The 2018 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize is awarded to Agence Christiane Schmuckle-Mollard for their outstanding preservation of the Karl Marx School in Villejuif, France.
The Karl Marx School was designed and constructed by French architect André Lurçat according to functionalist principles that emphasized the logic and simplicity of the forms. It was described as “the most beautiful school in France” upon its inauguration in 1933 in the communist Paris suburb of Villejuif. By the 1990s, though continuously occupied since opening, the poorly maintained complex was in danger of being lost. In 1996, the Karl Marx School was listed as a National Historical Monument in France, bringing new resources to undertake a restoration that would preserve the integrity of the structures while adapting them to new regulations.
The project that followed involved seven years of research and three years of physical restoration, including addressing exterior wall cracks, conserving interior ceramic sandstone tiles, and resealing the structures’ windows. It also required design and construction of a new wing to accommodate the demands of the present-day school.
“The Karl Marx School in Villejuif is one of the landmark school designs of the twentieth century,” said Barry Bergdoll, jury chair of the 2018 WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize. “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.”
“Together, the Karl Marx School and the five previous WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize winners—selected from a total of nearly 180 submissions over the past decade, including different building typologies from 40 countries—represent some of the most advanced conservation approaches and thoughtful adaptive re-use ideas ever to be applied to the preservation of outstanding modern buildings,” said Lisa Ackerman, Interim Chief Executive Officer, World Monuments Fund. “We are thrilled to recognize the outstanding achievements Agence Christiane Schmuckle-Mollard with this year’s prize.”
“The 2018 WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize coincides with the 80th anniversary of Knoll. Both milestones embody the vision of our founders, Hans, and Florence Knoll, to bring the beauty and benefits of modern design to the way we live and work,” said Andrew Cogan, Chairman and CEO, Knoll, Inc. “The restoration of the Karl Marx School in Villejuif, France is emblematic of this vision.”
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