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L.A. to Take Back Seat for Getty Cash : Director of Architectural Program Favors 'Seed Money' for Asia Projects

May 15, 1988|LEON WHITESON | Leon Whiteson is a Los Angeles-based design writer. and

It is a mistake to imagine that the J. Paul Getty Trust's new program of grants for architectural conservation will open its coffers to anyone who has a favorite historic building to restore in the Los Angeles area.

"Our main aim is to provide relatively modest amounts of seed money to get things going," explained John Sanday, an Englishman newly appointed as Getty architectural grants program director. "The two key words to emphasize in this endeavor are guidance and worldwide. "

Sanday's long experience in architectural conservation in developing Asian countries, such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia and China has convinced him that small sums well-spent can seed larger self-help programs.

"It's no good just throwing large sums of money at the problem," Sanday said.

Training Local Craftsmen

"When UNESCO sent me to Nepal in 1970 to advise the government on the conservation of several major historic monuments, including the old Royal Palace in Katmandu, I soon realized that the first priority was to train local craftsmen in the relevant restoration techniques.

International Experience

"You had to build up these craftsmen's confidence and guide them and the local officials in the best way to begin establishing a conservation program. With that foundation, they could continue on their own."

It was Sanday's international--particularly Asian--experience that contributed to his selection by the Getty Trust. At an interview in Paris in June, 1987, Sanday convinced the Trust representatives that the proposed architectural conservation program should be truly international in scope.

"When I first talked to the Getty people, their concern was, to my mind, a trifle too confined," he said. "Their focus seemed to be on the U.S., and particularly, California. I suggested that the really crucial need for their funds and their expertise was in Asia.

"After all, the sort of money we're talking about won't go far in Los Angeles, but it could transform a program in Katmandu."

The proposed Getty architectural conservation grants fall into three categories:

1--Project identification: outright grants of up to $20,000 to hire consultants to help evaluate the project and conduct historical research.

2--Project preparation and survey: one-to-one matching grants of up to $50,000 to fund preparation of plans and to develop a budget for the work that needs to be done.

3--Project implementation: two-to-one matching grants of up to $250,000 to carry out the conservation.

First Deadline Extended

Grant application deadlines will normally occur in April and October each year. This year, because of the late start, the first deadline has been extended to June. The first series of grants, all in the project identification category, will be awarded in October.

The property must be formally listed as a building or complex of national importance, legal assurance of long-term preservation must be given, the property must be owned by a nonprofit and must be accessible to the public or "used for the good of the community."

Other considerations in evaluating applications involve the feasibility of the proposed conservation work plan, the suitability of the methods to be used, the qualifications of the project personnel and the project's environmental impact.

Worldwide Inquiries

"The project's benefit to the community at large is a crucial factor," Sanday emphasized.

Sanday has already received inquiries from all over the world. Word-of-mouth information circulated among the relatively small international fraternity of professional architectural preservationists has generated excitement at the Getty's entry in the field.

"Because of my English background, I've had two or three inquiries a day from the United Kingdom alone," Sanday said. "The British Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings is eager for help. But, frankly, I think Asia is where it's at right now. That's where the greatest need exists for our expertise and our guidance."

'Get Hands Dirty'

Sanday said he has not yet had time to study the conservation situation in Los Angeles. What interests him here is the diversity of the architecture and its varied ethnic character.

"The ethnic complexity of L.A. is a vital element in the vitality of its man-made environment," he said. "That is what we would look to emphasize in any local projects."

"The Getty will not come on like a rich Big Brother. What the Trust will do is carefully select those few significant projects that set an example to a community, or a whole nation. In that way, our seed money can generate the maximum impact."

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