Being Scrupulous or Ambitious

Whatever decision we make or action we take, historic preservation is essentially an intervention exerted on the object, which means that certain degree of change is unavoidable. Since our object comes from the past time, any kind of change once occurred is irreversible. In addition, the pure fact that one object worth preserving implies that it possesses some merits recognized and appreciated by groups of people. At least, to those people it is a valuable and significant legacy passed down from our ancestors.  So it is understandable that most time historic preservation gives us an impression of scrupulousness and carefulness. We take and perform preservation practice seriously. We research, consider and debate again and again before we starts. We think that we are entitled with the responsibility of managing changes and excepting loss. Generally we are afraid of loss and we make every efforts to minimize loss in the process of preservation.

But if loss is natural and inexorable, why don’t we face it rather than being fear of it. This kind of fear is placing considerable restrictions on the possibility of our perspectives as well as our approaches. Faced with the fact of loss, we are forced to reconsider whether doing less necessarily results in less loss and whether preserving scrupulously can diminish the loss. What if we preserve in a more bold and ambitious way. If we treat the practice of historic preservation as the process of creating an art work, involving more events and even designs in preservation, maybe we can tell a more complete and authentic story, and establish a more striking connection between the present and the past.

I don’t mean that we can leave all complicated and intertwined factors or considerations behind when we make decisions. But at least we should not let our historic perspective limit the scope of what is considered significant and the level of our participation. Even our profession is traditionally seen as a theoretically past-oriented field, it can become a great challenge as well as opportunity for us to actively engage in shaping the contemporary function and values of historic properties.


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