Friday, January 11, 2013

History Is Important To Our Culture

Famous Chicago Theater
Continuity and history is moving to the forefront of cultural values . Modern values have been measured and often found lacking. People have the need to feel more connected and anchored to the places they grew up, being able to say “I played under that tree” or “we use to swim in that fountain” fills an important emotional need. The cities of Europe and many other parts of the world fill that need in a special way.

As American cities renovate they have a tendency to do so with a heavy hand. Often little on none of the original structures remain standing after the architects and planners have their way. This confirms our status as a throw away society. Strong and growing government intervention, ADA requirements and ever changing building codes add substantially to the cost of remodeling but add little or often detracts from the utility value of the end product. Sadly this tends to make buildings prematurely obsolete.

This effort to embrace our history in recent years has spurred cities all over the world to tear out and replace asphalt streets and concrete walks with stone. Monuments that had been dismantled and chucked into corners somewhere during changing political climates are being dusted off, restored and returned to where they had once stood. A new appreciation of our history is growing. In place of contemporary lighting, “antique style” fixtures are back in vogue, wrought iron is again replacing stainless steel. Nowhere is this more obvious then in the heart and core of the worlds oldest cities.

 Today much of the new residential construction in America is of the cookie-cutter urban sprawl variety. A great deal of this is driven by what is in the interest of big developers and not the buyer or society. Remember developers often seek a clear canvas and cheap land on which to build. Builders garner savings from mass production factory like building methods with sites that are in close proximity that reduces travel time for workers. They also love to transfer the cost of upgrading the infrastructure to access the new community to the government. All this skews the direction of growth as business rushes to locate near these new opportunities gutting areas developed only decades ago.

It is important to realize much can be learned about man and his history if we look at how these early cities developed and why. When you travel it is often possible to break down into several categories what you will be seeing, old cities, new cities, and natural wonders and beauty. America needs to adjust codes and policies to help preserve historic structures and allow them to be financially competitive. Enough of  our cookie cutter cities that all look alike, with the same stores, restaurants, and shops. Make sure you do not underestimate the lessons our older cities have to offer.

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