Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not Quite There Yet


Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Wilshire Boulevard entry
Hello Everyone:

It is time to revisit a topic that has not gotten a lot of writing lately on this blog, the proposed new campus for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  While the subject of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor's proposed black biomorphic design and the appropriateness of Mr. Zumthor as the architect continues to be the subject of chatter on the social media pages, the building, once ignominiously called "the black blob," has undergone a significant makeover.  This is the latest news that one of our favorite architecture critics, Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times, reports in his article "Peter Zumthor's plan for LACMA undergoes a makeover."  The good news is it no longer resembles the blob that ate The La Brea Tar Pits.  The bad news, it has not been built yet.  Just to refresh your memories, let us quickly review the different incarnations of Mr. Zumthor's designs before looking at the latest version.

Proposed LACMA building version 1.0
Peter Zumthor and Partner
In the beginning, Peter Zumthor presented a proposed design he called "The Black Flower."  The concept was a singular two-story building, propped up on pilotes, with the different galleries on the top story and glass encased storage space on the ground level.  The site would be more open to pedestrian traffic.  From the air, the building referenced the La Brea Tar Pits. The museum patron would be able to experience the exhibits via a circular path around the upper story. This design prompted outcries of architectural and environmental blasphemy, hence the unflattering nickname, "the black blob."  The preservationists took to condemning the plan to demolish the original William Pereira buildings, though strangely recent comments would suggest that no one would shed a tear if the Anderson Building came down.  Environmentalists warned of potential damage to the historic Tar Pits.  Then came version 2.0

Proposed LACMA building version 2.0
Peter Zumthor and Partner
The revised plan submitted for consideration by the museum and the civic powers that be by passed the Tar Pits, in difference to concerned preservationists and environmentalist, and crossed Wilshire Boulevard landing on an empty lot owned by the museum.  The concept of this design was similar to the Sackler Museum in Washington D.C, and the Louvre in Paris.  Mr. Zumthor's design was intended to celebrate Southern California's car culture, or at least, his impression of it, by having people drive under it.  The problem with this version was that Mr. Zumthor based on the idea of Southern California car culture without really taking the time to fully understand it. The curvilinear form still references the Tar Pits but now it resembled a black dough being stretched across Wilshire Boulevard.  This further prompted questions whether or not Mr. Zumthor was indeed the best choice for the commission, given how little time he actually spent living in Los Angeles during the year he taught at the Southern California Institute of Architecture.  It seemed that despite repeated visits to the city, Mr. Zumthor still did not quite understand its essence the way one of the many local, well-known, prize winning architects did. It also prompted Mr. Hawthorne's colleague at the paper, art critic Christopher Knight, to suggest that a better choice might be rehabilitating an abandoned warehouse or factory following the Tate Museum in London.  Now we come to version 3.0

Proposed LACMA building version 3.0
Peter Zumthor and Partner
The current conception of the new LACMA campus looks completely different.  It is no longer an organic biomorphic building, once inspired by the Tar Pits and Brazilian architect Oscar Niemayer.  While the building still crosses the road, "...the design has become noticeably more angular and muscular...It now features double-heigh galleries made of white or light-grey concrete and poking about the rooflines of the rest of the museum, a break from what had been a resolutely horizontal black form."  In a phone call to Mr. Hawthorne, Mr. Zumthor seemed to concede, "I cannot do the whole museum in black...It gets to heavy."  Two other key elements from the previous proposals are gone: "a continuous loop of hallway galleries along the perimeter and a collection of six or seven staircases leading directly from ground level to galleries above..."  This update suggests that the architect is "moving away from the expansively curvilinear language of his earliest LACMA sketches and incorporating, the grounded, harder-edged forms of the European buildings that mad his reputation."  While Mr. Hawthorne likens it to a Chinese character or calligraphic gesture, others see it more as mediocre student work.

Proposed LACMA building version 3.1
Peter Zumthor and Partner
Sounding a defensive note, LACMA Director Michael Govan told Christopher Hawthorne, "No one will call it a blob anymore...Peter hasn't given up the curve.  But he's really, really reined it in."  The current proposal plays on the appeal of his museums in Europe: the Kolumba in Cologne, Germany and the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria and are welcome changes.  According to Mr. Hawthorne, "They suggest an architect no longer straining to marry his fanatically precise architectural language, honed in the Swiss Alps, with some hazy notion of libertine, unconstrained culture in sunny, sprawling and horizontal Los Angeles.  Blogger supposes this is some sort gesture to the outcry over the architect's lack of Southern California credentials.

Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion
Renzo Piano
To be certain, Peter Zumthor is still making adjustments to the plan of the 400,000-square-foot museum, scheduled to break ground in 2018, if Mr. Govan can raise the half-billion dollars needed to open it in 2022 or 2023.  The museum's curators are anxious to get a full sense of how the galleries will be laid out, while more than a few will still have to wait. From a philosophical and practical point of view, "...the so-called veranda galleries is perhaps the most surprising change.  Zumthor had proposed a continuous walkway along the curving perimeter of the museum, with wall holding artwork or benches along the inside an floor-to-ceiling glass offering views of the city along the outside."  The walls would have concealed the mechanical systems and play a structural role.  The glass and the great views are still a key component of the design.  However, the continuous inner wall-where the art work would hang-is gone.  Rather, drivers and pedestrians  will be able to deep into the museum.

Urban Lights
Chris Burden
 Another big change comes from reducing the number of public entrances from seven or eight to two or three.  The point is to ease circulation and make ticketing simpler, the main entrances will be positioned on the southern and northern edges of the campus, closer to the parking lot (yes) and the metro stations.  The stairs on each of those ends will flow into a large, open-air landing under an over-hanging roof.  The legs (or cores) the enormous elevated museum, originally planned as stairwells guiding visitors from the plaza straight away into the galleries, will probably not join with the upper levels.  This may have some practical reason, but Mr. Hawthorne observes, "...it substantially undermines what had been the strength of the Zumthor design: the sense that having a small entry pavilions would help humanize and break down the scale of the new museum and connect it more seamlessly to the ground-level landscape."

Kolumba Museum
Jose Fernando Vazquez
Cologne, Germany
Also evolving as the process moves along is the design and layout of the galleries.  The galleries will be housed within six separate trapezoidal sections: one just south of Wilshire, another spanning the width of the boulevard, and four on the site proper.  Each of the trapezoids will be made of white or light colored concrete and contain galleries of different heights and sizes.  About a dozen double-height galleries, emanating from the roof, covered in solar panels, will break up the horizontality of the museum form.  The galleries, as currently imagined by the architect, will be similar to the tallest galleries at the Kolumba Museum in Cologne, Germany which bring daylight in through high windows or skylights very effectively.  However, unlike the Resnick Pavilion or the forthcoming Broad Museum by the firm Diller, Scofidio+Renfro, the proposed LACMA building will not include fixed skylights that bring in northern light.  Rather, the artwork will be light from a number of directions including the more intense southern light if appropriate for the artwork.

The Broad Gallery
Diller, Scofidio+Renfro
Los Angeles, California

The now angular form of the museum reflects an interest in drawing in natural light. Currently, the campus has a long and fairly straight wall along the western edge, facing the Chris Burden installation Urban Lights and the remainder of the property and a similar wall along the eastern edge, facing the Tar Pits. In one sense, the modified design is conceptual design acquiescing to the more practical everyday needs of the museum as well as engineering, security, and local building codes-all indications of how close it is to its groundbreaking.  Peter Zumthor and the museum are working with Swiss engineer Jürg Conzett and have settled upon building the new structure from concrete.

Christopher Hawthorne also points out, "But also visible in the newest version of the design is a reconsideration of its approach to-and reading of-Los Angeles.  Zumthor's proposal is increasingly a negotiation between European and Californian sensibilities, with the European seeming to gain ground by the month."  During the winter, the architect considered the idea of constructing the whole museum in white concrete but ultimately decided on mixing light and dark colored materials instead.  Commenting on the all the snarky "black blob" comments, Michael Govan said, "He heard everybody's reaction to black, and he said, 'Hell, I'll look at the building in white.'" Mr. Govan maintains that "the black portions of the building will not be as dark as some models of the design have suggested.  'It's probably going to be closer to that slate-gray, Cy Twombly, blackboard shade.'"  Whatever.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art c.1965
Christopher Hawthorne observes that Peter Zumthor's latest proposal, "....reflects his growing sense that in the earlier versions he'd tried perhaps too hard to make the museum a loose-limbed, site-specific tribute to the tar pits and the car culture of Wilshire Boulevard." Mr. Zumthor admitted, "I started out trying to come up with a shape that would work for the whole site and maybe for the whole city...The forms were trying to arrange themselves softly, maybe biomorphically.  And then it had to stretch over the street."  Now, more confidently, Mr, Zumthor said "The shape has developed more character and self-assurance.  I still want it to be friendly to the site-but at the same time have a strength of its own."  Perhaps if the current Los Angeles County Museum of Art proposal reflected more of a Southern California sensibility, it would be site-friendly.  This only comes from an architect who better understands the region and can translate this understanding into good design.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Shared Sense of Place


Chicago Old Town
Chicago, Illinois
Hello Everyone:

How about that.  We are up to 30,000 page views in a little over two years.  You all are the most amazing audience a person could have. Thank you so much for your continued support.

At historicpca.blogspot.com we talk a lot about old places and they are so vital to our ever changing world.  Tom Mayes of the National Trust for Historic Preservation gives us another reason to care about old places, community. "Old places foster community."  Dennis Hockman, the editor-in-chief of Preservation magazine, lives near Baltimore, Maryland and recently shared with Mr. Mayes his thoughts on why old neighborhoods matter.  Old places derive their sense of community from "...a shared sense of place, to the storytelling that happens in old neighborhoods, to the way people and gather on common ground."  Specifically, "People matter more than buildings, than things...but the spirit of the people-the heartbeat of the community-is in the old things."

Minneapolis Warehouse District
Minneapolis, Minnesota

One way old places foster a sense of community is in their personalities (ask people in Historic South Central Los Angeles), evidenced in the way public squares or parks act as magnets for daily public gatherings. (www.savethepostoffice.com, accessed by Mr. Mayes Feb. 28, 2015)  An old place's personality is also felt in the way people in some communities appear to encounter exactly the person they need to see at that particular moment.  It sounds strange, especially if you live in an old place within a larger urban context but sometimes it does happen.  People have a sense of pride in where they live, they identify with it, they can efficiently run their lives where they live.  There is a sense of connection, interconnection and enmeshment where they live.  When people leave their communities, they experience a sense of longing, disconnection.  When yours truly moved to the Bay Area, Blogger also experienced a sense of homesickness.  Oddly enough, when yours truly returned to Los Angeles, Blogger experienced that very same sense of disconnection all over again.

Larimer Square
Denver, Colorado
Tom Mayes asks, "But how do old places, old buildings, old cities and town foster community?  What particular role do old places play?"  To answer that question, Mr. Mayes turned to writer Wendell Berry who said, "A community is the mental and spiritual condition of know that the place is shared." (Berry, 61, 2012)  Architectural critic Paul Goldberg echoes this point, "In an age in which we travel from private houses in little enclosed metal boxes on wheels into private office cubicles and then back again...there is precious little sense of shared experience in our lives, or at least precious few times in which shared experience is expressed in terms of a common physical place."  (Goldberger, speech given 2007)

Older communities are frequently places where the residents share a common space, experience, and shared sense of meaning.  The people within the community share a sense of identity and character, signified by the old places that act as local landmarks.  Tom Mayes cites a survey conducted by Sand Shannon that asked people if they preferred old or new buildings.  When Ms. Shannon reviewed the results, she concluded that, "....most people believing that historic resources are community assets and preservation is an important community service, even in comparison to other services considered important, such as economic development and public landscaping." (Shannon, Masters Thesis for USC Dec. 2014)

La Jolla Post Office
La Jolla, California

One example of how old places encourage a sense of community is how we experience the post office.  Fortunately, the post office in La Jolla, California (left) is far more architecturally distinct then Blogger's local post office.  Typically, the post office is located in the center of town and acts as a meeting place and community landmark.  (www.savethepostoffice.com, accessed by Mr. Mayes Feb. 28, 2015)  The role of the post office as a community focal point is one reason people fiercely battle to keep them.  Mr. Mayes cites a recent newspaper article from Milton, Tennessee that capture the reason why post offices help foster a sense of community:

* Resident Michelle Eastman said "The history is great, but the convenience of it being here is better."
* While Milton's strong families are still in place, the symbols they make the community are at risk of going away.  In turn, they town and its leaders are  willing to fight to try to keep its longtime identity in place.
* When you don't have a gather place to go to, you start to lose your identity.
(Wilson, "Milton residents to keep Milton's community identity, accessed by Mr. Mayes Feb. 15, 2015)

Lexington Market 1885

Post offices are but one of a myriad of old places that provide a sense of community.  Schools, places of worship, town squares, streets, and so forth all play a role in a people's sense of shared places.  In planner's speak, a place such as the Lexington Market (left) are referred to as "community assets."  Quoting planner Jeffrey Soule who wrote on how communities "map" their shared assets, Mr. Mayes writes,

A key way to engage the community and gather specific data regarding how people use space and ultimately what they value, cultural mapping starts by asking the question "Where are the places in your community that are important to you?"

This is first don as a list-making exercise to identify the places within a community that people value: local meeting places, locations which serve to build community cohesion, spiritual sites, places of visual quality, and others.  Participants then go out into the community and actually map where these values and activities are found...{material omitted]....After site visits, the determine the threats to maintaining that place in the community. (Soule, "Using the Historic Urban Landscape Approach, accessed by Mr. Mayes Mar. 8, 2015)

Werne's Row, 4th and Hill
Louisville, Kentucky
In older communities, many of these assets are already established, and the communal determinants exist.  Tom Mayes writes, "The old buildings, streets, and parks may already be designed for walkability and interaction. These places may already have gathered stories over time, from the memory of the quirky family who lived in the house on the corner, to recollections about the crotchety old man who warned the kids off his lawn, to the reminiscences about schools that generations of families attended."  Every building, street, and even the trees act as landmarks for sharing the stories that give people a shared sense of community and a feeling of community that transcends time.

For over twenty years planners, preservationists, academicians, and civilians have wrung their hands over the way sprawl has wrecked the American landscape, diminished the individuality of places, and gutted the vibrancy of older towns and cities.  In short, how sprawl destroyed community.  New urbanists champion the idea of placemaking-"the design of new places to foster a distinctiveness of places and sense of community." (http://www.cnu.org/charter)  The problem with this is that new places lack the history that older places have and often can feel like interlopers rather than part of the community. Developers promote the walkability design of new places, open spaces, public squares, mixed retail, residential, and work places that are all intended to foster human interaction, avoid automobile travel, in short create conditions that seed community. (In the rush to develop a sense of place, what gets overlooked is that older places already function well and have all the elements necessary in place)  Blogger agrees with Mr. Mayes's observation that these conditions are the very thing that are already built into old places.

A view of Quince Street from Locust Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
While the effort of the New Urbanists to manufacture a sense of place is a good idea, one thing that does get overlooked is real communities take time to develop.  Tom Mayes writes, "Community develops through the interaction between people and place over time.  We cannot build a community-we can only foster the conditions in which communities can grow and thrive." Communities grow and thrive in an organic manner.  They develop with a diversity of ages, incomes, and ethnicities.  In Urbanism Without Effort, Charles Wolfe discusses "that real urbanism, is best when it is recognized where it already exists and has developed organically." Specifically, Mr. Wolfe writes, "I believe the best urbanism is often the urbanism we already have, and that understanding the organic nature of this 'urbanism without effort' is key."  (Wolfe, Kindle Location 426-29, 2013)  If yours truly did not know any better, Blogger would think that Jane Jacobs is writing these statements because they echo the very same sentiments she wrote back in 1961.

Thames Street on Fell's Point
Baltimore, Maryland

Tom Mayes readily admits, "...not all old places are successful communities.  Some old neighborhoods are unsafe, undervalue, and (for the moment) undesirable on the real estate market, and do not provide their residents with adequate economic, educational or other opportunities."  In these particular neighborhoods, focusing on old places as community can play a part in revitalizing a community in such a way that its value increase by their residents and newcomers. One component for success, where there is re-investment, is the existence of old places that provide a communal sense of shared history, identity, and memory.  Tom Mayes cites a study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Preservation Green Lab conducted in the cities of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland which identified neighborhoods that could be successful with government sector investment.  The key element are the older, smaller buildings.  (NTHP Preservation Green Lab, "Place Based Metrics, accessed by Mr. Mayes Feb. 28, 2015)

Georgetown Canal
Georgetown, Washington D.C,

While older small buildings can foster a sense of community, the loss of said buildings can lead to a loss of community.  Quoting former National Trust president Richard Moe's book, which he co-authored with Carter Wilke Changing Places Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl, Mr. Mayes writes, "Like individuals, a community can fall victim to amnesia, can lose the memory of what it was, and thereby lose touch with what it is and what it was meant to be.  The loss of community memory happens most frequently and most dramatically in the destruction of familiar landmarks that are themselves familiar reminders of who were, what we believed, and where we were headed." (Moe and Wilke, 261, 1997)  When a landmark is lost it means a valuable community asset is gone for good.  That asset may have helpful in reversing the decline of a specific community and diminish the character defining feature the resident shared.

Everything that Tom Mayes wrote in his post smacks identical to what Jane Jacobs wrote over fifty years ago.  What makes this different is that they are getting a closer look in the context of growing urbanization and sustainability.  Old places matter for a long list of reasons, chief of which is they offer a close connection between people.  We live in an age where shared experience means experiencing something online.  It is not a true experience because there is no tangible connection.  An old place offers that tangible connection. You can go to a place, experience it with all yours, be part of it.  It becomes part of DNA.  It is a truly shared sense of place.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Older, Smaller and Place Continuity


Renovated Brownstone
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Hello Everyone:

In yesterday's post, we talked about the role of place and memory using Tom Mayes's article "Why Do Old Places Matter? Memory" from his ongoing "Why Do Old Places Matter" series.  Today we are going to look at the role older buildings play in the continuity of a place.  Our guide is Kaid Benfield's blog post "Older buildings, continuity of places, and the human experience," for the Natural Resources Defense Council staff blog Switchboard.

Kaid Benfield starts his post with this statement, "I have been trying trying to understand what makes historic places special to so many of us."  Historic places are a rarity in the United States and it seems that for the past several decades, what passes for vernacular architect (strip malls, subdivisions, office buildings) have become uniformly bland boring boxes.  Mr. Benfield concedes, "While that isn't literally true-some exciting buildings are being designed and built, some nourishing new places are being fashioned-the best of our older buildings and neighborhoods have a distinctiveness in them, almost by default."  However, Mr. Benfield suspects is something operating at deeper level.  Something that pulls toward older places because they center us in the time space continuum.  There is emerging scholarship that tells older functions better.  Regardless, there is something very powerful about an older building or place that has us wrapped in their spell.

Vignette of Avondale Estates, Georgia

Continuity of place

Kaid Benfield begins with his definition of continuity of place.  He writes,

We've all had the experience of being in a setting that has been changed in a major way-by demolition of a groups of buildings or by the rise of new ones-since the last time we were there.  Sometimes the change can occur in as little as a week.  Things seem off, disorienting, anxiety-provoking as we try to get our bearings and tap into our memories of what used to be.  When continuity is disrupted, it can be jarring.

To underscore this point, Mr. Benfield cites Tom Mayes's post for the Preservation Leadership, which spoke about the positive associations with continuity:

[T]he idea of continuity is that, in a world that is constantly changing, old places provide people with a sense of being part of continuum that is necessary for them to be psychologically and emotionally healthy.  This is an idea that people have long recognized as an underlying value of historic preservation though not often explained.  In With Heritage So Rich, the idea of continuity is capture in the phrase 'sense of orientation,' the idea that preservation gives 'a sense of orientation to our society, using structures, and objects of the past to establish values of time and place.'

Historic Detroit-area neighborhood
Tom Mayes elaborates his pointing by quoting an essay written by architect Juhani Pallasmaa, who emphasizes the idea of time in connection to our experience of older places:

We have a mental need to experience that we are rooted in the continuity of time.  We do not only inhabit space, we dwell in time...Buildings and cities are museums of time.  They emancipate use from the hurried time of the present, and help use to experience the slow, healing tim of the past.  Architecture enables use to see and understand the slow processes of history and to participate in time cycles that surpass the scope of individual life.

There is something very fascinating about the statement "Buildings and cities are museum of time."

Colorful brooms in East Los Angeles
James Rojas
Research on place attachment and continuity

International academic scholarship supports the idea of place attachment and continuity.  Humans crave consistency in the places they inhabit.  The slightest of change can have a disruptive effect.  In researching this post, Mr. Benfield came across a paper by Professor Norisdah Ujang on "Place Attachment and Continuity of Urban Place Identity."  Prof. Ujang's thesis is "that uniform concepts of planning and 'the commodification of place'-everything looking like everything else-weakens identity and attachment to particular place." The researchers of the study surveyed 300 users  of Kuala Lampur's three main shopping streets, concluding "that familiarity of a place contributes to a feeling of psychological comfort, while 'psychological discomfort and strong emotional expressions' are 'strongly felt as a reaction against physical changes and unfit interventions.'"

Greenville, South Carolina
Dan Burden/PBIC
The study concludes with recommendations for planners to take steps to reinforce, not disrupt place identity and integrity, with the goal of "to ensure continuity of place identity through proper understanding of places as physical and psychological dimensions of human experience."  It sounds a little like a recommendation to encase a place in amber but it is not, continuity of place identity can be accomplished through proper resource management, which is what preservation and planning are all about.

Another key element of the shared architectural legacy is the fact that it is a shared experience. Collectively, we experience and are comforted by the continuity of an older place.  Think town squares and the court houses, your place of worship, your school, even that funny old Spanish colonial house down the block from where you grew up.  Those places, however aesthetically pleasing, are part of the ties that bind us and would come apart if they were ever rapidly changed.  In short, it is not just my legacy but your legacy too.

The Gamble House (1908)
Charles and Henry Greene
Pasadena, California
Cultural engagement

Cultural engagement is a very important part of continuity of place but, at the same time, a little different.  Unfamiliar older places, which we have no sense of continuity, can also exert a powerful good experience.  Think of coming upon Horyu-ji in Japan or an ancient settlement in India for the first time.  These places are magical for the very reason because it is your first time experiencing it, no sense of continuity.  Rather than being a source of comfort, they challenge our imagination to conjure up images of what might have passed-a feeling of "if these wall could talk," foster a connection of a culture long past in a way we might never have imagined.  They teach us and provide us with tools for a greater world view-"a view that taps into past wisdom-that we can then bring to more contemporary experience."

If you noticed, Blogger chose The Gamble House in Pasadena, California for this section.  While choice may have been random, the house is an engagement of a California long gone, when the state was coming into its own.  Walking through the house, you realize that people lived their lives here, doing all the things people did in 1908.  There is a palpable sense of "if these walls could talk." Today it is owned and managed by the University of Southern California, which runs a scholars-in-residence program and offers tours on the weekend.  It is interesting to watch how people behave when they walk through it the first time, afraid to touch or breath on something.  Yet, they forget that someone lived here, put their feet up on the furniture, spilled things on the carpet.  That is a life.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
Contribution to city vitality

Jane Jacobs was absolutely right.  Take that Robert Moses.  A report released by the National Trust for Historic Preservation titled, Older, Stronger, Better, confirmed that older, smaller places are a source of urban vitality.  The National Trust used statistical analysis of the built environment of three major American cities: Seattle, Washington D.C, and San Francisco, finding "...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."  The important point here is the diversity that older buildings bring to an urban neighborhood.  Citing the report, Kaid Benfield writes:

Buildings of diverse vintage and small scale provide flexible, affordable space for entrepreneurs launching new businesses and serve as attractive settings for new restaurants and locally owned shops.  They offer diverse housing choices that attract younger residents and create human-scale places for walking shopping, and social interaction.

Rochester, Michigan
Hazel Borys
The study was conducted by the National Trust's Green Lab in conjunction with partner organizations who "...relied on spatial analysis to determine the relative role of building age, diversity of age, and size, alongside other measures.  More than 40 performance metrics were considered, including cultural vibrancy, real estate performance, transportation options and intensity of human activity.  In comparing urban neighborhoods with smaller older buildings to ones with newer larger buildings, the study concluded that smaller older buildings had several advantages:

Older districts have more population density and more businesses per commercial square feet.
Older, smaller buildings support the local economy with more non-chain, locally owned businesses.
Older business districts offer greater opportunities for entrepreneurship, including women and minority-owned businesses.
Cultural outlets thrive in older, mixed-use neighborhoods.
Older, mixed-use neighborhoods have higher Walk Score and Transit Score ratings
Older buildings attract more young people and a more diverse age group.
There is more nightlife on streets with a diverse range of building ages.

While the findings are more skewed to an urban context, the methodology is quite rigorous and definitely worth checking out at http://www.preservationnation.org.

Queen Street
Toronto. Canada
Julia Campbell
Contribution to environmental sustainability

At the risk of stating the very obvious, Mr. Benfield writes, "...we don't need data to demonstrate the performance of older buildings: their continued existence already proves that they are here, in fact, been sustained over times.  That said, we do have data, at least with respect to environmental sustainability."

Specifically, a study released by the Preservation Green Lab in 2012 revealed that "it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative energy and climate change impacts caused in its construction process."  The research methodology studied six different building types, in four climatically diverse cities in the United States: Portland, Oregon; Phoenix, Chicago, and Atlanta.  The data was assembled and analyzed for six different types of building use (or reuse for older buildings).  The building types included: single family home, multi-family buildings, commercial building, mixed-use, "urban-villages," schools, and warehouse conversions.  The study also looked at the affect of geography, energy performance, electricity-grid mix, building type and lifespan have on the overall environmental performance of new construction and older buildings.

H Street, Washington D.C.
The bold faced finding from the study were:

Building reuse typically offers greater near-term environmental savings than demolition and new construction.  For five of the six building types considered in the study, it can take 10 to 80 years for a new building that is 30 percent more efficient than an average-performing existing building to overcome the negative climate impacts related to the construction process.

Benefits are maximized when building reuse is practiced at scale.  For example, retrofitting, rather than demolishing and replacing, just one percent of Portland's office buildings and single family homes over the next decade would help meet 15 percent of Multnomah County's total CO2 reduction targets over the next decade.

The greatest environmental benefits of reuse are achieved by minimizing the import of new construction.

What is the environmental edge that older buildings have over newer ones?  Older smaller buildings were built to be more in tune with climatic conditions than newer buildings.  This is evidenced in the thickness of the walls, the height of the ceilings, proper ventilations, and sensitive solar orientation

Place continuity is about managing change in the built environment so that an older smaller building retains its historic fabric without being encased in amber.  Managing change must be deliberate and thoughtful so that it accommodates changing use in a respectful manner.  Change is good, change can nourish experience without diminishing the experience.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Place and Memory


Caffe Reggio
Manhattan, New York
James and Karla Murray
Hello Everyone:

Memory is a powerful thing, especially memories of places.  Memories of places can be happy ones like a sipping a delicious perfectly made cappuccino at a charming sidewalk cafe on a sunny with someone you love.  Places can also evoke sad memories such as the room of my parents previous home, where my dad passed away on the sofa.

Today we revisit Tom Mayes's ongoing series "Why Do Old Places Matter?" to look at how old places play a role in memory.  In short, "Old places help us to remember."  Whether they are good, bad, or indifferent memories, architect Mary DeNadai put it best, "Old buildings are like memories you can touch."  It is a very succinct way of explaining how old places, regardless of building type, serve as containers and are embodiments for our memories.

Quote from The Lamp of Memory
Seven Lamps of Architecture (1880)
John Ruskin
The connection between place and memory is a universal effect.  Nineteenth century architectural critic John Ruskin acknowledged this phenomena in The Lamp of Memory, from Seven Lamps of Architecture  (1880).  He wrote, "We may live without her, and worship without her, but we cannot remember without her."  Mr. Mayes asks, "But how important are places to memory?  Does preserving old places-and the memories they represent-matter?  Do the individual and collective memories embodied in old places help people have better lives?"

To answer this important questions, Tom Mayes first turned to Randall Mason, the chair of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania. Prof. Mason told Mr. Mayes. "Memory is essential part of consciousness."  Think Marcel Proust's (in) famous madeleine which triggered his memories of a place.  Memory has been and continues to be the subject of much scholarship emanating from philosophers, scientists, writers, historians, to Sigmund Freud, to historian Pierre Nora who coin the phrase Lieux de Memoire-"Site of Memory."  Among the volumes of academic writings on place and memory, much analysis and criticism has been centered on the way memory is formed or manipulated, including what preservationists choose to champion and why.  Nevertheless, when accounting for what preservationists choose to save and why, "...most of these writers seem to support what the geographers Steven Hoelsher and Derek Alderman refer to as" "...inextricable link between memory and place." (Hoelsher, Social & Cultural Geography, 348, 2004)  Places hold our memories, even when they are controversial or questioned.  As Messr Hoelsher and Alderman write, "What...groups share in their efforts to utilize the past is the near universal activity of anchoring their divergent memories in place."

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Places are also important triggers for individual memory, such as personal memories and collective memories shared by society at large.  Citing Diane Barthel's discussion on the relationship between individual and collective memory regarding religious buildings in Historic Preservation: Collective Memory and Historic Identity, Mr. Mayes writes:

Religious structures play a specifically significant part in the collective memory as places where moment of personal history become part of the flow of collective history.  This collective history transcends individual experiences and lifetimes."  (Barthel, Kindle Locations 1199-1200)

Think about the important national sites that bear witness to the blending of these two types of history and how they are linked to place.  Think about the World Trade Center or the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial.

One mechanism that drives the connection between place and memory is mnemonic aids-they remind us of individual memories (Proust's madeleine) and collective memories (the song We Shall Overcome), yet they also move people to investigate broader social memories they do not fully recognize.  Quoting Pierre Nora, Mr. Mayes writes, "Memory takes root in the concrete, in spaces, gestures, images, and objects..." (Nora, Les Lieux des Memoire)

Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center towers
Tom Mayes refers to environmental psychologist Maria Lewicka and studies on "historical traces" and "urban reminders."  Ms. Lewicka states, 

Urban reminders, the leftovers from previous inhabitants of a place, may influence memory of places either directly, by conveying historical information, or indirectly-by arousing curiosity and increasing motivation to discover the place's forgotten past. (Lewicka, Journal of Environmental Psychology 28, 211, 214, 2008)

Key points to remember, "Old places seem to both to trigger memories people already have, give specificity to memories, and arouse curiosityabout memories people don't know."

Slave cabin in Barbour County near Eufaula, Alabama
Tom Mayes now poses the question, "...why is this 'place memory' important?"  Reminding the reader of an earlier post about community, Mr. Mayes writes, "...that old places contribute to a sense of continuity that is necessary for people.  Memory contributes to the sense of continuity.  Memory also gives people identity-both individual and a collective identity." Citing Steven Hoelsher and Derek Alderman, he continues, 

Whether one refers to 'collective memory,' 'public memory,' 'historical memory,' 'popular memory,'  or 'cultural memory.' most would agree with Edward Said [who stated] that many 'people now look to this refashioned memory especially in its collectives forms, to give themselves a coherent identity, a national narrative, a place in the world.  (Hoelsher, 348-49)

It is that sense of identity, provided by memory, that defines who we are as individuals and as a society.

Vietnam Veteran's Memorial (1982)
Maya Lin
Washington D.C,
Memories and identities can also be contested. People have argued over the meaning and significance of old places such as: restored southern plantation houses which may evoke the memories of slavery, a battlefield that could recall memories of the victors and vanquished.  Even memorials like Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial and the World Trade Center have the subject of debates over their significance and appropriateness.  Even the conception of old place change over time-be reinterpreted as our conception of who we are changes.

The important to remember is, "The fact that these argument occur highlights the importance of the place.  Regardless of conflicting points of view, the place itself transcends a specific interpretation.  The place is the vortex, the common ground, the center-point, and the focus where divergent views about memory can be felt and expressed."  A place's continued existence allows for that revision, reinterpretation, and reevaluation of memory to take place over time.  Citing Paul Goldberger, Mr. Mayes writes, "the continued existence of the place....allows new memories to be created."  As a person trained in historic preservation, Blogger was taught to assess the significance of a historic sites from the context of architecture and design.  However, Mr. Mayes asks us to consider the words of late New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp who wrote, "The essential feature of a landmark is not its design, but the place it holds in a city's memory.  Compared to the place it occupies in social history, a landmark's artistic qualities are incidental."  (New York Times, 2006)

Memories survive even after a place is long gone.  Think of all the wonderful and not so wonderful places you have been to in each of your lifetimes, thus far.  One of my favorite places to eat was Ed Debevic's on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles.  It was a fifties type diner where the servers dressed up in costume and entertained the guests as well as serve great food.  The place is gone but the memory lingers.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Is Important To You?


Urban Meadow
Hello Everyone:

Do you ever wonder why you chose the city, town, or community you call home?  Was it the schools, the location to where you work or go to school, cultural vibrancy, or it is the trendiest place to live?  There are a lot of factors that go into deciding where a person wants to live.  Deciding where to live is not just a matter of a pin drop on a map, it means having to set up a life in the chosen city.  Gillian B. White's article for The Atlantic, "What Do American Prioritize When Picking a Place to Live" explores the reasons why people choose a city or community to live.  The same reasons apply almost anywhere you go in the world.  Everyone has their own reason for choosing a place to live and this article is look at what Americans prioritize in choosing a place to live.

Tree-lined neighborhood in Portland, Oregon
Gillian B. White reports, "...the most recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll suggests that there a few things Americans agree on when it comes to picking a place to build a life."  An overwhelming 90 percent of respondents said that equal opportunities for upward mobility, through education and employment opportunities was one of the most important factors in deciding where to live.  Further, more than 75 percent of the respondents thought that ethnic and racial diversity was a positive feature for a community.  This 75 percent, including Blogger, believe that a diverse community was a positive feature.  While about half of the respondents preferred living among those who shared similar political and religious beliefs.

The Allstate/National Journal poll also asked people "what elements made a city or town a good place to live, the poll also asked Americans how they felt communities were performing on these measures."  Seventy-four percent of the respondents reported that they believed their communities were place of equal opportunity for upward mobility.  One person, Melanie Thompson, agrees with this comment.  Ms. Thompson has lived in the Jackson, Michigan area all her life and says, "that the area provides resources and support for people of different income levels to enhance their educational attainment and careers."  According to Ms. Thompson, "I'm currently going to the community college, I've been out of school for years and even when I was in school, there were lower-income kids who automatically got two free years [at the college]."  Ms. Thompson works at a national fast food restaurant and though she would prefer another job, she credits her town for being family friendly and providing employment opportunities.

Madison Street
Chicago, Illinois
photograph by J.R,Schmidt
However, not every place won accolades from the residents.  Devin Townsend of Cleveland, Ohio unequivocally said his city was not the place to get ahead.  Mr. Townsend said, "There aren't many opportunities.  It's actually getting worse: the job rate, and the crime rate to due to the job rate."  He thinks that more jobs are necessary but that is not reality of the current situation.  While there are opportunities, they are not available to everyone.  Access to economic opportunities within a given community factored into the positive reviews of  respondents.  The responses were divided along racial lines: Caucasian respondents were more likely to give their community a favorable rating then African-American or Latino respondents.  The responses were also based on economic standing: those in a higher income bracket gave their communities more positives reviews for available economic opportunities then those on the lower economic strata.

Cafe Berlin
Washington D.C,
Gillian B. White writes, "While there was a great deal of consensus about the importance of creating opportunities for everyone to get ahead, those who identified as minorities or Democrats were more likely to rate racial and ethnic diversity as important elements of their communities who were white, or belonged to other political parties."  Blogger wonders if someone who identifies as white Democrat would also rank racial and ethnic diversity high on the list of communal priorities or if someone who is an African-American Republican would place political and philosophical homogeneity higher on the community priority list.

Quoting Melanie Thompson, "...her once-homogenous community in Jackson, Michigan, has gotten more diverse since she was a child,"  Ms. Thompson says, "When I was in school, it was mostly a white area but it's changed.  It's quite diverse."  While Ms. Thompson supports a more racial mixed town, it is not a priority for her, "It's not huge deal, but it's better.  With every different ethnicity it's more knowledge, the more you know the better off you are," say Ms. Thompson.  Almost 75 percent of Americans believed that their communities were places of ethnic and racial diversity.  Caucasian and Latino agreed with the statement "that their communities were diverse at lower levels than black Americans, who more likely to report that they lived around people of different races and ethnicities."

What do you prioritize when deciding where to live?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cities Are Just A State Of Mind


Mission Hills Park
San Diego, California
Hello Everyone:

Places evoke many feelings.  For example, take a walk in a park, on a sunny day.  Unless you are suffering from bad allergies, chances are you will feel happier.  However, step on a pile of dog manure and your lighter mood turns sours over the prospect of having to scrape the odorous mess off your shoe.Sarah Laskow, in her recent Next City article, "'Urban Mind' App Will Examine How Cities Encourage Our Addictions," writes "...scienists have only recently begun to tease out how place and mental health are intertwined-how more trees might help prevent or alleviate depression..." While there is relatively little information on how the physical environment affects mental, particularly its impact on addiction behavior, empirical data tells us that a person's state of mind is affected by their surroundings.

Man smoking a cigarette
Is your compulsive need to check your social media feeds, smoke, or have a drink linked to where your live or work?  Does a fast paced environment encourage addictive behaviors as opposed to a place that is bright and airy?  These are some of the questions the Van Alen Institute, New York City, are asking in their new project "Ecologies of Addiction.  The Institute is studying how "vulnerability to addiction is related to environment."  By looking at the less obvious relationship between people and their place, The Institute's director of research Anne Guiney hopes to find out "how we are shaped by urban environments-our minds, our psyche, our well-being."

"Ecologies of Addiction"
During the project's first phase, a neurologist, two landscape architects, and an artist are developing an app to gather information about how places affect people and their impulse control, on of the risk factors for addictive behavior.  The app goes live at the of the month and will include two hundred London-based volunteers.  Each of the volunteers will download the "Urban Mind" app to their phones and commit to providing answers to questions several times a day, at random times, "about how they're feeling where they are and what sort of place that is."

Lead researcher, Andrea Mechelli, is a neuroscientist at King's College in London and a clinical psychologist.  Mr. Mechelli's speciality is psychosis, and the majority of his patients are at risk for addiction, marijuana in particular.  However, Mr. Mechelli and his team: artist Michael Smyth, landscape architects Johanna Gibbons and Neil Davidson of J & L Gibbons are not focused on people with dangerous additions.  London has the unfortunate reputation of being a city of tipplers and everyone, to some degree, is hooked on their internet connection.  The volunteers were recruited via the King's College website; a serious alcohol-addiction problem was not a requirement to participate in the study.

The "Urban Mind" app for the iPhone
"We're on a spectrum," says Mr. Mechelli.  He continues, "It's not divided between people who are healthy and will never develop addictive behaviors and people who will be addicts.  We all come wit some sort of background vulnerability, and our life experiences, make us more or less vulnerable." The Van Alen Institutes hopes to use design as a way to change places, "cities, landscapes and regions, and, as a result, make people's lives better."  Under the leadership of executive director David van der Leer, the research institute has been exploring the concept of "escape."  Previous parts of studies have centered on physical escapes, however, "Ecologies of Addiction" looks at emotional (not positive) escapes.  Says Mr. van der Leer, "Escape is part of that...Sometimes you want to escape physically.  Sometimes you can only escape mentally.  We were looking understand those types of escapes more."

"Urban Mind" app screen shot
The Urban Mind app is based on a long standing clinical tool-"ecological momentary assessment-" which asks the subjects, at various intervals, to answer questions about their state of mind throughout the day.  Sarah Laskow writes, "Information gathered in this way can be more revealing than information reported in diaries or during doctor visits."  When Mr. Mechelli read the call for proposals from The Institute and its partner, Sustainable Society Network at Imperial College, calling for a multidisciplinary team to assess the link between the urban environment and addiction-he believed the tool could be used to begin understanding this reciprocal relationship.  He was already acquainted with Johanna Gibbons and Michael Smythe when Mr. Mechelli rang them up to discuss working together on the project.  Both Ms. Gibbons and Mr. Smythe were enthusiastic.  Together, with Ms. Gibbons taking the lead, the trio worked on a definition of the built environment.

After a preliminary background assessment, including demographic questions and some measuring personality, the app asks for simple asks simple questions: "Is there a view outside" and "Is it noisy?" Taking graphic cues, the respondents tap "yes, not sure," or "no." There an option to collect more qualitative data such as sound recordings of photographs.  The app also asks the respondents how much time they spend online and how much alcohol they have consumed.  Blogger speculates that there might be some inaccuracies in reporting the information on the previous two questions on the part of the respondents.  There are other questions intended to measure impulse control, connected to addictive behavior.

Ecologies of Addiction launch
Sarah Laskow writes, "But that's exactly why collecting data in this way could inform urban planning decisions.  Not everyone has the same reaction to external stimuli, and in the past planners had few resources outside their own experience, to understand how their design might foster mental health."  Mr. Mechelli, the neuroscientist learned from Ms. Gibbons the landscape architect, that planning decisions are frequently based on common sense or assumptions.  However, Mr. Mechelli points out, "But what is common sense for one person is not for others...People bring different assumptions to the table because they have different interests."

Andrea Mechelli continues, "We can use digital technologies to try to understand how the  built environment affects our well-being and our health, maybe it sounds a bit too optimistic, but I think it must be possible to build better environments."  While the Ecologies of Addiction project may sound like it has potential to personalize experiences in built environments, it also holds the possibility of engineering the built environment in such a way that it controls human responses to external stimuli and turn cities into sterile places.  Despite this ambivalence on Blogger's part, Mr. Mechelli adds, "It seems an obvious thing to do, but it's not really happening.  Often urban planning is motivated by other reasons.  Why should not be motivated by people's well-being and health?"

At the most basic level, it is not that difficult to comprehend how the built environment can affect mood, ferreting out the link between addictions and space shed light on one of the darker aspects of urban living.  Yet, Blogger wonders how digital technology will used to deal with addiction behavior?  David van der Leer says, "If we can learn about how addiction is impacted by the environment, we can make many more claims about the urban environment plays a bigger role in our lives than we we really want to admit."  Blogger would like to add this, addiction behavior is also a physical and spiritual malady that affects everyone regardless of socio-economic standing.  It will fascinating to see what data the Ecologies of Addiction project will yield and add to the body to medical and psychological research on addiction.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An Albatross?


UNESCO Headquarters
Paris, France
Hello Everyone:

Today we move on from fighting climate change through better planning to considering the positives and negatives of World Heritage Site status.  The United Nations Economic, Scientific, and Culture Organization defines World Heritage Sites as, "works of man or the combined works of nature and man, and areas including archeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view" (whc.unesco.org)  They may sound all well and fine but sometimes it can be a real albatross around the neck of a city.  Thus, Aylin Orbasil, in a recent post for The Conversation titles "World Heritage status can be a poisoned chalice for cities," asks the readers if World Heritage Site status is helpful or a hinderance.

Edinburgh, Scotland
Take the case of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. The city's World Heritage Site status has recently been the subject of many negative news reports. David Black, a reporter for The Guardian, wrote an article titled, "Why Edinburgh should be stripped of its Unesco world heritage status," demanding UNESCO de-list the city.  While most of the story comes across as a romantic ode to Edinburgh, Mr. Black writes, "It's easy to see why Edinburgh, one of Britain's most beautiful cities, is a magnet to visitors from across the world...Yet, this is a city that consistently undervalues its best asset: its historic centre."  (http://www.theguardian.com, Feb. 11, 2015) UNESCO designated the Scottish capital World Heritage Status in 1995 and in the twenty years hence, the very buildings that compose its historic fabric have been demolished without so much as an eyelash bat from the organization.  Thus, Mr. Black asks, "So what has Unesco world heritage status done for us?  Frankly, it's been an unmitigated disaster, and we'd have been of without it." (Ibid)  Edinburgh is only one case study of whether or not World Heritage Site status is worth the paper it is printed on.  Aylin Orbasil discusses other examples around the world.

Philippine Rice Terrace
The Stampede

World Heritage Site status can be a real benefit to a country's tourism industry.  Ms. Orbasil writes, "Cities worldwide are launching bids to gain the coveted status.  On a recent visit to Oxford, a delegation of high-level officials from China's Sichuan province appeared most intent on finding out how their respective cities could gain it." While a historic town in China may seem a likely candidate for nomination, "...authorities in Dubai are reconstructing an entire historic quarter in hopes that a revised bid to the World Heritage Committee will be successful."  Great Britain has joined Dubai with its recent call for applications to an updated tentative list, attracting bids from historic cities previously of little interest such as York, Blackpool, and Lincoln.

Lijang, China
The rationale

Why are municipal officials so keen on gaining landmark status for cities?  Ms. Orbasil observes, "Alongside more altruistic motives and the pride of global recognition, form many the perception is one of improved economic activity."  While civic leaders should not expect UNESCO to part with every hard pinched penny, World Heritage listing is recognized as a significant tourism generator-so much so, that the organization's guidelines now require a tourism-management plan as part of the application process.  However, the perceived improved economic activity that comes with designation can also be a serious cause for concern.  One example is the former little-known town of Lijang, China.  Since its formal designation in 1997, that very same welcomed tourism has become a genuine threat to the assets the town was hailed for.

Penny Lane (Blogger couldn't resist)
Liverpool, England
In Great Britain, it is a different situation, since World Heritage status is not a major factor in the tourism industry.  This is partly due to heritage tourism centering on Bath, Edinburgh, York, and Oxford, regardless if they are designated or not.  For the record, Bath and Edinburgh are designated Heritage Sites; York and, oddly, Oxford are not designated sites. Ms. Orbasil cites a "recent comparative analysis showed that visitor numbers in Bath, York, and Oxford retained a similar and comparable trajectory that did not single out Bath's special status.  A 2012 study on Liverpool, a site since 2004, cited a sense of local pride and brand identification as more prominent benefits than a surge of cultural heritage tourists."  Blogger speculates that in Liverpool's case, a certain sixties-era quartet may have had something to do with Liverpool's brand identification.  Be that as it may, the nearly "£500,000 cost of preparing a nomination estimated by Pricewaterhouse Coopers in 2007 has not acted as a deterrent to applicants."

The bridge that got Dresden de-listed
The Dresden Bridge
Dresden, Germany
The view from within

The coveted World Heritage Sites title is fraught with problems for cities, if the David Black article in The Guardian is any indication.  A few years ago, Liverpool was listed as an endangered site, threatened with de-listing.  The cause for it was a series of major projects including "...the Fourth Grace, a tall mega-development planned for Liverpool Pier that was later dropped."  Then there is the case of the infamous Dresden Bridge.  The city was also placed on the endangered list when municipal officials decided that an eyesore bridge connecting two sides of the city was key to development than World Heritage status. Needless to say, World Heritage Site was withdrawn in 2009.

Aerial of the Royal Crescent
Bath, England
Cities aren't archaeological sites

Aylin Orbasil asks, "But what really is the cause of such conflicts, and indeed is World Heritage status worth it for cities?"  One source of angst is the nomination process, evaluation, management guidelines, and monitoring of the sites set down by UNESCO is, for better or worse, a one-size-fits-all package.  Upon further examination of the designation process of historic town and the organization's  expectations for their management presents a infrastructure that is best suited for a fenced off archaeological sites than a living breathing city.  Ms. Orbasil points out, "This becomes more apparent in the UNESCO follows its procedures in collaboration with the relevant local authorities, and in how it reviews and monitors major major planning applications with site boundaries..."  A small group of experts sent by UNESCO has requested a review of a proposed scheme and report back any potential affects.  Their briefing document was limited, but so are the opportunities to establish a long-term understanding of a place.

Another issue complicating matters are management plans that currently required for WHS application are a lost opportunity.  Management plans are great for archaeological sites or managed sites but not so great for urban sites.  Ms. Orbasil writes, "Historic urban areas require different strategies that fit a city's development plan.  While setting out limitations, these would be more attuned to the area's development aspirations."  Flexibility in a WHS management plan would acknowledge the fact that a city's historic character is constantly evolving as well as the complexities involved in the decision making process.  Thus, "Such a framework established at the outset, agreed at city level and then with UNESCO, would provide clearer direction to property owners, developers and UNESCO-appointment monitors.  This in turn would provide a greater transparency to the process that could ultimately allow historic areas to evolve within their broader urban context without losing the characteristics that them special in the first place."

Thus, Edinburgh must decide what is more important, preserving the historic characters of the Old and New Towns or tearing down the very places that drawn visitors annually and putting high-rises and retail/commercial developments?  Can Edinburgh find a better way?  Can UNESCO require site management plans that recognize the evolving nature of cities?  Or is World Heritage Site status simply an albatross around cities's necks?