Urban Fold

Historic Preservation Or 'Architectural Taxidermy'?

A number of historic buildings in Chicago are being preserved -- but only on the outside. Developers have bent the rules of preservation to repurpose historic buildings as parking garages and luxury condos while preserving only their facades.

"Today, developers and architects have devised a new way of holding onto the past that makes things far more complex: Instead of preserving an entire building, it keeps only the building's facade, grafting that facade onto a new internal structure, as though it were the skin of a stuffed animal."

"Better to save something than nothing, goes this theory. And while it's true that such projects typically possess the human scale and eye-pleasing decoration rarely found in massive parking garages or bland condominium towers, they still rankle. The reason: They create a stage-set city that treats buildings like two-dimensional wallpaper, not three-dimensional structures. That destroys a building's essence and, at worst, makes a mockery of the very history these exercises purport to respect."

Full Story: The danger of becoming skin deep

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