Across Asia, a ''Modernist movement''. Groups scramble to save 20th century sites from wrecking balls.

When the General Post Office opened on Hong Kong's waterfront in 1976, a local newspaper predicted that the Modernist-style building would ''certainly become as much of a landmark'' as its Victorian-era predecessor.

The building - with its white concrete facade - harsh angles and tinted glass - became a fixture of Hong Kong's downtown. But it was never added to the city's register of protected landmarks.

Now, with Hong Kong officials under pressure to generate revenue, the nearly 12-acre site, which has been valued at over $5 billion, was put up for sale last month.

Supporters of the building are scrambling to save it because whoever buys the land underneath would have every right to tear down the post office.

''Some people in Hong Kong might think it's just a white box,'' Charles Lai, an architect in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory, said on a fall afternoon outside the post office, where people were lined up inside to mail packages.

In cities across Asia, residents and design buffs are rallying to save or document postwar buildings that officials consider too new, too ugly or too unimportant to protect from demolition.

Many of the structures were municipal buildings that served as downtown hubs of civic life. The campaign, in a sense, are an attempt to preserve the collective memories stored inside.

In Asia, Modernism influenced the design of landmarks such as Tokyo's Hotel, Okura, which opened before the city played host to the 1964 Olympics, and the dramatically curved concrete buildings that the architect Leandro V. Locsin designed across the Philippines.

Some of the region's Modernist structures became instantly famous, but others did not have a following until recently.

The interest seems to have stemmed in part from a wider reappraisal of Brutalism in Europe and beyond, and social media buzz as people rediscover their unusual design features.

In some cases, buildings from the mid-to late- 20th century generate public interest precisely because they are on the cusp of being demolished.

Since last year, two in Hong Kong - a 1967 office tower and a 1973 hotel - were torn down, a process that prompted reappraisals of the architectural legacy.

In Thailand, ubiquitous symbols of quirky Modernist design - stand-alone movie theaters - have been nearly erased.

Several hundreds that dotted the landscape, during their heyday, in the 1980s, said Philip Jablon, an independent researcher who wrote a book about them. The last one, La Scala, held its final screening in Bangkok in July, prompting cinema buffs to lament the end of an era.

In Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, a decade long project to document dozens of Modernist buildings found that the majority had been destroyed or modified amid a wave of construction funded by overseas developers, said Pen Serey-pagna, a Phenom Penh architects involved in the research effort.

About 30 of the buildings were designed by Cambodia's best known architect, Vann Molyvann, who studied Modernism in Paris with disciples of Le Corbusier.

The publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Mike Ives.


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