Sunday, July 15, 2012


la réutilisation adaptée

I am not a single voice when I gush about "pres". 

I have a very tender place in my heart for all things historical and literary, and feel a deep moral inclination to support the arts. Historic Preservation has an unyielding fan-club. Yet split between the department are what a friend and I like to call the "practitioners" and the "romantics". 

Under the tree of Historic Preservation lies Urban Planning, an approach that deals with the incorporation of new growth and development. This sub-field requires a cognizance of established community and history. Meaning: it's challenging. At times, requiring one to be creative. Business-minded preservationists are naturally drawn to this field of study. Hence, what my friend and I like to call the "practitioners". If you haven't already guessed, I would consider myself as such with my interest in adaptive reuse. 

Then there are the "romantics". Those who think the practice of adaptive reuse, and methods like adaptive reuse, should not be considered preservation. By adding modern utilities, the integrity of a structure is completely destroyed, and its authenticity lost. However, options are limited to maintain a historic house or site purely on government and private funding. In the United States, with very few exceptions standing independently as economically viable, the actual preservation of these places can be shoddy at best. 

It is clear where my allegiance lies in the field of preservation. I think adaptive reuse is the "bee's knees" as far as I'm concerned.  I don't mean to say that adaptive reuse should always be the answer, because I don't. When I walk into a place such as Versailles, I don't think it should be transformed into a contemporary art museum (can you tell I'm bitter?). I don't think that all historic homes should be re-purposed into a bed and breakfast or a small coffee shop. 

Nevertheless, I love adaptive reuse, and I do consider myself a history aficionado. So you can imagine my high for the day was our class visit to the Musée d'Orsay

With its bold sculptural details and its highly symmetrical facade, the museum stands as a prime example of Beaux-Arts design. Originally constructed in 1898 as a train station, the museum now holds mainly Impressionistic and Post-Impressionistic art from masters such as Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin, Monet, and Manet.  

Isn't there something magical about having to recreate a new identity for a place full of history? 
I've always liked to think using your imagination can be romantic.

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