Saturday, 25 November 2017

Against heritage

Is preserving heritage necessarily a good thing?

Here are three reasons against:
> It 'keeps neighborhoods in a kind of aesthetic stasis'.
> 'A nation in decline looks to the past in a vain attempt to “preserve” what was once great. Preservation is what you do to dead butterflies.'
> 'A building worth preserving is worth paying to preserve.'

Finally: 'Some people will object that repealing historic preservation laws will lead to some lovely buildings being destroyed. Of course, it will. There is no point pretending otherwise. It will also lead to some lovely buildings being created. More generally, however, the logic of regulatory thickets tells us that we cannot have everything.'

Against Historic Preservation - Marginal REVOLUTION

A recent high-profile case in the United States has just prompted this call to end such regulations:

Who Determines Value?

A market-based system can simultaneously reconcile all the conflicting and complementary valuations.

The Trust believes the properties have value. What creates value in these properties? Architecture? Location? History? Time? Current market factors? Probably all of the above, but in varying proportions depending on who is doing the valuation. One person has no interest and another an intense interest. Hence the value can range from zero to unquantifiable depending on who is doing the valuation. Set aside the issue of who determines what is “Historical.”

One may value the location with no regard for the structure. Another may value the architectural style with no regard for the history of the structure (think Lincoln slept here). Yet another may value the historical significance (Lincoln slept here) with no regard for the location.

"Historical Preservation" Is Just Market Interventionism - Foundation for Economic Education - Working for a free and prosperous world

Needless to say, most of the heated arguments against come from the States - and from both the left and the right:
Historic preservation: Bad for neighborhood diversity - Market Urbanism
Preserving history, or the 1 percent? - Salon.com
Six Reasons to Say No to Local Historic Districts - Virginia Land Rights Convention
Michigan and Wisconsin State Republicans Are Crusading Against Historic Preservation Districts - CityLab
The Case Against Historical Districts — Strong Towns

There are also plenty of arguments for keeping heritage:

What I get from all this contradictory evidence is this: Tearing down fine old buildings doesn’t always, or even often, lead to greater equity or civic virtue. But it always leads to the obliteration of memory. Sacrificing gracious old residential districts to the unfeeling predations of the market is an act of willful amnesia.

I think the nub of this question is neither economic nor constitutional but philosophical: What does history mean to us? Republican legislators in the Midwest want to rein in historic districts with a sunset clause, which would make designation last only ten years. I’m struck that nominal conservatives would be so cavalier in their attitude toward the past, since surely that’s where traditional values come from. The sunset clause shows that their shallow allegiance to continuity and community amounts to a nonsensical declaration: Sure, this is historic now, but maybe soon it won’t be.

Historic districts — like museums, libraries, archives, and any institution that nourishes collective memory — represent precisely the opposite point of view. History can’t always defend itself against momentary desires or the indifferent marketplace. That’s why we need to protect it with laws and a culture of respect. We will always have to keep debating where the proper boundaries lie between preservation and change, between cultivating the past and living in the present. But abandoning historic districts to the whims of buyers, sellers, and developers would be a form of cultural vandalism we would quickly come to regret.

The Atlantic’s Anti-Historic-District Argument Is Wrong and Extreme - New York Magazine
Responding to Misleading Arguments Against Local Landmark Laws - Preservation Leadership Forum - A Program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
Historic Housing for All: Historic Preservation as the New Inclusionary Zoning - Vermont Law Review
The Big Reason Historic Preservation Districts Are a Good Idea | Livability

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