Building and Demolishing Legacies

March 9, 2015

Issue statement by Iker Gil, editor in chief of MAS Context.


Mas issue legacy cover opening

© Tom Harris.

It has been over a year and a half since Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital started to disappear. It was painful to watch and it continues to be now that the site remains empty with no signs of the former occupant. But that will change shortly as its replacement is scheduled to break ground imminently. As the new replaces the old, I wonder if the fight to save the building helped to question the way we discuss which buildings need to be saved and why they should be saved. There will be another Prentice, in Chicago or elsewhere, sooner than later, so it is important to evaluate how and why it happened.

In this issue we look back at the case of Prentice one more time to see what lessons we could learn as well as two other buildings that suffered the same fate: Miguel Fisac’s “Pagoda” in Madrid, Spain, and Josep Lluís Sert’s Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is a look back at the importance of those buildings and the conditions that facilitated their demolition.

But the issue is not a nostalgic look at the past but one that wants to learn from it, understand it, and build from it. It is a look that takes us to past and present speculative proposals for Chicago’s lakefront and Berlin, developed from the social, economic, and environmental legacies of those cities; proposals to commemorate celebrity mishaps in Los Angeles; symbolic infrastructure systems in the US as well as small-scale under-designed spaces in Japan and Australia; efforts to document legacies, from buildings in Sierra Leone to architects through comprehensive oral histories and graphic designers through superb books; the second life for a former slaughterhouse in Shanghai; the contemporary condition of an ambitious US federal program envisioned in the 1930s; and the lasting effects of the recent economic crisis. A selection of present and future legacies across the globe that are worth another look.


Legacy has had invaluable help from Paola Aguirre, Luis Asín, Michelle Benoit, Kyle Brancheti, Ted Brown, Evan Chakroff, Jacob Chartoff, Andrew Clark, Carlos Copertone, André Corrêa, Andrea Dietz, Killian Doherty, Sarah Dunn, Lee Dykxhoorn, Patxi Eguiluz, Alexander Eisenschmidt, Fabrizio Gallanti, James Goggin, Geoff Goldberg, Michelle Ha Tucker, Tom Harris, Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, James Khamsi, Rachna Kothari, Alexandra Lange, Julie Michiels, Andrew Moddrell, Christina Morris, Aisling O’Carroll, Shane Reiner-Roth, Jason Reblando, Bud Rodecker, Christoph Rupprecht, David Schalliol, Adrian Shaughnessy, Anna Souter, Stanley Tigerman, and Rick Valicenti.

We would like to extend our gratitude to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for allowing us to include the Prentice Women’s Hospital photographs by David Schalliol; to the National Park Services and the Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina, part of the Department of Cultural Resources, for the Blue Ridge Parkway photographs; and to the Fundación Miguel Fisac for the photographs of the Jorba Laboratories.