Responsible Preservation

Now near the end of this class, I try to reflect on all the lectures, readings and class discussions I had to find out what I got from this course. We have spent much time studying different principles and strategies which inform and instruct our preservation practice, discussing their strengths and limitations, and talking about their relationships and history of development. I feel that we care more about how to make wiser and more intellectual decisions, for instance by questioning our underlying purposes of preservation, by pursuing a broader conception of sustainability, by centering on diverse values as well as by expanding our considerations into social context in contemporary society.

When we put much emphasis on the practice of preservation itself, little attention is drawn to the impacts that this practice would impose on the surrounding environment or the urban landscape in which the heritage is situated.

In order not to be criticized as being isolated from the context, some professionals propose preserving landscape instead of merely working on preserving individual buildings, we also consider more extensive values from economic, political and cultural perspective when we apply values-centered preservation theory. By embracing more elements and features which may have effects on the preservation of the historic heritage, we think that we have established a significant connection with the context or landscape of the heritage and we make decisions based on more comprehensive considerations. It seems that we are trying to improve the performance of our preservation practice and we are in the right direction. But we forget that effects are always mutual and connections can never be one-way. The practice of preservation itself also affects the context and urban landscape where the historic property situates. For example, once we begin to rehabilitate or reconstruct a historic property, we also change its landscape. Additionally, the designation of a historic district can influence the development of its nearby area, resulting in a significant shift in costs of living as well as housing prices in that area.

Therefore, to become a responsible practitioner of historic preservation, we should not restrict our focus on the heritage itself or any other factors in the surrounding landscape or broader social context that affect its preservation, we should also take into consideration how our practice of preservation affect the overall context and urban landscape where the heritage is set. We should remember that historic preservation is a social action, which has significant influences on both physical and social circumstance; it is also a dynamic process in which the interplay between the heritage and its context never stops.

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