Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Do you designate as historic very ordinary buildings or just put up a plaque?

DSCN1652Flickr photo by Alan Light.

There is an effort to designate as historic a nondescript building in West Hollywood, California, which was the site of "Madman" Muntz's Stereo Paks, which introduced the first successful car stereo system and allegedly popularized the word "tv" to describe a television set and later was home to a Tower Records store, and the company at the time changed music marketing significantly, and later went bankrupt as the Internet and mobile applications superseded the sales of physical objects (records, CDs, cassette tapes) containing music.

See "Sunset's Tower Records/Birthplace of the Car Stereo Could Have Tough Road to Landmarking" from Curbed LA and "Los Angeles Author Pushes to Preserve Tower Records as Cultural Resource" from NBC Southern California.

But the building is just a box, with no architectural distinction.  Now the building is white, without even Tower Records' distinctive yellow and red branding treatment.

Do you need both distinctive architecture + significant events to justify designation of a building as a historic landmark--except when events that happened there rise to the highest possible level of significance, such as the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated?

Even Memphis' Lorraine Motel is more interesting architecturally (as an example of 1950s architecture, and motel architecture as an element of building the support system for automobility and travel) than the box that was first an appliance store and then record store in West Hollywood.

A plaque may well suffice.

Related to preservation, there are two very nice pieces in the Lancaster New Era/Intelligencer Journal, "Preserve historic resources: It's actually the law" and "PART II: Giving municipalities a lesson on their own history," about the efforts of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County and saving historic buildings in that part of Pennsylvania.  Despite the area's long history, not all of the area's jurisdictions are on the same page with regard to the value of historic architecture and districts as an element of economic development, livability, and land use planning.

And I just came across this World Bank publication, The Economics of Uniqueness:  Investing in Historic City Cores and Cultural Heritage Assets for Sustainable Development, which I hope to get to soon.



At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tear it down it is ugly. When are these foolish people going to realize that trying to protect ugly and unsightly structures is just going to make the public less sympathetic to historic preservation? And why has HP succumbed to saving Bauhaus monstrosities and just plain developer crap? They need an aesthetic boost in today's HP before it really goes off the cliff- it has already been co-opted by hysterical no-growth NIMBYs and now we have the historic revisionists HP that seeks to save all that is an eyesore..

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

THERE was a nice line in this letter to the editor in the Madison Wisconsin Capital Times:

that stuck with me:

Mike Ivey’s recent piece about the potential of the Langdon neighborhood to be designated a historic district under the city’s ordinance was well-reported, but he repeated a dichotomy about historic districts that is a common misunderstanding of their function. The point is not to “curb development,” but to compel development to be sensitive to what makes the district special. Historic districts in Madison do allow for new construction and present clear but flexible guidelines for it.

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what is astonishing are the vapid ass activists that want to save the MLK Library and the FBI building while allowing really important or old and beautiful buildings to be demolished [ as was the case on C & 9th streets s.e. last year] this is an ugly and ultimately destructive trend and it needs to be halted. And yes- HP people should NOT be in the business of stopping good development- such as at the Himes site- all kinds of HP lawyers and crazies came out of the woodwork not to fight for HP but for their all- encompassing and all- important PARKING


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