Friday, February 13, 2009

Seaside, age, and Kunstler …

Seaside    Whenever I show my students pictures of Seaside –- the famous New Urbanist community in the Florida panhandle –- I invariably get titters and comments from students that it looks “creepy.”  Why is this?  Is it because they remember it from the movie “The Truman Show,” in which it was the too-perfect community that was actually a giant TV set for a reality show about the hoodwinked Truman?  Or it is because we are not used to seeing architecture and design of the old school – that it, design that holds detail, that is built on the human scale, and that gives limited compromises to the 20th century –- without the patina of age or decrepitude?
   Yesterday, scourge-of-sprawl James Howard Kunstler discussed his idea that age will only make better places such as Seaside, which rejects automobile domination, embraces density, and attempts the close-knit feel of a 19th century small town, only in the form of a popular place on the Florida Gulf.  In the near future, we might not even be able to criticize Seaside as being too expensive (I’ve never quite understood the criticism that it’s a bad thing that good design makes small cottages in Seaside so expensive that middle-class people can’t afford them).  I think ... and I don’t often say this about Kunstler without hesitation … that he’s right …

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February 13, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy and sad endings for historic theatres …

Movetheatrehistoric    One of the biggest drawbacks to historic preservation is when the building or area doesn’t fit modern economic needs.  It’s all well and good to say “adaptive reuse,” but sometimes it’s difficult to find a successful adaptation.  Some of the saddest stories concern old movie theaters –- nay, palaces -– from the 1920s and 30s that can’t readily serve their intended purposes anymore, either because they’re too big, too isolated from other screens (today, a diverse public demands the choice of the “cineplex”), or in the wrong location (such as in a downtown, as opposed to suburban mall). 
  One happy story is the old Silver Theater in my old hometown of Silver Spring., Md., which was partially demolished in anticipation of a possible historic designation, but was (many years later) eventually revived as the eastern branch of the American Film Institute, thanks in part to local county dollars – thus allowing me to see art films when I’m back in the area.  (Thanks, taxpayers!)   
   Elsewhere, there may be no white knight to come to the rescue.  I was surprised to read in the blog of one of my favorite alt-county signers, Kathleen Edwards, a lament over the fate in her home of Hamilton, Ontario, of the historic Tivoli Theater, which appears to have rotted and collapsed a few years ago.  Efforts to rebuild and rescue came a cropper.  Perhaps we should consider more drastic reuses (that is, removing the seats and screens) from obsolete theaters …

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February 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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