Top O Rock Competition Opens for Adaptive Reuse Design

Preserve and reinvent TOR

Multidisciplinary teams invited to reinvent the future of iconic modernist masterpiece in West Virginia

The competition for plans to preserve and adapt West Virginia’s Top O Rock for innovative business or community use is open at toporockwv.com.

Awards of $2,500, $1000 and $500 will be distributed to winning submissions from individuals, teams of design industry professionals, community redevelopment organizations, or students for the rescue and adaptive redevelopment of the six story glass and steel modernist masterpiece that overlooks West Virginia’s capital city.

According to the competition website, the contest offers an opportunity for individuals, teams of design industry or non-industry professionals, emerging professionals, students, or community development nonprofits to explore plans that include historic preservation, adaptive and sustainable land reuse for public benefit, business or education innovation. The Top O Rock: Spirit of Reinvention design competition sponsors include WVSU Extension’s Economic Development Center, Kanawha Valley Historical and Preservation Society, and CWest Properties, LLC. Supporters include: City of Charleston, Historic Landmarks Commission, Preservation Alliance of WV, West Virginia Foundation for Architecture, US Green Building Council-WV, and Create West Virginia.
“Basically, we’re looking for bright ideas that are financially feasible,” says Sarah Halstead, the West Virginia State University sustainable economic and community development specialist who has spearheaded the drive to save the building.
“Ever since Top O Rock became prominently visible in Charleston, in the late 1960s, it has been talked about, written about in national and international publications, visited, admired, and has often been at the center controversy because of Elden’s daring vision,” Halstead explains.
The iconic residence and design studio was purchased several years ago by a private investor who has entertained several different business ideas for future use, however, like mid-century modernist structures around the world, much work is required to restore the building and bring it up to code. “Many modernist structures are facing the wrecking ball at this moment. We have a rare opportunity to work with the property owner to call for innovative ideas, including business models supporting the preservation of the building and the surrounding 13 acres of wooded land, just minutes from downtown. Yes, the building was vandalized, but the vandalism is not a deal breaker. Remember, this is a concrete, steel and glass structure. It’s tough. International experts agree that Top O Rock is a significant example of modernist architecture that should absolutely be restored,” Halstead says.
With the permission and assistance of the property owner, she has marshaled the energies of architects, students, business people and historic preservationists to save the building. “It’s surprising to many that the building has come close to destruction, but it’s actually not an unusual situation. The public is only beginning to understand the importance of modernist architecture around the world. This is a great opportunity to raise local awareness of our own architectural and cultural treasures. They define us, and our places.”
The design competition will close on May 8, 2015. Judges include Christine Madrid-French, expert member of the scientific committee on 20th Century Heritage for the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and Peter Aeschbacher of Penn State Stuckeman School of Architecture. Peter is also the director of design at Penn State’s Hamer Center for Community Design. Local judges will be announced, along with additional events related to the competition.
There is a series of short talks on related subjects scheduled for Tuesdays at noon throughout the months of March and April. An online fundraising campaign is underway, offering a variety of ways individuals and organizations can support this preservation and community design effort. A virtual tour of the property will live stream on Monday, March 9, 2015 and will be archived for viewing throughout the competition. Additional information will be added to both the TopORockwv.com website and Facebook.com/TopORockwv page on an ongoing basis.
For complete information, visit the competition website, which includes a comprehensive calendar.

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