense, we save heritage. But we also change lives in communities that need it most. My last blog was about the health center we built in Colombia. We are investing in the people and communities near world heritage sites. These people need help, and their heritage sites can be the source of ongoing, sustainable investment of time and treasure in a place.

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The great thing about heritage sites is that they are OF a place. They are the cultural roots and often a physical bedrock of a community. This means that they provide much of the context, culture and opportunity that an investor needs to understand. They are a hedge against risk because they are not imported, they are indigenous.

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Heritage is in many ways the smartest kind of development. It takes advantage of cultural specificity and place specificity. It brings outside dollars via tourism and philanthropy to places that have not yet been “discovered” by mass markets. It provides training and opportunities that can lift people out of poverty.

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Do we get it right all of the time? No. But our focus on heritage – and our international network of experts in conservation, community development, architecture, archaeology and economics – gives us an advantage over others that promote community development. As I have said many times before, heritage conservation done properly integrates the community into the planning process from the start. This means they are INVESTED first and foremost.

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I would like your help as we near the end of 2014. This is the time we need to make plans for 2015. Who needs our help? Where can we leverage the most support? How can we insure that community investment precedes our investment – and will succeed it in the long run? Your support means we can do our due diligence and choose the best projects, employ the best practices, and come the closest to a sustainable future.