Friday, March 17, 2006

"Preservation Ethics 2 comments

Taliesin as Textbook with Jim Erickson and Sid Robinson
Class Notes 6.20.05 | 2:30 to 4:00

What is preservation?
- rehabilitation.
- restoration.
- reconstruction.
(Usually it is a combo of the three)

It is NOT the stopping of change or reversal of change. It has many degrees of intervention... it is the managing of change.

Preservation began in the national parks service preserving our natural environment. Mount Vernon was the first historic preservation of a building. Pamela Anne Cunningham raised money to save George's home. It was saved bacause it was historically significant.

So how broadly do you define significantness???

Then you must ask, what period should it be restored to?

Basic rule of preservation: record what you found & what you did.


Class Response:

Despite the blah nature of my notes, the class was actually pretty interesting. A week ago the school had just visited Wright's Home & Studio in Oak Park ... actually we visited many places including Mies' Farnsworth House, IIT, etc; but the reason I bring up the Home & Studio is that we met with the restoration architect of this recently preserved building.

The Home & Studio is sparkling. Everything is in great condition, frozen as its early 20th century self. It felt very odd. This home was not just being preserved because of its architectural significance, but also because FLLW had lived there. To preserve the home they chose a period of significance, and any changes Wright made to the property were taken out because they were not of the right period. For example, in the studio there originally stood a fireplace made of common brick. Later, Wright covered this fireplace with Roman brick to make it more "prairie style".

However in the restoration, Wright's redecoration was removed and returned to common brick. It was decided that his change to Roman brick was a move to make the house more trendy and sellable. In this instance, the historical accuracy of the home was more important than the wishes of the architect who created it. Therefore I question the validity of this decision.


Anyway, beyond that simple observation, you have to ask yourself what is the point of this restoration? I love that the building is in good, livable condition. However Wright's Home and Studio was designed to be (*shocker*) a home and studio, but now this useful place has been restored into a house museum. A home has been turned into an attraction. What was the point of making it livable? You could have achieved the same affect by just building a replica down the street.

Buildings are born, they live, and they die. What does it mean when it has been frozen in time? Embalmed? I have not come up with a complete thought when it comes to this issue.

What surprised me more was when I brought these thoughts up in class. Students who in one breath screamed about the vision of the artist and the wrongness of tampering with this vision after death, were completely fine with the restoration. In fact, I was attacked for even questioning the ethics of such an act. Did I miss something?"

--megsw, Taliesin Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture 09/05/05 18:06