Madame Architect profiles Docomomo US Executive Director Liz Waytkus


Julia Gamolina


Madame Architect

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In an article entitled "Pragmatic Preservationist: Docomomo's Liz Waytkus on Modern Architecture, Advocacy, and Natalie DeBlois," Julia Gamolina profiles Docomomo US Executive Director Liz Waytkus for Madame Architect, a digital magazine and media start-up celebrating the extraordinary women that shape our world.

Liz Waytkus is the Executive Director of Docomomo US. In her decade at Docomomo US, Liz developed the National Symposium and the Modernism in America Awards. Liz manages Docomomo US’ advocacy and spear-headed efforts to Landmark the Ambassador Grill and the AT&T Building in New York City. She received her Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Pratt Institute and previously worked in the non-profit cultural and educational fields for more than a decade. In her interview, Liz talks about her work advocating for and saving Modern architecture, advising those just starting their careers to not second guess their passions.

JG: You studied historic preservation at Pratt — tell me how you came to this focus, and why Pratt.

LW: Pratt’s architecture and preservation program spoke to me because it felt welcoming of different opinions and viewpoints on architecture. I decided to go back to school for architecture after a number of years in the arts and education. Focusing on historic preservation was a better fit for me than straight architecture because of my diverse interests and all of the various paths you can take with that degree.

Pratt’s historic preservation program is also grounded in community outreach and participation, which really called to me. I’m a pragmatic preservationist. If we are going to save architecture of the 20th century, especially with sites that are misunderstood and often disliked by the public, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach. Having that experience at Pratt working with the public and public institutions was critical for me.

How did you get to Docomomo? Tell me about your role and what you're focused on these days. 

[Laughs] I like to say that I’m still in my college internship. Theo Prudon, the founding president of Docomomo US was my professor at Pratt. After realizing my fellow classmates didn’t love Modernism as much as I did, I went up to him at the end of the semester and asked if there were internship opportunities. I’ve been at Docomomo US ever since. As the first Executive Director of Docomomo US, the position has allowed me to shape the organization and our programs. I do a little bit of everything, but what brings me the most satisfaction is working on advocacy issues. I spend a good amount of time assisting individuals and other organizations all over the country in their efforts to educate communities on the values of preserving Modern design. We helped our colleagues in Sarasota avoid the demolition of a portion of the Paul Rudolph designed Sarasota High School.

Right now, I am focused on saving the Kevin Roche designed 60 Wall Street in lower Manhattan. It’s a project from 1989 and designed at the height of Post Modernism. Modernists are not the biggest fans of exaggerated columns, decoration, and whimsy, but the architecture community has really come around and agrees the building and its privately owned public space are worthy of New York City Landmark designation. Plus, younger generations and creative types love it! Companies are trying to create Instagram-worthy spaces and this developer is trying to destroy it. It remains to be seen if the interior will be demolished or not, but we will keep advocating for it and other more recent significant sites.


“My favorite woman architect that everyone should know about is Natalie DeBlois. This lady built skyscrapers at a time when she was not allowed to participate in client meetings.”
— Liz Waytkus