Texas Modernist Buildings Classified as Endangered Species

Kalita Humphreys Theater, Dallas, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959. Courtesy The Dallas Morning News.

Kalita Humphreys Theater, Dallas, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959. Courtesy The Dallas Morning News.

Questions of stewardship keep coming up in regards to art in public spaces, like Tom Orr and Frances Bagley’s piece in White Rock Lake which is on the docket for decommissioning due to lack of funds to maintain it, or art that is a building in a public space, like Prada Marfa, which, if you live under a rock and didn’t hear, was significantly altered by artist Joseph Magnano a few weeks ago. In both cases, questions of whom should maintain these sites, and to what extent, have served as reminders that art’s longevity largely depends on tending it. Duh.

Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster rounds up a list of all of the endangered modernist buildings in Texas, all slated for fates similar to that of the Bagley/Orr piece–getting knocked down because they look old–unless some ruckus can be made in their defense. Among a slew of others, the list includes the Art Barn in Houston and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kalita Humphrey’s Theater in Dallas.

“The belief that these modern works are ‘unloved’ is often inaccurate and counterproductive,” says Lamster. “More typically, problems germinate from poor stewardship and a host of other factors, from land values to changing building codes, that have little to do with aesthetics. When preservationists find out about troubled buildings, it is often too late.”

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