Is there any subject within the field of architectural conservation more fraught than new design in historically sensitive contexts—more specifically, additions to historic buildings or historic districts? Within the vast topic of “adaptation,” the addition, as both a primary means of adaptation and its clearest outward form, consistently serves as the focus of heated debate. The addition is also a public concern insofar as it fundamentally impacts the protection of historic building exteriors, which is a consistently legislated and regulated activity (this is far less often the case for interiors).1 Adding to historically significant fabric can therefore be seen as a broad-strokes kind of adaptation in which we, the public, almost always have a confirmed interest.
1. The regulation and protection of historic building exteriors is enabled in the United States by constitutional police power as a matter of public welfare. The sovereignty of private ownership within the depths of nonpublic buildings effectively shifts the dynamic from one of theory, policy, and regulation to one of “best practices” suggestion when it comes to stewarding historic interiors. Moreover, for whatever reason, renovation has always been a less contentious act, perhaps because of the broad recognition that building interiors serve relatively more functional uses and are updated accordingly.
The full article is available at Project Muse.
Image: Dresden Museum of Military History, Dresden, Germany. Original building completed in 1896, with addition by Studio Daniel Libeskind, completed in 2011. (Bundeswehr/Bienert, 2011)