The new Russian owner of the Domain de Bellevue says “I had no idea the château had been destroyed. I’m in shock.” This is after his Polish construction crews, who had permits to demolish a small accessory building, "accidentally" knocked down a 140,000 square foot chateau dating back to 1750. This was an important house, it even had its own website.
Conveniently, Dimistry Stroskin has a plan. According to the National Post,
He has promised to “rebuild an identical Bellevue” including the château’s grand hall, which could hold up to 200 people. A Polish architect has already drawn up plans and local masons have received a €1.5-million ($1.9-million) contract to rebuild it over two years.
The former owner is outraged.
“The Château de Bellevue was Yvrac’s pride and joy,” said Juliette Marmie, the estate’s former owner. “The whole village is in shock. How can this construction firm make such a mistake?”
The fact of the matter is, they don't make such mistakes. If they get paid to take down a small building, they don't "accidentally" knock down a huge one. The owner doesn't just happen to have complete drawings of a reconstruction in his drawers and a contract to rebuild doesn't magically appear, days after the demolition is complete. It takes months, sometimes years, to do that.
Demolition like this doesn't happen overnight, either. Yet somehow nobody noticed until the whole thing was gone, the debris carted away, the site flattened.
This is what I call Heritage Lightning, what happens when somebody doesn't want to spend his money fixing up a drafty old barn and would rather have a shiny new faux chateau. I bet he will even promise to make it energy efficient and green.
Heritage activists see this all the time; historic buildings that conveniently catch fire, others that somehow are declared unsafe and in need of demolition just when some developer is trying to build a new project. But you can't tell someone like Dmitry Stroskin that the greenest building is the one already standing, or that those big windows are designed to let in tons of natural light and air so that you don't need fancy mechanical systems. They want shiny.
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Lloyd Alter is Past President of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario