New Haven Modern Architecture
In recent years, the Modernist era has increasingly received the attention of preservationists, as some of its creations approach the 50-year baseline for National Register listing, as architectural and decorating fashion look to modernism for inspiration, and, sadly, as Modernist buildings begin to age and disappear. Experimental materials and building techniques sometimes fail, and changes in lifestyle focus attention on deficiencies.
In this context, New Haven Preservation Trust decided to undertake a survey of Modernist-era resources in New Haven. Phase I of the project was an overview of the historical and architectural development of New Haven during the period 1931 to 1980. Covering the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar urban renewal era, this period includes governmental relief projects of the 1930s that introduced the social aims that would later characterize urban renewal. Some of these, as well as other, private, projects also first introduced Modernist architecture to New Haven. The period ends with the last of the heroic Modernist buildings and the introduction of Post-Modernism, paralleling the Reagan-era efforts to dismantle the social programs of the urban renewal era and the Great Society.
In Phase II, the Trust surveyed sites related to the historical and architectural development of New Haven between 1931 and 1980. In this phase, the Trust identified approximately 150 sites and completed Historic Resource Inventory (HRI) forms for 123 sites, compiling descriptive and historical and architectural information as well as photographs. In addition, recommendations were provided for potential State and National Register listings and other preservation actions.
In Phase III, the Trust devised a website dedicated to these findings, New Haven Modern, which highlights the results of the survey, as well as the masterpieces of Modernist architecture.
In Phase IV, the Trust continued to enhance the website by adding updated HRIs on 13 buildings that had been initially surveyed in the 1980s, as well as surveying six new buildings and adding those HRIs. The Trust also identified an additional 120 buildings from the Modern period that were surveyed in the 1980s and uploaded those original HRIs in order to make the site more complete and make previous research available to the public.
The New Haven Modern website will evolve over time, with different buildings featured on the opening page, and new information added throughout.
The Modernist era brought transformational changes to New Haven, some for the better, some for the worse. By recognizing and understanding the significance of the era, by preserving its best sites, and by adapting others to meet the human needs of the city, we can honor our past and build a better future.