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Historical Preservation in Dallas

Hour 1: What is the state of historical preservation in Dallas and how important is the past in a city that likes to be known for looking to the future? We’ll spend this hour with Katherine Seale, Executive Director of Preservation Dallas and Mark Doty, Senior Planner for the City of Dallas. They’ll both participate in a panel discussion this evening at the Dallas Center for Architecture.

  • Cara

    Preservation seems to be a much bigger deal in Europe.  Maybe the U.S. will become more interested in keeping their cities unique, for tourism purposes if nothing else. 
    I’ve gotten a lot out of my National Trust for Historic Preservation membership, which provides admission discounts to properties in & around Texas:

  • Anonymous

    Kudos to the the great and continuing efforts of both Preservation Dallas and the City.  I can really sense an increase in local awareness of preservation issues.

    That said, I see an emerging danger to Historic Preservation–from within–the trap of relativism.  The best thing preservation had going for it was it, as a movement, being in sync with, historically, the striving for beauty, excellence, and quality (or Vitruvius’s ‘firmness, commodity & delight’) in architecture.  But, when we begin to have discussions on whether to preserve expediently-built ‘Ranch houses’, or Brutalist works which happen to be urban and architectural nitemares, we begin to make the mistake that every generation has produced something worth preserving.

    I can see preserving one or two of these examples of the cultural & economic zeitgeist, but beyond that it becomes a slippery slope to preserving any cheap old gas station.  It would take preservationists into the nihilistic territory of modern art, where the banal, the ugly, the everyday–really, everything–now is taken as subject matter.  This actually works, for society, in the confined space of galleries and the limited reach of artists, because–they are right–any subject matter can spur us to think about things differently.  But the domain of preservationists is nothing less than all of our built environment!

    The best argument for preservation is the preservation of beauty or the attempt at beauty.  Because we (especially architects), for the most part, no longer believe in beauty, preservation is culturally in a quandry.

    The second best argument for preservation is environmental/economic.  Constructing a new building is the most environmentally damaging thing one can do.  This is not acknowledged sufficiently by the current economic paradigm, which glorifies growth as the highest virtue.  Quantity of growth is NOT the same as quality of growth.  This while the cultural & societal paradigm bows down to laissez-faire economics as morally superior to any humanistic concern.

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