Blair Kamin: Historic preservation and green architecture: friends or foes?


FLW's Seth Peterson Cottage with (gasp) new windows!

Blair Kamin is the Pulitzer-winning architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, and a contributing editor of Architectural Record. He talked to the Michigan Historic Preservation Network last week.

[When asked] to give this talk about the tension between green architecture and historic preservation, I have to admit that I was taken aback. My first reaction was: What tension? I could hardly image two groups whose cultural profiles are more alike. Choosing between tree-huggers and building-huggers would seem to be akin to choosing between buying a Volvo or a Saab. (You are permitted to utter the names of those two brands here in Michigan, right?)

Seriously, both preservationists and conservationists cut their teeth in the 1960s as subversive movements that challenged the prevailing value system of postwar American culture: an unbridled faith in science, technology, urban renewal—anything, in short, that came under the heading of "new."

Both camps drew intellectual inspiration from brilliant women who wrote brilliant books --Jane Jacobs, whose "Death and Life of Great American Cities" assaulted the conventional wisdom about "urban renewal; and Rachel Carson, whose "Silent Spring" helped give birth to the environmental movement by documenting the harmful effect of pesticides. Jacobs' words echoed broadly, galvanizing grass-roots efforts like failed effort to save Adler & Sullivan's Stock Exchange Building in Chicago and the successful battle to preserve Heritage Hill here in Grand Rapids.

Whether it was the built environment or the natural environment, these women moved their causes from the fringe to the mainstream. The movements they helped birth would seem to be the equivalent of sisters, or brothers--destined to be allies, not adversaries.

But scratch beneath the surface, and it is not hard to find evidence of a simmering sibling rivalry.

Worth reading the whole thing at Historic preservation and green architecture: friends or foes?
More on Windows and Preservation:
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Noooo Edinburgh, Don't Lift Ban on Changing Windows in Historic Structures
Quote of the Day: Richard Moe on "This Old Wasteful House"
More on the "conflict" between preservation and green architecture:
Big Steps in Building: Ban Demolition
The Greenest Brick is the One That's Already in the Wall
GreenBuild: Richard Moe Has a Tough Row to Hoe
Diane Keaton on How We Treat Old Buildings Like Plastic Bags
Michigan Central Station To Be Demolished With Stimulus Money
In Hard Times It's Time For Renovation and Preservation
Quote of the Day: Bill McDonough on Green Renovation

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