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Theses Master's

Adapting the Architectural Avant-Garde: A design proposal for Paul Rudolph’s Orange
County Government Center

Miller, Beth

As culture and technology evolve, how will modern architecture fare? The thoughtful and
deliberate adaptation of and addition to a work of modern architecture can be a means to salvage it
from the grips of obsolescence by creating a radical new work. This thesis explores the history of
obsolescence in architecture through the twentieth century and its entanglement with the avant-garde.
It addresses the difficulty of adapting and adding to modern architecture of the recent past, which has
yet to accrue age value or appreciation by the general public, and is still in the process of being
understood within the field of architecture itself. It explores in particular the complexities of working
with the architecture of Paul Rudolph that has waned in functionality and popularity, focusing on the
controversial case of the Orange County Government Center, which has posed a great challenge to
preservation efforts.
While modern architecture continues and will continue to hold value and meaning for our
society, myriad forces are working against its durability. As architecture becomes increasingly
entwined with and dependent upon technologies, systems and materials that have shorter lifespans,
buildings themselves are threatened with obsolescence. We must therefore carry modern architecture
into the future, not as a relic but with renewed functionality and significance. As a result, an entirely
new architecture can be created that is richer in meaning and succeeds in meeting the increasing
complexity and accelerating flux of contemporary life. The avant-garde is inherently bound to
obsolescence, championing innovation and progress while declaring all that preceded obsolete; the
avant-garde leaves obsolescence in its wake. In this sense, it is the avant-garde that has become
mainstream; the truly radical work of architecture eschews obsolescence, preserving works of
architecture by declaring them infinitely adaptable.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Prudon, Theodore
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
September 17, 2014
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