This week, I learned that the 89-year-old high school where Diana Ross once roamed the halls will soon be demolished. I also got to experience (kind of) the final days of New York’s Penn Station, day dream about antipasto, and “meet” a preservationist with a passion for Las Vegas’ vintage signs – something I also dig.
And it all happened 140 characters at a time.
Yes, I’m talking about Twitter, a dynamic forum that isn’t all Charlie Sheen, all the time. And I can prove it. I’m dedicating today’s round-up to just a few things recently seen and heard on the #preservation hashtag. My goal: Inspire you to join the conversation.
To the Twitterverse we go!
First for something thought provoking.
Using a modest, demolition-threatened brick house in New York City’s East Village as an example, this article makes an interesting argument for the importance of preservation.
But there’s a reason to save the building that has nothing to do with its past, and everything to do with the present. The house is all that stands between two angled, glass-and-steel buildings. Those buildings wouldn't be the same without their modest, gable-roofed companion. Contemporary buildings feed on historical context. When that context is removed, even the best of the new buildings fall flat.
Reading this, my mind jumped instantly to Jane Jacobs and her postulation that healthy neighborhoods have a good mix of old and new. First, as someone who enjoys a city block peppered with a little grittiness, I’ve always adored her definition of old: “By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation – although these make fine ingredients – but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some rundown old buildings.” Beyond that, I appreciate her argument that buildings are magnetic, and that different types of buildings attract different types of uses, people, ideas – diversity that enriches our surroundings and our experiences in them.
Back to the article. While the idea that these mod, spaceship-looking buildings are somehow engaged in a mentoring relationship with the historic stuff around them is really quite cute, I don’t buy it. At least not all the time. I’ve totally seen buildings that you know have never said a word to each other. In fact, I can think of a few blocks where there are definitely some “talk to the hand” situations going on. We all know it can get messy out there.
Yes, I’ll be happy if this New York building is saved, but not for its needy neighborhoods. The East Village is a vibrant place where creative juices run high – a place where you feel like you’re downtown. Shiny steel sameness will destroy that.
Ready to smile?
Under the name of “Dispatchwork” (all puns intended), Berliners are taking to the streets with a medium that will take you right back to your childhood: LEGOs! As described, the project “is part urban art installation, part historical highlighting (since many of the gaps date back to World War II) and part method of calling attention to buildings that could use some help.”
And while I doubt this fits the bill as “sensitive materials” for patching up places that matter, I adore the project as an attention-getting public service announcement. I’m also incredibly jealous. File under things I wish I had thought of.
In full disclosure, this tweet is my own. However, I couldn’t help but share because I think Kaitlin over at Preservation in Pink is on to something. In her own words:
Every field has its jargon, historic preservation included. Some may be shared with architectural history or planning, for example, but most of the preservation vocabulary has unfamiliar connotations to those who are in other fields. So here is a list of words that will help you to understand and participate in conversations about preservation.
Give the list a read and leave a recommendation via a comment (or a tweet!) with your favorite preservation jargon/slang word.
@EvolvingCritic: Sleeping like a baby, but will be dreaming of #preservation and buildings.
Aw, ain’t that cute?
Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content manager for PreservationNation.org. He wants you all to sign up for Twitter and join the conversation about preservation. Not sure how to get started? Use this step-by-step guide and you’ll be tweeting in no time.