Architects are a forward-thinking bunch. It comes with the territory, as few other fields influence so many people with a single project. There’s beauty, form, function, and also the affect on the community to consider. But what if the community one day turns its back on a structure that’s stood for decades?
Many such buildings are in danger of demolition. For some of them, it’s the right thing to do. But eliminating a building isn’t something to be taken lightly. And the case for preservation is one worth thinking about.
Architecture Appreciation is Relative
Although art and architecture are not the same thing, they’re both a reflection of the style and personal inspiration of the period and of their creators. But where the destruction of a work of art is almost incomprehensible, the destruction of a building is sometimes less so. Beauty is relative. What’s not relative is whether a work of art, or a building, represents an influential period.
Think about members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, if you follow such things. Chances are, some members don’t resonate with you at all. But their work was influential, and therefore is important in the overall history of music. The same can be said for architects and some the buildings that they create, even if those buildings are not classically beautiful.
Function Can be Repurposed
There are other factors to consider in whether a building deserves to remain or be destroyed, not the least of which is whether it still serves a purpose. Clearly, a building isn’t something that you could put in a museum or mount on a wall. It has a large footprint, and the community is affected by it.
But buildings can be repurposed. Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic for the New York Times, explains that there’s no reason why the only option for a building is to function as it was originally intended. In the case of the Government Center in Goshen, N.Y., which is a cause that Kimmelman champions, some have suggested that it could be converted into residences. As a nod toward the green movement, this would be an example of reusing instead of throwing it away.
If an old warehouse can become a trendy loft apartment, there may still be life left in other old buildings.
Demolition is Irreversible
Perhaps one of the most irrefutable arguments against demolition is that once a building is gone, it will never exist again. Some people may dislike or even hate the looks of a building. But taste is subjective, and eradicating an important architectural specimen based only on its aesthetics might be ill advised.
Where the function of a building plays a role in its relevance, which is the case for any building that’s occupied, appearance is only part of the equation. Styles change, and what’s beautiful now can easily be ugly in a generation or two. For proof of that, you need only look at the examples currently sitting on the chopping block. What doesn’t change is their relevance in architectural history.
Importance doesn’t always equal beauty. And looking at a photograph of a building in a history book will never be the same as experiencing it in person. Before the wrecking ball swings and another example of architecture is obliterated, perhaps more possible avenues should be explored. The ugly building on the corner might make you wince, but for many others, it could be a place to call home.
Taste might be relative, but one thing is common among all architects: professional development hours. When it’s time for you to meet your yearly requirements, check out our courses and see what PDH Academy has to offer.