Historic Preservation, 1

When compared to most countries the United States has a very short history. The preservation of our history and heritage, as discussed in this weeks reading, has become an important feature of our society. Tyler’s over view of the important moments in historical preservation’s history didn’t really come as too much of a surprise to me. Growing up near Yellowstone National Park (YNP) my family often dug into the history and importance of different preservation acts in that area. Chapter 3, however, is the section that gave me pause. Discussing the three schools of thought included in adding to a historic building or putting a new one in a historic districted deserves some discussion. I automatically assume that anything near or in addition to a historic building should match in order to not stand out or detract from the actual historic building. The compatible approach, however, made me think of the additions made to Old Faithful Inn in YNP. The iconic log building of Old Faithful Inn gained two new wings not much more than a decade after the original was built. These new wings, however, were updated with individual bathrooms instead of communal as well as other modernized upgrades. The new exterior seems to have been designed in this ‘compatible approach’ (107) instead of built to perfectly match the original building. It does not detract from the original icon and yet adds hundreds of comfortable rooms for YNP tourists. I find it surprising to find such an old example of thoughtful designers who complimented the original work. In what cases do designers or architects decide what building deserves which kind of matching, compatible, or contrasting design?

I would also like to question whether all of these designs work as well outside the United States? While visiting Germany i observed a number of different examples of this façadism and it did not do justice to some of these cities’ oldest buildings. Medieval buildings brought down to their facades sat tucked into corners looking forgotten and miserably out of place.  In Bath, England the entire city is required to build their buildings out of the original beautiful white stone that the original builders used. That stone, however, has to be shipped in from miles away since the original quarry dried up and it is also fragile and slowly breaking down even on the newer buildings. Speak to nearly any local and they will roll their eyes and the city’s mandate of matching buildings that they feel really only works for the tourism board.  Which designs or choices will stand the test of time? Or will current choices only become pure annoyance and tourism gimmicks for future generations?

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