Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wonderful Book. Interesting Topic. (Yes, and lots of pictures.)

Richard Sexton assembled a phenominal collection of photographs of buildings on the edge of existance and his text was every bit as interesting. Here's a passage that I found locally relevant:

“Architecture is as undeniably mortal as the humans who build it. The role of the preservationist is merely to thwart an untimely demise. We deny our own mortality by going to extraordinary lengths to prolong human longevity, but we tend to be far more ambivalent with our architecture. In fact, the willingness to tear down almost anything we have built has been a hallmark of American culture – a predilection that has only recently been subjected to serious reevaluation.

America is about progress and migrations, entrepreneurship and the economic exploitation of fertile landscapes. It is also about invention and innovation, hybridization and assimilation. Perhaps most significantly, however, America is about freedom, including the freedom to do whatever on wants with one’s property. America is, therefore, less occupied with tradition, heritage, stewardship, and civic duty than other cultures, including those from which we have directly descended. Though America is a world power economically and militarily, culturally it is merely postcolonial. America is still finding itself, gradually and sometimes painfully; is becoming a more mature and stable place of human habitation – the cultural equivalent of an adolescent, a brash and prodigal one at that.

Along Louisiana’s River Road are scattered some of the most compelling vestiges of our exotic past. Though today we recognize the significance of this architecture, we are somewhat baffled by what to do with it. In far too many cases, there is no longer a logical economic reason for this architecture to exist…”

(Richard Sexton, Vestiges of Grandeur, The Plantations of Louisiana’s River Road, 1999, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, http://www.chroniclebooks.com/)

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