2002 - Volume 33, Issue 1
By Erik Hanson
Preservation is a hard sell in California because so many people have ties to other places. It's always been that way. Despite being 100 years old at the time, most of the Mission chapels were left to rot for years. They would have been plowed under in the 1870's, if open land were as scarce as it is today.
Here's one way to create a preservationist: take them to the Historical Society's photo archive and show them what used to be here. Most people are shocked when they discover some of what has been lost in this town, and what is on the site now. My personal favorite subject for this is schools. Go and find a picture of San Diego or Hoover High School, Grant or Sherman Elementary School, or the Normal School/Education Center and compare what is there now.
Many of us are preservationists because we have seen the Universal Truth: the newer building is often a worse design than the old one on the same site. Now, I'm not totally stuck in the past, I can see myself 20 or 30 years from now fighting to save the work of local contemporary architects like Kendrick Bangs Kellogg, Studio E, and James & Drew Hubbell. But it seems that anyone without the taste and vision to see the beauty and usefulness of the past won't have the taste and vision to create good, new work. It's an unfortunate fact that many of the biggest preservation battles that are lost become empty lots without projects. SOHO's three biggest losses in the past few years in the Uptown area of San Diego are all vacant weed patches, and will probably remain empty for years as did the Aztec Brewery site, the Melville Klauber and the Sherwood Wheaton house properties.
Please, continue to build great buildings; just remember to keep the great old ones too.
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