The Fund to Conserve Announces Funding for Two New Conservation Projects, Begins Restoration Work in Tokyo, Japan and Bogotá, Colombia
- 28 Nov, 2016
Washington, D.C. – November 21, 2016 – Michael Sonnenreich, president of The Fund to Conserve United States Diplomatic Treasures Abroad, announced today that The Fund to Conserve (a non-profit partner working with the U.S. Department of State) received generous donations for the conservation of the monumental bronze entry doors of the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Tokyo, Japan, and for the original wood paneling in the library of the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Bogotá, Colombia.
“I am honored and gratified to witness such major donor engagement and participation in the mission of the Fund,” Sonnenreich stated. “These two projects exemplify the range of work that lies before us on every continent. As stewards, our work is never done, so we must strive to maintain the momentum that these donations have produced.”
Office of Cultural Heritage director Tobin Tracey, AIA, praised the work of the Fund to Conserve, noting that “Currently, dozens of culturally or architecturally significant buildings at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide have been identified for preservation or restoration, and works of art spanning several centuries require care. The Fund to Conserve is an invaluable partner in our global stewardship efforts, and will make it possible for us to pursue a variety of projects throughout the world.”
Background of The Monumental Bronze Entry Doors, Tokyo, Japan:
The monumental entry doors of the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Tokyo were part of the original design and construction of the facility (completed 1926-31). Antonin Raymond, one of the architects, was a student of Japanese culture, and large periods of his practice were devoted to work there. The attention-commanding doors, crafted by the Obayashi Corporation, are made of weathered bronze. Each of the doors contains a compartmentalized series of 24 individual, clear glass panels decorated with a tri-dimensional metal flower motif. While the doors are operational, they do not shut properly and are in need of conservation. Because the work cannot be completed in situ, the doors will be removed and transported to an off-site work space for restoration. Once they are restored, a regular maintenance protocol will be established to assure their continued care.
It was in the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Tokyo, which is listed on the U.S. Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property, that General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Asia, received Emperor Hirohito on September 27, 1945. The next day a photograph of their meeting in the living room was printed on the front page of every major Japanese newspaper, conveying the new, subordinate position of Japan’s “living god.”
“This event is only one of the many that exemplify the significance of the Residence in American diplomatic history,” according to Tobin Tracey, director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Cultural Heritage, which conducted the Historic Structures Report that identified the residence’s conservation needs. “With Department resources focused on pressing global concerns, there is immediate need for conservation support. Without the Fund to Conserve’s fundraising outreach, this important work in Tokyo may have been further postponed, potentially jeopardizing the historic fabric of the building.”
In addition to its prominent place in American diplomatic history, the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Tokyo is also significant in that it was among the first houses built by the United States specifically as an ambassador’s residence. It was also one of the first projects of the new Foreign Services Building Commission set up by President Herbert Hoover, the forerunner of today’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations.
American H. Van Buren Magonigle and Czech-born Antonin Raymond designed the Residence along with the nearby chancery. Raymond had come to Tokyo to work for noted American architect Frank Lloyd Wright on the Imperial Hotel in 1919. Structural Engineer Tachu Naito from the University of Tokyo, well known for his work on the Tokyo Tower, advised on seismic protection and fire prevention.
More information about this restoration project, including photos, can be found here.
Background: U.S. Ambassador’s Residence’s Library Wood Paneling, Bogotá, Colombia:
The Fund to Conserve’s President, Michael Sonnenreich, also announced on Monday that an additional donation will fund the conservation of the original wood paneling in the library of the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Bogotá, Colombia, which was constructed by the U.S. Government in 1951. It is recognized as a cultural treasure by Colombia, and is protected by Colombian law. In addition to books, the library’s cabinets and shelving contain a collection of pre-Columbian pottery that is owned by the embassy.
More information about this restoration, including photos, can be found here.
About The Fund to Conserve: The Fund to Conserve United States Diplomatic Treasures Abroad was created as a 501(c)3 public-private partnership to promote – through fundraising – the conservation and stewardship of the Department of State’s architecturally and culturally significant overseas buildings and its heritage collections of fine and decorative arts. These properties and collections represent over two centuries of United States diplomacy around the world. They reflect many global traditions, and our respect for the cultures of the countries in which the U.S. has diplomatic missions.
To learn more about the projects in Bogota and Tokyo, and the full list of critical initiatives and work surrounding The Fund to Conserve United States Diplomatic Treasures Abroad, please visit fundtoconserve.org
Director, Nonprofit & Arts
Sage Communications (for The Fund to Conserve)