Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pros and cons of landmark preservation

Boston landmarked Back Bay neighborhood. Photo by Jorge Salcedo

I´m not a preservationist myself, but I respect historic buildings while it´s worthwhile. I took a couple of courses on preservationism being a young architect, and I can say that sometimes, there´s too much exaggeration in the subject. If old buildings with no important historicity are kept, some urban areas could be affected by the lack of economical impulse. Another issue, some new projects have to be ¨disguised¨ to match the existing, losing their modern character, becoming scenography. Let us read some paragraphs from the article by Ben Adler for Architectural Record:

East Village Block and Williamsburg Bank Landmarked. From
Metropolitan church, Chicago. From

This past year, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, in his book Triumph of the City, attacked landmarking, along with such restrictions as zoning that limits density or requires parking lots. Glaeser points to the case of a proposed 30-story addition, designed by Norman Foster, at 980 Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, that was rejected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission even though it would have kept the original 1950 limestone gallery building as well. “The cost of restricted development is that protected areas become more expensive and exclusive,” writes Glaeser. Legions of urban policy bloggers around the country agree.
The aesthetic critique of landmarking is also gaining currency. Rem Koolhaas mounted an exhibition at New York’s New Museum last spring that was a broadside against landmarking. “[Koolhaas] paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history,” reported the New York Times.
These issues may be most extreme in New York, where the razing of McKim, Mead & White’s Pennsylvania Station in 1963 still stings. But similar controversies have erupted in older cities across the country. What the Washington City Paper calls “the weaponization of preservation” includes the efforts of the Tenleytown Historical Society to prevent American University from expanding its campus by pushing landmark status for an entire block to protect the fairly banal 1904 Immaculata Seminary.
In Boston, tradition often trumps the new. “The South End is very restrictive about what you can do to your buildings, in many cases with very good reason,” says architect and preservation expert David Fixler. Yet people can be prevented from making changes just “to keep things the way they are.” Sometimes officials require new construction be designed in an architecturally contextual manner, even when the building is an inherently modern structure. In San Francisco, on the other hand, the Historic Preservation Commission has responded to criticism that Modernism is underappreciated by seeking protection of such undistinguished modern buildings as the 1959 North Beach Branch Library.

A landmarked shelter. From the City of Boulder´s web page.

To illustrate the post, let us read now, how tempting it could be to have one´s house landmarked, this is for the City of Boulder, Colorado:

Benefits of Landmarking
The city offers several incentives to property owners, as a way to encourage landmark designation of the city's eligible historic resources.

Tax Advantages
Federal Investment Tax Credits are available for approved rehabilitations that are used for commercial purposes, including rental housing to properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places or contributing to a National Register of Historic Districts.
State Income Tax Credits are available for approved rehabilitations to local landmarks and contributing buildings in local historic districts.
A waiver of city sales tax on construction materials is available when applying for a building permit, if at least 30 percent of the value of materials is for the building's exterior.

Possible Exemptions or Variances from Select Building Code and Zoning Standards
including floodplain, height, solar and residential growth management requirements.

Dedication of a bronze plaque commemorating the establishment of an individual landmark status at a public ceremony.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails