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.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

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