Casa sobre el Arroyo Wins 2024 WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize

John Hill
8. Februar 2024
Casa sobre el Arroyo after restoration (All photographs courtesy of WMF)

Per today's announcement from the WMF, the 2024 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize is going to the Ministerios de Cultura y de Obras Públicas de Argentina y Municipalidad de Mar del Plata (Ministries of Culture and Public Works of Argentina and the Municipality of Mar del Plata), in recognition of their “thoughtful and detailed conservation” of Casa sobre el Arroyo (aka Casa del Puente). The prize comes twelve years after the famed house was placed on WMF's 2012 World Monuments Watch and twenty years after a fire destroyed much of its interior. Attempts to restore house after it was listed on the watch list sputtered until 2021, when a two-year restoration began, culminating in its reopening as a house museum last April.

Casa sobre el Arroyo before restoration

Shortly after Amancio Williams (1913-1989) graduated from the University of Buenos Aires in 1941, his father, composer Alberto Williams, commissioned him to design a house a five-acre piece of property in Mar del Plata. Completed in the middle of the decade, the rectilinear 90-foot (27m) long and 30-foot (9m) wide house bridges a brook that wends across the property, bringing to mind both Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, completed in 1938, and Mies van der Rohe's unbuilt Resor House, also of 1938. Comparisons to the latter are apt, not only because the Resor House would have straddled a creek, but because the arcing concrete structure employed by Williams, in combination with the cantilevered roof slab, allowed for ribbon windows wrapping all four sides of the house and enabled panoramic views akin to those imagined by Mies in collage form.

Historical photo of Casa sobre el Arroyo
Historical photo of Casa sobre el Arroyo

Amancio's father died in 1952, not long after the house was completed, after which it changed hands, was used as the headquarters for a local radio station, and was subsequently abandoned, left to decay and subject to vandalism. The municipality of Mar del Plata purchased the house in 2012, eight years after the fire, put in some new windows and opened the building to the public the following year. Yet, soon after a first attempt to restore the house started, in 2015, the house was abandoned yet again. Then, according to the WMF, “a group of architects came together to create drawings of the house that they sold to help fund the ongoing effects to help protect it.” The latest conservation effort, led by restoration architect Mariana Quiroga from Buenos Aires, culminated in last year's reopening of the house and earned it the 2023 Gubbio Prize (video at bottom) and now the 2024 WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize.

Casa sobre el Arroyo interior before restoration
Casa sobre el Arroyo interior after restoration

The WMF, with the support of Knoll, launched the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize in 2008 “to celebrate preservation success stories in buildings that are emblematic of the modern movement. The prize recognizes outstanding and innovative design solutions that save modern architecture associated with the international style.” Recent winners of the biennial prize include:

The honorees for the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize and the team responsible for the restoration project of la Casa sobre el Arroyo include Arq. Mariana Quiroga (third from right) and (not necessarily pictured) Lic. Teresa de Anchorena, Arq. Fabio Grementieri, Arq. José Ferrero, Arq. Guillermo Frontera, Arq. Fermín Labaqui, Ing. Carlos Ramírez, and Lic. Magalí Marazzo.

The 2024 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize will be presented during a panel discussion in New York City on February 27, with Fabio Grementieri, 2024 Modernism Prize winner, and guest speakers Barry Bergdoll, Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, and Susan Macdonald, Head of Buildings and Sites at The Getty Conservation Institute. The event will include a memorial tribute to Jean-Louis Cohen, who served as a jury member on previous WMF/Knoll prizes and died unexpectedly last August.

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