Defending hated buildings, and building a better New Albany.

Empire State Plaza, Albany NY (from the article)

One of the central misnomers about historic preservation is that is espoused to the exclusion of new buildings. Rather, the idea that the greenest building is the one already standing impels preserving and reusing what we already have, even as we contemplate the functionality and aesthetic of “next.”

This being the 30th anniversary of my first European vacation, I’ve been contemplating my exposure to cities (Berlin, Vienna, Budapest) that suffered significant damage during World War II, and the way that their urban tapestry embraces old, new, and everything in between. I’ve often observed to those commending the revival of downtown New Albany that the real turning point will be when surface parking lots created by demolishing older structures become the site of new construction.

That’s why ill-considered projects like the farmers market expansion make so little sense. Prime acreage is lost for what is supposed to be, by its very nature, a transient institution.

If we insist on subsidizing and incentivizing companies from elsewhere to erect new buildings, as with the sewer tap-in waivers granted Flaherty and Collins for the apartment buildings at the moribund Coyle property, then we’d be better off stepping outside the box and borrowing a page from Columbus by encouraging boldness in design.

Is it really progress to obliterate the historic tavern at 922 Culbertson, which stood the test of time and could have been rehabbed, with houses made of pressboard and balsa wood — ones designed primarily for campaign press releases, and not sustainability in a neighborhood so desperately needing it?

The underlying point in each of the following defenses of “hated” buildings is that civilization is renewed through the new, in addition to honoring the old. Every day is a snapshot of a composite.

In a place like New Albany, these decisions must be removed from the money mill of partisan political considerations, as so tirelessly exploited by Team Gahan, and based instead on rational decision-making and consistent, demonstrable criteria.

Seven Leading Architects Defend the World’s Most Hated Buildings, as told to Alexandra Lange (New York Times)

Can the field’s top minds change the way we think about a doomed housing project in Naples or the most abhorred skyscraper in Paris? Allow them to try.