Wednesday, February 4, 2015

When History Bites the Dust

Northwestern University recently finished demolition on the Historic Prentice Women's Hospital in order to make room for a new research center.  Many people loved that building.  Many more people seemed to hate it.  Regardless of your personal feelings toward the Brutalist structure, there is no denying that it played an important part in Chicago's history of modern architecture.  I have always thought the Women's Hospital was an intriguing building, and it makes my heart sad to know that it is no longer standing. As a designer, I can't imagine the feeling of having put so much time and dedication into a project just to potentially see it torn down one day.  The real kicker here, though, is knowing that a piece of history is gone.

In the wake of the building's long and methodical deconstruction, a door has opened for many interesting discussions regarding the role of historic preservation in modern society.  What makes us want to get rid of certain architecture styles but keep others?  What kind of meaning or value do we attach to the styles that have endured the test of time?  I think Denise Scott Brown's perspective describes it best: "There's always a reaction against the style of the most recent past." How do we as designers make sure that our projects will survive multiple generations? Change is constant, and the U.S. is a young, progressive country.  Are all historical buildings in America doomed to a certain fate?  I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject.

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