In Urban Preservation as an Aesthetic Proble. Rome: Accademica Danica (1997)

David Kolb
Bates College
Our task is the preservation of historic towns. In America as in Europe historic town centers are surrounded by recent additions and suburban sprawl. It is tempting to imagine the task of preservation as protecting our historical heritage from a featureless wave of mediocrity, as the worldwide commercial civilization overwhelms local cultures. This story is familiar from the writings of Kenneth Frampton and others: sprawl, homogenization, loss of distinctive local and regional form. I want to disagree with this story. From what force are we trying to save the historic towns? Might not that force have its own new kinds of order? Might that new order be already at work inside the historic towns? Are its effects only negative? I want to question a presupposition common in many discussion of historic preservation. This is the presupposition that a spatially distinct historic center belongs to a single community that possesses a unified self-consciousness and a unified aesthetic self-image. Local communities less and less correspond to bounded spatial areas, and spatial areas contain less and less homogeneous communities. There is growing a new kind of discontinuous unity, which is the theme of this essay.
Keywords urban form  city planning  Frampton  architecture  postmodern discontinuity  unified community
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