Comment 66988

By mattjelly (registered) - website | Posted July 27, 2011 at 15:11:17

Interesting piece Ryan, thanks. I understand that not everyone looks at a building like the Board of Education and sees what I see. Everyone has personal tastes, and there are plenty of buildings that I wouldn't necessarily find attractive either. 60's era modernist architecture isn't my favorite period. I find buildings like the Connaught, the Pigott and the Lister more attractive than the Board of Education building. If this were an "either-or" proposition, and I was asked whether we should restore the Connaught or the Board of Ed building, make no mistake, I would pick the Connaught in a heartbeat.

I need to explain, because I appreciate that not everyone is with me on this. This isn't just about architecture or heritage to me; it's also about materials and energy. The Board of Education building, while it needs work, is still in good shape, and still houses employees on a daily basis. I visited the other day. The building shouldn't just stay as it is, it does need to be adapted and renovated somewhat for modern use, as well as asbestos abatement. But that doesn't mean it should be demolished.

Every time we demolish a structure and rebuild, we're not only putting most of a building worth of materials into landfills, we're also using new materials and energy to build a new building. In the specific case of the Board of Education building, we're taking a building that could be adaptively reused and we're simply discarding it. If we want a truly green building, we should at least see some exploration of whether this structure can be reused in some way. It doesn't seem like a sustainable process to spend public dollars building civic architecture that lasts less than 50 years. As your article points out, appreciation for this piece of architecture will increase over time. In 1968, the Lister too was only 44 years old.

I'm not a heritage purist- I don't expect Mac to restore this building to make it look like it did the day it opened. I'd respect and appreciate any attempt to reuse this structure in any way- if it needs to be altered to suit a development, so be it. I just don't understand the idea of throwing entire buildings in the trash, when they still have many years of life left in them. It makes our individual efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle seem pointless, in the grand scheme of things.

Every time I advocate for saving an old building, the obvious point is raised: these things cost money. Of course they do. It doesn't make sense for the public to shell out money to save buildings when there are more cost-effective options available. However, it always seems to be the case that we go along with demolition and building new as a default, and never want to even explore the options, get all the information, and figure out whether adaptive reuse can work. We tend to throw our hands up from the start, assuming that restoration will just be too complicated and costly, when we actually don't know whether that's the case.

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