GSA actively strategizes its management of modern buildings built between 1950 and 1979. Making up nearly 50% of its inventory, these properties provide unique and challenging opportunities when planning for the future conservation of these distinctive assets.
As part of this effort to better inventory and understand this era of federal construction within its context in American architectural history and the history of federal public building construction, GSA published the study Growth, Efficiency and Modernism: GSA Buildings of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s (GEMbook.pdf 6.1 MB). [PDF - 6 MB]
GSA also developed a tool that assists in determining the eligibility for modern buildings in its portfolio, and can be found within this publication (ToolK.pdf 482 KB) [PDF - 481 KB]. While some of these buildings, such as the Byron Rogers Federal Building/U.S. Courthouse in Denver, Colo., and Mies Van Der Rohe’s Federal Center in Chicago, Illinois, have been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places when they reach the 50 year-old threshold, most reflect the era’s focus on efficiency and economy and (are neither exceptional nor likely ever to qualify for listing). We are finding that this isn't true; instead, there is cause for us to scrutinize those characteristics that cause a building to be eligible for listing.
Byron G. Rogers Federal Building/U.S. Courthouse and Modernism
In early 2000, under its First Impressions initiative to improve public spaces in federal buildings, GSA proposed a renovation project to the 1965 Byron G. Rogers Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Denver, Colorado. GSA planned to enhance the building’s entryway and create a new lobby that would alleviate security queuing delays. While the design was underway, word of the project reached the Denver community and local citizens soon vocalized their opposition to changes that they felt compromised the building’s original design.
Coinciding with this community interest was the publication Denver: The Modern City, a book on Denver’s modern architectural heritage that called attention to the building as Denver’s best example of the Formalist style of architecture. This experience enlightened GSA, making it clear that the agency would need to develop a better understanding of its modern-era buildings. More information is available at the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building Case Study [PDF - 580 KB] .