Philip Johnson, perhaps best known as the architect of the transparently elegant Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, once called preservation a “phony movement” and insisted that it should be based on “architectural quality” and aesthetics rather than on history or emotional attachments to place. In his book Buildings, Landscapes, and Memory: Case Studies in Historic Preservation, Daniel Bluestone examines 10 case studies, in part to counter that absolutist view.
One of the problems with aesthetics-driven preservation is evident in post-World War II Chicago, where “the center of gravity in preservation shifted from sites valued for historical association to aesthetically notable buildings, especially those connected with the rise of what historians were increasingly describing as a Chicago School of Architecture,” Bluestone writes. So preservation “came to encompass only a handful of sites with buildings by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Burnham & Root, while abandoning huge swaths of the 19th-century city.
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