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Is Older Necessarily Better? The Immaculate Conception Theory of Neighborhood Origin

Critics often assume that newer buildings are inferior to old. The same was said when the old buildings were new.
September 27, 2015, 5am PDT | Todd Litman
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J Aaron Farr

Daniel Hertz writes of the "immaculate conception theory" of neighborhood development, which reflects an assumption that "older housing was built the right way: ethically, modestly, with an eye to community rather than profit."

"These older values, in turn, highlight the faults of modern buildings: gaudy and wasteful, disruptive to existing communities, and motivated only by money."

"The problem with the immaculate conception theory is that, like parents swearing that they would never have behaved the way their kids do, it is conveniently forgetful about what actually happened in the past. Taking, just as an example, the early 20th century bungalow, a closer look reveals that it was defined not by mass affordability, efficiency, and respect for traditional communities, but something very nearly the opposite."



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Published on Thursday, September 24, 2015 in City Commentary
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