APT Kansas City 2015: Convergence of People and Place

December 17, 2015

In November, BBB DC’s Gretchen Pfaehler, Cristina Radu and Katie Hummelt attended the annual conference of the Association for Preservation Technology, hosted this year in Kansas City, Missouri. It was an intensive few days in the “Paris of the Plains,” the name given to the city in the 1930s during the heyday of jazz, gambling, corruption and wealth.

APT Kansas City 2015 opened with a key note address by John Simonson, author of the book “Paris of the Plains,” who spoke about the history of the city, including the historic Kansas City Club (where the conference was held), and the surrounding hotels and neighborhoods made famous during the 1930’s Pendergast era – a period named after political boss Tom Pendergast.

It was in Kansas City that the developed East met the expansive West, and where the Union North clashed with the Confederate South. Located at the convergence of river and overland systems, the city emerged as a transportation hub, leading to its prosperity and the creation of a diverse economy based on industry, agriculture, lumber, commodities, engineering, and medicine. The city also has a rich cultural heritage shaped by a tradition of visual and performing arts and music.

The conference featured a wide-range of programs, including a walking tour of Art Deco architecture in downtown Kansas City, a site visit to the Prosoco factory and laboratory, and a behind-the-scenes walkthrough of the recently restored Kansas State House in Topeka. Hands-on workshops were organized for the conservation of modern concrete, dry laid stone, and fountain restoration, an apt topic for the “City of Fountains” (as Kansas City is also referred to). Paper presentations covered a broad range of topics, organized by overarching themes: Modern Heritage, Public Art and Architecture, and Sustainable Preservation. The APT board meeting was held on Halloween and was followed by a nighttime tour of the Historic Elmwood Cemetery.

The conference closed with a full-day symposium titled “Renewing Modernism: Emerging Principles for Practice.” Leading modern-era building practitioners and technical experts from around the world convened for an intensive one day working session to discuss emerging trends in renewing Modernism.

Gretchen Pfaehler

Conservation of dry-laid stone masonry: it’s not just stacking stone!

Gretchen Pfaehler

The W.F. Norman tradition of decorative stamped sheet metal.

Gretchen Pfaehler

Kansas State House rotunda.

Gretchen Pfaehler

Richard Bolling Federal Building, a stop on the Mid-Century Modern tour.