"Many people are keeping their old windows, fixing what they have in the name of appearance, history, and for some, cost savings" (via Old Windows Find a Following - NYTimes.com)
A good example of state-level antipathy can be found in Texas where Governor/ersatz-presidential aspirant Rick plans to eliminate the Texas Historical Commission. According to the non-profit Texas Public Policy Foundation’s recommendation: “at a time when we are trying to make difficult decisions about preserving certain services to Texans, funding for programs like courthouse preservation is not the state’s top priority.” Perhaps the greatest irony in all of this is that these recent cuts are due in part to the Tea Party Movement’s success in the last election - the same folks parading around in tricorn hats waxing nostalgically and loudly, about the Founding Fathers and America’s roots.
Why do we preserve? And by extension, what in a building deserves to be preserved?
Avinash Rajagopal questions the philosophy of envelope-only preservation, comparing it to mummification, and writing that “in most cases a building’s aesthetics are intimately linked to its interior life… where the aesthetics, the function, the interior and exterior were so intricately woven together… to truly preserve the spirit of the building would be to freeze it in its entirety.”
This article brings up some uncomfortable questions. Would it really be better to lose the building entirely rather than just the interior? - I don’t think so. But the philosophy and practice of preserving the envelope of a building is something that comes up frequently when trying to integrate preservation strategies and green technologies.
How often do we hear (and I’m guilty of saying this myself) “do whatever you want to the back, just leave the street facade intact!”
Should this approach guide our practice? Should the “green stuff” really be hidden from view, kept only to new additions, in the philosophy of separating old from new? Should it be celebrated prominently on the site — but not on the building? Do we just need to draw more attention to historical strategies for sustainability? Is it still preservation if new technologies and uses change the configuration of the interior or the way the building as a system functions, but the shell remains visually the same?
In order to tackle any of those questions for a particular building or district, I think we have to ask what it is, precisely, that we’re trying to preserve - and why.
(OTR gaining ground in National Trust’s ‘This Place Matters’ competition) I spent a semester in a studio in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine as an undergraduate architecture student, and I’m thrilled to know that they’d like to use the prize money not just to save one building, but for their Life Cycle Assessment study, aimed at helping homeowners reduce environmental impact while preserving historic structures (and they have some real gems!). Online voting ends today.