For more than a century, contemporary design and heritage preservation have been portrayed as antagonists—by community members and the popular media, by designers, preservationists, and academics. If designers propose innovative forms or materials, neighbors and local landmark commissioners claim that the designs “don’t belong here” and dismiss them as mere expressions of the designers’ “ego.” Designers rant about “hysterical preservationists” whose primary goal seems to be gaining control over every square foot of historic cities—if not the planet—thereby shackling creativity and reducing design expression to the lowest common denominator.1
Each side can provide ample evidence for its claims; most readers will know these arguments by heart. This issue of Change Over Time is built on the thesis that historic preservation and contemporary design are not antithetical to each other; they can be catalysts and symbiotic partners. This series of essays complements “Design + Heritage,” a sold-out symposium held March 16 and 17, 2017, at PennDesign.2 Cosponsored by the University of Pennsylvania’s Historic Preservation Program and the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation, the conference sessions challenged the country’s leading designers, scholars, educators, and stewards of heritage to debate the topic through case studies and lively discussion.3 […]
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