Friday, October 5, 2012

Irony of Preservation

I was trained to believe Urban Renewal was pretty much the worst thing that ever happened to America's historic building stock. This might still be true, but lately I have gained a little more appreciation for the modern and international style designs that defined the 1950s and 60s and were born out of demolition.

There is no better place to study the effects of Urban Renewal (it literally was an experiment in the social implications of architecture and urban planning) than in DC's southwest quadrant. I have been spending a lot of time in this area recently, and for all of the criticism against modern design, I think these buildings that make up a community actually were and still are successful.

Most of the buildings are now reaching the 50 year mark, and the question of preservation is raised frequently. It's ironic that we are now debating whether or not to protect buildings that were the product of such devastating blight. By the way, I believe only three structures remain from the 19th century or earlier in this neighborhood. 

Today, developers are circling the neighborhood like vultures over fresh roadkill, tempted by all the invaluable green space that was designed into the multi-building communities, and looking at the waterfront real estate like it could be the next Georgetown. The question seems more urgent- are these buildings worth preserving? 

What do you think? Stay tuned for more updates on southwest.

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