On the Importance of 'Legacy Architecture' to Good Places

Following a recent study finding quantifiable economic benefits for neighborhoods with a mix of older buildings, a writer describes the qualities of older buildings that makes the places they occupy feel so special.

F. Kaid Benfield examines the sources of value in old, or legacy, buildings. Before explaining just what and how older buildings and neighborhoods add to communities and cities, Benfield explains the assumptions of his argument: "the best of our older buildings and neighborhoods have a distinctiveness to them, almost by default."

Benfield describes two of the attributes of older place that add to the vitality of communities: continuity of place and cultural engagement. In the case of the former concept, a place that has managed to retain its original character and charms provides comfort in a quickly changing world. In the case of the latter concept, "[these] places are magical precisely because we have had little or no previous experience, no continuity, with them," writes Benfield.

Benfield also cites new research from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, also discussed in depth by an earlier article by Emily Badger, which "finds that established neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings perform better on a range of economic, social, and environmental metrics than do districts with larger, newer structures."

Before concluding, Benfield makes it clear that he does not resist change, but that change must be thoughtful—"change that…does not blur the distinction of place but adds to it."

Full Story: How Legacy Architecture Shapes Our Experience of Place

Comments

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $16.95 a month
City Plate table setting

New Arrival! City Plates

City downtown cores printed on gorgeous decorative collectible porcelain plates.
$50.00
Book cover of Unsprawl

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places

Explore visionary, controversial and ultimately successful strategies for building people-centered places.
Starting at $12.95