Susan Macdonald’s article, “Contemporary Architecture in Historic Urban Environments,” discusses the complex issue of adding new layers to historic cities over time. It is critical that contemporary architecture reinforce the existing context and architectural value of a place, rather than detract from it by standing out and running counter to the finely-tuned grain of an historic area’s “look” and “feel” (i.e., the siting, setback, height, rhythm, scale, and massing of its buildings). Considering the prevailing historic character of the Peninsula, this has been a controversial subject in our city, especially as seen in the public discourse and debate the proposed Spaulding-Paolozzi Center instigated.
As the reader will see, this situation is not unique to Charleston. Historic cities around the world are witnessing insertions of iconic, celebrity buildings, aptly dubbed “starchitecture.” While some may feel that architects are entitled to artistic expression, starchitecture’s byproduct of creating a brand for a city is unnecessary when the city’s identity is already established in its historic architecture. Those who build contemporary buildings that contribute positively to the urban environment in Charleston know what Macdonald articulates when she posits that contextualized design will help create the heritage of tomorrow.
By Tim Condo, Manager of Preservation Initiatives
http://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/newsletters/26_2/contemporary.html by Susan Macdonald, Head, Field Projects, Getty Conservation Institute
(Image courtesy of Reseau Veille Tourisme http://veilletourisme.ca/2008/05/29/place-a-la-starchitecture/)