Different entities are involved in “creative placemaking”, from the cultural community, to the private sector and local and state government. Each group seeks a particular end and at times “creative placemaking” comes off as a large scale marketing scheme. Most of these “creative hubs” start off with local effort, yet once these become popular and widely recognized, too much promotion may lead to displacement (gentrification will likely follow) and a community’s loss of authenticity. Should there be a range to keep in mind in order to ensure the place remains in service of the community (in a way restrain them from getting too successful)? I believe the reason “creative placemaking” resonates with many is because it markets itself as particular to the surrounding community.
Maintenance of these places seems to be an important issue. However, these spontaneous nodes are not often built to last long. Isn’t ephemeral architecture similar to” creative placemaking”? It’s inexpensive, fast and serves a purpose. The captivating idea is the roughness and vernacular aspect of place making.
If preservation takes a new route, one that does not go after the “remarkable” works, but rather celebrated everyday authenticity, such as what “creative placemaking” seeks to do, would the field then have a larger and more supportive audience?
These readings picked up on a few themes that have been on my mind this week. When we hear about the treatment of historic fabric like that at the Park Avenue Armory—where the old was “de-layered” and the new overlaid such that the blending created something wholly new and imaginatively conceived by the hand of an artist—the first question usually asked is “Is this preservation?” (looking at you, Carolyn!) I want to be contrary and ask, “So what if it isn’t? Maybe preservation should be more…”
I’ve been thinking this after visiting Fonthill and the Bishop White House. At a site like Henry Mercer’s incredibly individualistic and artistic castle, it makes perfect sense to preserve the space in situ. The Bishop White House, on the other hand, was completely restored in the 1960s by the Park Service to its colonial floorplan after its first floor was cleared for use as a commercial space in the 19th century. Entire new walls had to be put in, and today furniture populates the building that never really belonged there. This is historic preservation (er, well, restoration.) I ask, as long as we are essentially creating a space from almost nothing, why shouldn’t we get creative? Why can’t we do…more?
While I have a mile-long list of issues with this OMA paper (preservation is an “untheorized” set of “regimes we don’t know, have not thought through, and cannot influence”? Are you kidding me, Rem?), I also welcome the challenge to reconsider and expand our notions of best practice. Whereas OMA might have preservationists devote more theory to demolition to create a tabla rasa for a new wave of ego-maniacal architect’s social experiments, I’m far more in favor of pursuing the type of theory demonstrated by the Park Avenue Armory. What if the notion of preservation could expand to include such creative measures? What if the Bishop White House could artistically tell multiple stories all at once, seamlessly shifting between the now and then—without us doubting that this is preservation? Perhaps this would prove to OMA that we can actually “negotiate the coexistence of radical change and radical stasis that is our future.”
When determining areas to develop “creative placemaking,” to planner consider the implications on the surrounding areas by changing low-income areas into spaces that typically turn into touristy or “cultured” areas that appeal to the middle and upper classes? While Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program encourages and promotes local involvement, the other programs referenced seem to be more in line with Society Hill’s urban renewal plan.
Place is more than physical and it’s intangible aspects can be quite fragile. Does the creative making of a place mean the erasure of any that were pre-existing? After all, if you’ve made a new place, creative or not, where does the old place go? New can certainly incorporate aspects of older places, but what if only the physical aspects, being the most resilient to change? For instance, an aggressively preserved landmark, no longer the place it one was, has necessarily become somewhere new. Many aspects may be preserved, tangible and intangible, but the place is still changed. Such is the cost of intervention and interpretation. Should greater pressure for interpretation be put on creative places as they are being made and are changing anyway?
We speak of preservation as managing change/managing loss. How much of an active role should preservationists take in forming creatively managed/modernized spaces? For example, Suzanne Stephens writes that the Park Avenue Armory project “capture[s] a sense of the new, while enhancing and revivifying the old.” Within the armory, layers of wallpaper and stenciling were “delayered” to create an artistic effect, and new patterns were “overprinted” to meld together historic designs from different periods. Past physical material has been creatively interpreted, and augmented, as part of this project. Is this preservation? Is it art? Is it avoidable or unavoidable loss? Is the revitalization of the space a fair tradeoff for the resulting physical and/or cultural ambiguities?
Is historic preservation subject to the same pendulum of popularity that fashion is?
Popularisation of aesthetic forms are a very complex set of processes that can range from starchitects as arbiters of taste, the influences of national policy, or design by committee in historic preservation districts. When a designer designs something, it is never tabula rasa, because context and its constraints are fundamental to reality. A responsive and adaptive approach to prexisting architecture at Herzog’s Park Avenue Armory is nearing one end of the pendulum and OMA’s longing for the erasure of constraints in tabula rasa is another. Both are important, but the more important question is when is one approach more or less appropriate than another.
Do we lose authenticity as soon as we adopt the term “creative placemaking?” Is any place that has been “creatively made” fake in some way, or is it all authentic as a product of humanity’s desire to make places? Is there a difference in how we should view organically created places vs. “creatively” created places? Is there even such a thing as an organically created place?