Last weekend was the first annual World Heritage Festival here in San Antonio, celebrating one year since the inscription of the San Antonio Missions as a World Heritage Site. Having spent my career in heritage, this is exciting for me because now I live, work and play in a World Heritage site for the first time in my life. Continue Reading
Slimp Oil, 604 Carolina
Back in 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation held a national contest called “This Place Matters” where people voted on sites that mattered to them – to their history, their identity and their community. As I noted in my blog at the time, the winner was not a grand mansion or a pathbreaking design by a famous architect. Continue Reading
“The entire mix of cultures was their birthright, the soul of their home city, and it was not to be taken away. Their goal became the saving not only of landmarks but of traditions and ambiance and natural features as well, the preservation of no less than San Antonio’s entire cultural and natural environment.”
Lewis F. Fisher, Saving San Antonio, p. 91-92 Continue Reading
The Mission, recently
Heritage conservation is about place even more than buildings, which are large and important but not exclusive constituents of place. “If these walls could talk” is also true of streets (I did a course for over a decade called “If These Streets Could Talk”) and sidewalks and trees and mountains and streams and streetlamps benches and on and on…. You also have certain places that have an enduring character despite the passing of decades and technologies, these places just seem to imbue activity in a similar way over time, causing us to assign that “character” to place. Continue Reading
My favorite example: where Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man. Authenticity? Integrity?
I will presenting at the 7th National Symposium on Historic Preservation Practice this weekend at Goucher College, on the Diversity Deficit and the National Register of Historic Places. I have written often about this subject over the last five years, but lately my recommendations are getting more specific. One of those has to do with the concept of Integrity, which I have previously proposed needs to be replaced with Authenticity. Continue Reading
I recently saw the report of a “phylogenetic” study of fairytales that determined that some fairytales were 6,000 years old, reaching into the Bronze Age. We have long known that certain tales – Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, flood myths – are shared across hundreds of cultures and geographies. I read the report (linked here) the same day I went to see the ancient Greek show at the Field Museum, where many tales are illustrated in the more durable forms of pottery and stone.
Two weeks ago I spoke during the meeting of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regarding the Future of the National Register of Historic Places, which will be 50 years old next year. I detailed some of the shortcomings that have emerged over that time, including a startling “Diversity Deficit.”
Less than 5% of the buildings listed on the National Register evoke the nation’s diverse history – the rest chronicle white men, who are much less than half the country. I also detailed many of the challenges in preservation practice that we inherited from an architect-driven 1960s practice, one that has a tendency to focus too much on the formal.
The photo is one of may favorite examples, from St. Nicholas Avenue in Hamilton Heights, New York, the building lacks architectural integrity. But Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man there in 1947, a book more relevant than ever today. The building is authentic but does not have integrity. The problem is not the building but our practice – we adopted the architectural concept of “integrity” in 1966 instead of the international concept of “authenticity.” Continue Reading