Media Magazine

API Building and the Campaign to Save It

Posted on the 24 June 2016 by Themarioblog @garciainteract
API building and the campaign to save itAPI building and the campaign to save it
The API building in Reston, Virginia, in its glory days
API building and the campaign to save itAPI building and the campaign to save it
The API building today
API building and the campaign to save itAPI building and the campaign to save it
The memorable API conference room: Butterflies of all colors were flying in my stomach when I entered this room to give my first API presentation in the early 1980s.
This is the weekend edition of TheMarioBlog and will be updated as needed. The next blog post is Monday, June 27

After ‘Major Screw Up,’ Planning Commission Recommends Denial of API Building Rezoning

"Mario: Click on the link above for an update on our campaign to save the architecturally historic Marcel Breuer building in Reston that housed the American Press Institute from 1974-2012. The issue to rezone the land to residential came before the Fairfax County Planning Commission last week. After their split 5-5 vote to deny a rezoning application to remove the building for housing, the issue now goes to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the highest governing body in the county. This building was home to many brilliant performances by Seminar guest discussion leaders, and yours were among the very best. I believe we helped, in a small way, to launch your amazing and impressive career in the field of media design,graphics and visual journalism. After API, though, the rest was up to you. The beat goes on …"

The above was an e-mail from Frank Quine, an 18-year executive staff member of API, and its executive director from 1979-87. He alerted me to a bit of sad news: He and former top API directors Bill Winter and Carol Ann Riordan (she is a Reston resident who is spearheading the effort) and former associate director Mary Peskin are involved in a campaign to save the Marcel Breuer-designed API building in Reston, Virginia.
After 28 years of renting its management training space at Columbia University, API moved to this distinct and very specialized conference center in 1974. There still may be time to save the building.

Suddenly, I am transporting myself to the early 1980s when, as a young professor at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, it was Quine who invited me to be a discussion leader at an API seminar. I remember feeling a combination of pride and fear, but I knew that I would say "yes" to Frank and make my first appearance in front of a group of nearly 36 working newspaper professionals. 

That first visit was an amazing experience as Frank briefed me on the proceedings: “First, you do a 90-minute presentation in the conference room on improving their design and graphics, then we move to a critique room for you to go over the participants’ newspapers.”

Entering the conference room with the impressive round conference table gave the speaker a first sense of the important task ahead. I saw the wooden name stands identifying each Seminar member, as well as their corresponding newspapers. We tested my slides. We tested the sound. Butterflies of all colors were flying in my stomach. Frank sat directly across from me at the opposite end of the room, to moderate the three-hour session, and a few minutes later all the participants started entering the room.

I repeated this drill about 200 more times, way into the early 2000s. While the first five minutes were always time for the butterflies, the end of the session was always one of feeling what pastors must feel when they finish their Sunday sermons.

My first newspaper redesign project resulted from having done that very first API seminar: The St. Cloud (MN) Daily News. (John Bodette, who was a news editor at the time, is still in St. Cloud and serves as executive editor. We stay in touch). My first consulting engagement outside of the United States was a result of another one of those exhilarating API experiences: Argentina’s La Nueva Provincia, a newspaper I have now consulted with several times, most recently in 2015.

The sight of seeing this building empty, its grounds unkempt, does not sit well with me. Not only because the building on Sunrise Valley Drive is the only Marcel Breuer-designed building in Virginia (Breuer is a famed architect of the Brutalist and Modernist styles of the 1960s and 1970s), but because it represents a place where so much journalistic and newspaper industry wisdom was transacted. I am hoping that those involved in the campaign to save the building succeed.

Here is how you can help:
Log onto the online petition that has been created to "sign" your name in favor of saving the API building from demolition. The petition -- -- contains a great deal of background information on the campaign, and how you can help the cause.

Said Frank Quine

"We have architects all over the world, including some who studied under Breuer at Harvard, advocating for us. There are the historic registry folks, both locally and nationwide, because of the architectural significance of a Breuer building. We're well past the 1,300 mark on the petition, hearing from a multitude of journalists, editors and newspaper executives whose careers were changed by the API experience. And then there are Reston residents who appreciate the significance of the Breuer building and the architectural attention it attracted in the early days of the planned community."

Carol Ann Riordan added: 

"The momentum of this preservation campaign went into hyperdrive almost overnight. From Day 1, an impressive coalition of supporters has aggressively spread the word about saving this historically and architecturally significant building. "The DNA of the movement is a core group of journalists and other news media executives who attended API seminars during its Reston years as well as those who served as API staff members, guest faculty members, its Board of Directors, and others in leadership roles with the Institute. The API building was their second professional home where careers were nurtured, lives were changed, and lasting friendships were made."

TheMarioBlog post #2457
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