Friday, November 9, 2007

Historic Architecture Liberation Front

I picked up a copy of American Bungalow Magazine at Newsbeat today, and was fairly inspired by an article by Jane Powell, entitled "Confessions of a Radical Preservationist." She proposed the creation of an organization called HALF: Historic Architecture Liberation Front, founded on the following principles:

1. All historic buildings are created equal, and endowed by their creators with the inalienable right to remain standing, be properly maintained and not be sacrificed on a whim, be that the whim of an individual, a government, an institution, or a corporation.

2. To paraphrase a Buddhist motto: No matter how innumerable historic buildings are, we vow to save them all.

3. Historic buildings should not be sacrificed in the name of "economic development," which is almost always code for "profit" or "power."

4. "Smart growth" that demolishes historic buildings and replaces them with inappropriately dense "infill" is not smart at all and will eventually be as discredited as the "urban renewal" of the 1960s.

5. There is no essential difference whatsoever between building more density in urban cores (at the expense of historic buildigns) and paving farmland. Both are driven solely by the pursuit of profit.

6. Historic buildings are not to blame for whatever social ills may be associated with them. The building did not choose to become a drug house or to have irresponsible owners.

7. 99% of contemporary architecture sucks.

8. There is no bigger scam than window replacement.

9. NIMBY really stands for Not Intimidated Much By Yelling.


John said...

Curious whether you admire this degree of rigid ideology.

Personally, I've never had much use for people who see everything in terms of black and white.

To suggest "There is no essential difference whatsoever between building more density in urban cores (at the expense of historic buildings) and paving farmland" is particularly troublesome.

Does the reverse therefore hold true? Is it better to pave over farmlands than to replace aging urban residential neighborhoods with high-density mixed-use communities?

19th & t said...

Yes, please tell wberg, and no doublespeak where you vote for it before to vote against it. LOL!!!

wburg said...

Note the caveat: AT THE EXPENSE OF HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOODS. It is quite possible to build dense infill that complements historic neighborhoods

It's not so much 'admire' as 'appreciate.' In this context, a level of fervor and intensity about preservation is downright refreshing. Too often 'you can't save everything' becomes 'you can't save ANYTHING.'

Plus, ther is the point that preservation IS development. Restoration of historic buildings means labor and investment and infrastructure. It normally raises property values, encourages infill, and makes neighborhoods more desirable.

Paving farmland for subdivisions and demolishing historic resources for development are equally bad, and equally avoidable.

Tracy D. said...

Thanks for sharing! I don't think the author intended this to be rigid ideology so much as a humorous way to shine the light on an important issue. Or am I reading it wrong?

wburg said...

I think a little bit of both. The idea is to make people think, and provoke discussion. That's my intention as well.

And while I think only 85-90% of contemporary architecture sucks, and there may well be bigger scams than window replacement (but not many,) there's an awful lot of truth in that manifesto. While the idea of starting an Earth First! for houses is the humor part, the topics raised are genuine.