Tuesday, October 14, 2014

PNC Conference Recap

I recently attended the Preservation North Carolina annual conference last week. This year's was held in downtown Raleigh and the theme was "1964: The New Historic."

As you can probably tell, several sessions focused on modernism and recognizing resources from our recent past. The conference offered a great primer on modernist buildings, particularly mid-century resources in North Carolina, and the issues and challenges of preserving these for our future.

One of the sessions I attended given by my former professor, Jo Ramsay Leimenstoll, detailed how we need to be looking at the integrity of historic resources from our recent past not only through the lens of its physical historic fabric, but also using a values-based approach. It's interesting to think of the meaning of historic integrity with the community in mind, but it certainly makes a lot of sense and is something to be considered more often. The session also explored the seven aspects of integrity (location, setting, materials, design, workmanship, feeling and association) and how these need to be addressed in terms of preservation and National Register significance for our mid-century resources.

Another session I attended highlighted the ability of lasers and other technologies to record and document buildings to scale as a form of measuring and creating rectified, scaled imaging. It was so cool and really demonstrated just how much new technology is changing the field of architectural history and historic preservation.

And lastly, the keynote speaker on Friday, Steven Semes, offered a really fresh and needed perspective, in my opinion, on designing new and compatible infill in historic districts. So often we preservationists interpret Secretary Standard No. 9 that calls for:

"New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment."

...to mean that we need to be constructing new structures or additions that are clearly and wholly different from the old, yet compatible in massing, scale, etc. This often results in a contemporary addition or infill property that does not fit in with the character of the district or allude to its stylistic character. Semes reminded the audience that it is okay and perhaps better to be designing stylistically compatible buildings that can still be differentiated from the old so that the character and historic integrity of the place or district is not compromised. An infill structure does not have to be modern or contemporary in all cases. It was certainly an interesting stance that I hadn't heard--a backlash to the current line of thinking for a lot of preservation purists.

Unfortunately I did not get to enjoy many of the social gatherings and activities that were offered (the costs of being a new mother, haha!) but I am looking forward to future conferences for sure. Next year's is going to be in Salisbury!

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