Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Two Models of Historic Preservation

Benjamin Briggs of Preservation Greensboro weighs in on how best to renovate War Memorial Stadium:
It strikes me that American preservation still remains heavily influenced by the Williamsburg model, that is . . . historic sites remain static over time in museum-like quality . . . In contrast, some buildings continue their useful lives beyond being frozen monuments. Take, for example, residences in College Hill, Fisher Park, or Aycock . . . which continue to have new kitchens, new wings, new bathrooms . . . with respect and care to the important (or contributing) elements of the house . . . This second model is most often used in Europe today . . . Look at redevelopment in Sevilla in which historic buildings are totally gutted, the facades saved, and a new building erected inside the shell of the old . . . In my opinion, WMS could shrink in size next year, then expand again when the ballfield formerly known as Burlington Industries is deemed unsuitable and is abandoned, then shrink again, then grow again . . . and that is fine - if each of these projects respects the heart of the stadium, whatever that is found to be (Click here and scroll to the bottom to read the whole thing).
I fortuitously came across an example of this kind of preservation while I was walking in Washington, DC on Monday:



For this project, called the Atlantic Building, the facades of several old buildings have been painstakingly preserved, but an entirely new building complex is being constructed behind them. (Click here to see a better photo, and here and here to read about how it will be used).

Don't panic. I'm not advocating the gutting of War Memorial Stadium. But I do want to see its utilitarian features (seating, locker facilities, bathrooms) updated and well-fitted to its use for the next generation or so, which is amateur baseball. I also want to see its architectural and historic character preserved. I think we can easily do both.

5 comments:

Jesse Hoggard said...

When discussing the changes that will certainly and properly occur with WMS over the years, Benjamin got to the heart of the matter with this, "...if each of these projects respects the heart of the stadium, whatever that is found to be."

Defining the "heart" is going to be everything.

D. Hoggard said...

Of course my 10 year old Jesse is a preservationist too, and may have something to say about WMS later - but the above comment was by his dad.

One of the pitfalls of sharing computers with a fellow blogger I suppose.

Brian said...

The recent work on Fenway Park and the surrounding streets is a great example of modernization happening while maintaining the soul of the place.

Michael said...

Adaptive reuse is both necessary and positive. Creative uses should be found for buildings that no longer serve their original purpose. However, I think too much emphasis is given to the facade. Interior details are valuable and too often lost. And when they only preserve the facade and build entirely new buildings behind it, this strikes me as a bit amusement park-ish. I think this should only be done with a truly compelling facade and a building that there is positively no use for.

jimcaserta said...

Having played recently at the DAP in Durham, I hope WMS does not suffer the same fate. The field at DAP is terrible, comparable to a poor local HS field. WMS is currently being used by the Stan Musial league, MSBL, and pony leagues, and NCA&T. These organizations need to be involved in changes, and in ensuring that the quality of the playing field remains high.