Agence Christiane Schmuckle-Mollard, a Paris-based architectural firm, has been awarded the 2018 WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize for its preservation of the Karl Marx School in Villejuif, France. And, for the first time since the launch of the biannual prize in 2008, a special mention has been given to Harboe Architects, PC, for its preservation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois.
The winning project involved seven years of research and three years of physical restoration to the Karl Marx School, which was inaugurated in 1933 and listed as a National Historic Monument in France in 1996. The undertaking also entailed the design and construction of a new wing to accommodate the school’s present needs.
Barry Bergdoll, the jury chair of the 2018 WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize, said in a statement, “The Karl Marx School in Villejuif is one of the landmark school designs of the 20th century. Restoration under the guidance of Agence Christiane Schmuckle-Mollard not only took on the challenges of recovering the interconnected interior and exterior spaces in the context of changing educational practices and standards, but recovered as well the lost color scheme of the building. It resonates today with the idealism and optimism of its original creators, the municipality and the architect through this sensitive and erudite restoration.”
Unity Temple, which functions as a Unitarian Universalist Church, dates to 1908. The structure underwent partial restoration in the 1970s and 1990s, and, in 2014, Harboe Architects, PC began major preservation efforts to physically restore and modernize the site. The process, which was completed in 2017, included extensive structural concrete repairs, installation of new roof systems, and restoration of interior plaster, paint, wood finishes, art glass windows, and light fixtures.
“The significance of this gesture resides not only in the fact that this is the oldest work to be acknowledged by the prize to date, but also that it is the first North American work to be so recognized,” Kenneth Frampton, a member of the selection jury, said of the preservation of Unity Temple in a release. “One should not overlook the seminal role that this singular work played in the development of modern architecture as a whole—not only in Europe and the U.S., but also in the world at large.”