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Preserving the future by examining the past|
Conference takes historic preservation into the 21st century
By Kerry A. Newman
| Keynote speaker Ada Louise Huxtable set the tone of the Beyond Preservation: Managing Change conference by stating, History is a journey without end. And the heritage we leave for the future will depend on how we deal with it now. |
The goal of Beyond Preservation: Managing Change, held in the spring, was to bring together professionals and scholars from various backgrounds to address new ideas for broadening the scope of activities that encompass historic preservation. The unique program format and exchange of ideas and different perspectives helped move the field of historic preservation into the 21st century.
Approximately 50 professionals and students gathered for the multidisciplinary program. By engaging in workshops that focused on timely issues affecting the discipline, both practitioners and scholars alike addressed the new direction the field is moving in. Workshop topics focused on the growing importance of technology, the relationship between preservation and other issues such as planning and design, creating new partnerships for community preservation projects and legal issues that affect Pennsylvania restoration projects.
Headed by Cecilia J. Rusnak, assistant professor of landscape architecture, the conference planning committee included Dr. Thomas Boothby, associate professor of architectural engineering, and Daniel J. Nadenicek, associate professor of landscape architecture and director of the Center for Studies in Landscape History.
Nadenicek emphasized the importance of the issues addressed during the conference, noting, This is an extremely important and cutting-edge approach to how historic preservation is being thought about.
Rusnak said the dialogue that resulted from bringing people of different backgrounds together could help change the perception of historic preservation and how it involves the community.
Historic preservation is a planning issue, she said. We were trying to expand the notion of what preservation can be.
The open exchange of ideas and crossing of disciplines made the conference unique. Professional engineers, architects, planners and landscape architects had a unique opportunity to discuss how a common issue affects them all in similar and differing ways. The participation of students also made the program unique, because it offered students, primarily undergraduates in landscape architecture, the opportunity to network with professionals and engage in conversations about professional issues and real-life concerns.
The students got a taste of what it is like to interact at this professional level, Rusnak said.
A highlight of the program was the opening keynote address by Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable. A prolific writer, Huxtable wrote for The New York Times for 18 years and currently writes for The Wall Street Journal. Also the author of influential books about architecture, her work includes Kicked a Building Lately?, Goodbye History, Hello Hamburger: An Anthology of Architectural Delights and Disasters and The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion.
Huxtable urged participants to question what they are preserving and what values they hold important as a community. She also encouraged them to examine the current architectural and preservation trends and practices occurring in modern American society what she calls the unreal America. According to Huxtable, strip malls, suburban subdivisions and theme parks all creations from our highly technologized and mobile society define the unreal America.
Huxtable addressed the fact that current preservation trends focus on creating a sense of nostalgia and the illusion of what was good in the past. She attributed these trends to a confusion of values and a common need for identity.
Its the kind of idea in which the whole place is returned to some ideal moment and some predetermined time which no longer exists and probably never did, Huxtable said.
She encouraged participants to join together to question the practices and set new standards for preservation. Have we forgotten who we are? she asked. If we are not only the inheritors of tradition, then its conservation must be carried out in the context of a radically changed world and culture that has brought its own character, achievements and style; its own beauty and creativity; its own way of living with the past. And none of this need to be denied or disguised, she concluded.
In addition to Huxtable, other featured presenters included Brenda Barrett, director of the Bureau for Historic Preservation for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pa., and Dan Marriott, director of the Rural Heritage Program at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C. Barrett spoke about Creative Approaches to Section 106 Compliance, while Marriott addressed Preserving Historic Roads: Planning, Policy and Mitigation.
According to Rusnak, the outcomes of the conference look positive; plans for future initiatives are under way. Ideas for developing programs that could educate the public about historic preservation and engage the community in planning issues are being discussed. Other opportunities include developing ongoing relationships with preservation professionals and organizations such as the National Park Service.
Delivered as an outreach program of the College of Arts and Architecture, the conference was sponsored by the Center for Studies in Landscape History, with support from the Raymond A. Bowers Program for Excellence in Design and Construction of the Built Environment.
In addition to the College of Arts and Architecture, Penn State faculty members from the College of Engineering and the College of Agricultural Sciences also participated in the conference. Presenters included Christopher Diehl, assistant professor of architecture; Kelleann Foster and Tim Johnson, both associate professors of landscape architecture; James Kalsbeek, associate professor of architecture; Michael Rios, assistant professor of architecture and director of Penn States Hamer Center for Community Design Assistance; Dr. Grace Wang, assistant professor of natural resources policy, College of Agricultural Sciences; and Thomas Yahner, associate professor of landscape architecture and associate director of the Center for Studies in Landscape History.
An outreach program of the College of Arts and Architecture
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