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Third Iconic Houses Conference a huge success

The latest international gathering devoted to 20th-century museum houses helped to raise awareness among the general public, and morale among those in the sector

The third Iconic Houses Conference, held on 25 November 2014 at La Pedrera in Barcelona, brought together 150 participants from 17 different countries - all of them are professionals and stakeholders in the field of the 20th-century house museum. The conference, which has previously been held in Los Angeles and London, is an opportunity to establish a high-level debate on cultural needs and the maintenance of the architectural heritage, as well as a platform for advising governments on the protection of heritage under threat.
The event is also a forum for knowledge exchange, with this year’s edition featuring ten case studies from Iconic Houses members around the Mediterranean, detailing a variety of challenges and solutions. Finally, the conference also plays an important role in raising awareness, not only of the issues affecting 20th-century museum houses in general, but also of the work of the Iconic Houses organisation itself. In fact, the event proved to be a stimulus for some of the important 20th-century museum houses in Spain to join the Iconic Houses Network.

Growing importance
In Catalonia, there are now nine houses on the Iconic Houses list (out of the total of 13 located in Spain), five of which were designed by Antoni Gaudí. In fact, the current growth of the number of 20th-century house museums in Barcelona was one of the reasons for holding the conference there. Casa Amatller and Casa Lleó I Morera, from the so-called ‘Block of Discord’ where you can also find Casa Batlló, recently joined Iconic Houses, as will Gaudí’s earliest house, Casa Vicens, which is currently undergoing major restoration work before opening in 2016.
All this confirms what Natascha Drabbe, founder of the Iconic Houses Network, stressed in her opening presentation: that 20th-century houses are becoming an increasingly prominent part of the cultural landscape. Over the past five years, more than 30 modern house museums have opened their doors to the visiting public, she said. This is double the rate of the early 1990s, when the number of such houses opening for visitors peaked at 15 per five-year period.

Mediterranean tour
After hearing briefly about the history of Barcelona’s house museums and their recent development, the audience learned about Unesco’s programmes to support domestic architecture from this era, and how to preserve this fragile (although recent) heritage, while conserving its iconic value, essence and authenticity. The presentations which followed focused on important 20th-century houses located around the Mediterranean, including La Pedrera, Casa Bloc and La Ricarda/Casa Gomis in Barcelona; Casa Broner in Ibiza; Can Lis in Mallorca; Casa Masó in Girona; E1027 by Eileen Gray in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in France; Quartier Modernes Frugès by Le Corbusier in Pessac, France; and the Villa Girasole by Angelo Invernizzi in Marcellise, Italy. The presentations detailed many practical issues affecting the houses, their custodians and their public. All lectures will be available in the video section of our website in January. The Iconic Houses Debate then broadened the discussion again.

Exchanging ideas
The day was closed by Oscar Tusquets’ presentation about Casa Vittoria, a (still) privately owned house that he designed on the island of Pantelleria in Sicily, a hidden gem among the domestic architecture of the 20th century. The conference message was again underlined: attention must be given to preserving these recent masterpieces, in order to safeguard their future. For the participants, the event explored ideas on how to do this, plus the chance to exchange experiences and thoughts. They left the event inspired and reinvigorated.

Meanwhile, the conference generated a huge amount of interest in the media, and succeeded not only in placing Iconic Houses on the agenda for those in the sector, but also in raising the awareness of the organisation, the houses and the issues surrounding them among the general public.

2016 conference
In our next newsletter the Iconic Houses Network will reveal where the fourth Iconic Houses conference will be held.

Acknowledgements
The Iconic Houses Network is extremely grateful to co-organiser Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera and to all the wonderful speakers and supporters who gave so generously of their time and resources.
Finally, a very special thanks to the team of Marga Viza, Silvia Vilarroya and Jordi Freixa, the producers of the conference. Without their enthusiasm and untiring efforts, this great event could have never happened.

A note on La Pedrera
La Pedrera, which has been open to the public as a cultural centre for more than 20 years, recently joined Iconic Houses and is now playing an active part in the network.
See also: the web special on La Pedrera or read the answers to our Five Questions from cultural director Marga Viza.

Media coverage

If your Spanish or Catalan is up to it, you can check out the various television items here. 
The leading newspapers La Vanguardia and El Periódico wrote extensively about the network and the new house museums.

Download the program HERE.
Download the information about the speakers HERE.


Statement of support for La Ricarda


Architect Fernando Alvarez Prozorovic, who has been involved with the restoration of La Ricarda since 1996, gave a statement about La Ricarda at the conference. You can read his statement in THIS LINK

An additional statement in support of La Ricarda’s future, has been made by the Iconic Houses Organising Committee:
The Iconic Houses Network visited La Ricarda on 24 November 2014 with a group of directors of 20th-century house museums from a total of 17 different nations. The group included directors of famous houses, such as the Unesco World Heritage listed Villa Tugendhat (designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Brno 1930), Richard Neutra's Studio and Residence in Los Angeles (1932) and the Alvar Aalto Foundation (Helsinki, Finland). From its global perspective, the Iconic Houses Network supports the statement made by architect Fernando Alvarez Prozorovich, about the importance of safeguarding La Ricarda, and we urge the Catalan Government and City Council of Barcelona to join forces to set up an expert committee to advise on La Ricarda’s future and to support the Gomis Bertrand family in their efforts to preserve the house for future generations.

La Ricarda is Antonio Bonet’s masterpiece and a total work of art, not only in its architectural design, but also in its furniture and detailing. It is of international importance. La Ricarda represents a period in history where the house was not only the home of the Gomis family, but also a haven where artists, musicians and writers could meet despite the political climate of the time, which repressed avant-garde culture. The house can play an educational role for architects and students to learn about construction and design and to be inspired, but it can also educate a wider public in social history. We recommend that the house will be preserved and become a museum, open to architects, scholars, students and to educate the public.

Iveta Černá, director Villa Tugendhat (USA)
Natascha Drabbe, director Van Schijndel House (Netherlands)
Kimberli Meyer, director MAK Center at the Schindler House  (USA)
Susanna Petterson, former director Alvar Aalto Foundation, now director Ateneum Art Museum (Finland)
Lynda Waggoner, director Fallingwater (USA)


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