How Cities Are Remaining Historically Sensitive Amidst New Construction Trends
What’s Being Done to Protect Our Architectural Past
The United States is home to some of the most iconic forms of architecture in the world. Like the country itself, our architecture consists of a veritable melting pot of techniques and methods that were brought here by immigrants from other lands. As a result, these structures are extremely important to the histories of the cities in which they stand.
But, every modern city has its eye on the future. After all, cities and city planners strive for innovation and new building technologies. But, equally as important is maintaining the sanctity of the past. Here’s how cities are balancing their historical sensitivities with new construction trends.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the U.S. National Park Service is who oversees the Dept. of the Interior’s historic preservation program. When cities are introducing new construction methods, it is important that the historic qualities of these buildings remain intact. To accomplish this, four different possible activities are considered – Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction.
Preserving a historic structure is aimed at keeping it just as it is, in the present. All historic features, materials, and other elements of the structure are kept and maintained as they are wherever it’s humanly possible.
Preservation methods take into account the historical value of the building as well as its occupants and its possible future uses. Preservation maintains the original character of the structure.
When a historic property turns debilitated due to years of neglect, often the city will rehabilitate the structure so it can be used for a different purpose than its original intended use. An example of this is when former textile mills are rehabilitated into luxury condominiums and lofts.
But, despite the changes that take place inside of the structure, those doing the rehab work are dedicated to retaining and repairing the historic features and finishes that make the structure so significant.
Restoration involves returning a structure and the landscape around it back to its original look. This means if the structure was renovated in the past or altered in any way, those changes would be removed and replaced using period-accurate materials and building techniques.
In situations where a building might be in severe disrepair to the point that the above options cannot be considered, the city may choose to reconstruct a historically accurate copy of the building on its original lot.
The reconstruction efforts will usually use period-specific techniques and materials where possible, but the materials will be new, and in some cases, this will make the reconstructed structure different from the original.
The Benefits of Preservation
There are several key reasons why cities practice preservation alongside new construction. For starters, preserving the historical and architectural character of buildings enhances the sense of charm and community in many neighborhoods. It also helps to preserve and protect the old methods of workmanship that have been passed down by tradespeople through the years.
Preservation also attracts investments and it saves a city resources because it enables it to repair and reuse historic buildings instead of having to tear them down just to build new ones in their places. While modern building techniques enable homes and other structures to be built more quickly and with greater eco-friendliness, maintaining our historic buildings helps us stay connected to the past, which for many cities is essential to their very being.
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