Has Preservation Gone Too Far?

Ben Adler writes about the growing contingent of policy wonks, architects, and architectural critics who believe that preservationists have acquired too much power.
February 6, 2012, 11am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Once the underdogs in the David vs Goliath battle between greedy developers and concerned communities trying to protect their historic heritage, critics blame landmarking for making the most desirable cities unaffordable for the middle class, writes Adler.

Critics trace preservation's failings to two factors, "Critics in the first category are not opposed to landmarking, but worry that architecturally undistinguished buildings and neighborhoods are winning landmark status for political or sentimental reasons. The result, they say, is a public that embraces architectural nostalgia rather than innovation. At the same time, some economists and policy experts maintain that cities are limiting their economic potential by constraining the supply of new housing and commercial development through too much landmarking."

Preservation has also suffered by being co-opted as a common tool for powerless communities to prevent unwanted development. As a result, preservation has become a victim of its own success. As more and more places find value in the unique character that historic buildings can provide, that value often translates to economic pressures (redevelopment pressures, higher home prices) that mixed-income communities across the country struggle to address.

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Published on Wednesday, February 1, 2012 in Architectural Record
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