Track 1: Decline vs. Revival: Tempering the Impulse to Tear Down and Start Over
APT Student Scholar Abstract
1 - Deconstructing the culture of demolition: Exploring deconstruction as a preservation strategy
Tuesday, September 25
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: BNCC- 101AH
Curt Lamb, Master of Architecture, GSD; Ph.D, Yale – Boston Architectural College
The Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties offers solutions for every stage of a building’s life cycle, guiding restoration, rehabilitation, even rebuilding. While this rubric is comprehensive, it offers no strategy to deal with the number one cause of death: demolition. Copious efforts have been directed at defining and cataloguing significance in the built environment, but the preservation movement has yet to address the question of what ought to be done when demolition is inevitable. Since heritage value is commonly ascribed to whole buildings, not their individual materials, preservationists consider their work complete once a demolition permit is issued.
A building, like a person, has a finite lifespan. Death cannot be stopped entirely, but it can be executed with dignity. Significant but unsaveable historic structures, unregistered but at-risk buildings, and the vast stock of vernacular structures of our older neighborhoods deserve a final treatment that respects their history, significance, and value. A viable alternative to demolition already exists within the sustainability movement: whole-building deconstruction. Deconstruction is a process of disassembly that removes materials in the reverse order of construction, saving as much as possible for reuse and recycling. By examining the growing body of deconstruction literature including government publications and policies, C&D industry reports, and deconstruction feasibility studies, this paper will examine the physical, environmental, social, economic, and policy aspects of deconstruction practice, assessing each for its impact on heritage materials and values. It will be argued that thoughtful inclusion of deconstruction as a preservation tool will allow historic preservation to put forward a holistic, sustainable strategy for the stewardship of the built environment that encompasses every stage of a building’s life cycle.
- Identify heritage values supported by the practice of deconstruction
- Explain why a deconstruction ordinance is a more effective policy tool for implementing deconstruction than a municipal waste restriction, from the perspective of historic preservation.
- List two points of philosophical disconnect between the disciplines of sustainability and historic preservation brought to light through examining deconstruction practice.
- Get excited about the concept of buildings as "raw materials depots", and explain the relevance of this term to historic preservation.