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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Heritage districts: Often illusions

This Wednesday evening the London public has been invited to a meeting at the Convention Centre: Our Move Forward - Downtown Master Plan Community Consultation. I have mixed feelings about the approach being taken. With ReThink London still on the go, may I be so bold as to suggest that it is time for Londoners to rethink our historical districts and the preservation that such districts demand.

For an interesting take on the North American longing for lost heritage, read Ada Louise Huxtable's The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion. When I read the posted piece, the first chapter of Huxtable's book, the talk of Colonial Williamsburg brought to mind Lower Town in Old Quebec City. I am old enough to recall when many of the present "heritage" structures were not there. Many of these buildings were not restored but recreated. Much of the area's 18th century ambiance so loved by tourists is faux.

At this point I had planned on blogging about the importance of thinking about cities in their entirety, of the advantage gained by respecting all city neighbourhoods and not just those designated heritage districts. I will get to that blog in time. But I have been sidetracked by a growing interest in the late Ada Louise Huxtable. The woman was amazing and her writing well worth our time.

If you love cities and architecture, click the link: Rereading Ada Louise Huxtable: 5 Essential Pieces.
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Another heritage building was lost in downtown London. The usual folk are mourning the loss. I wish the city planners and the heritage lovers would get with the game -- and the game is not simply saving all the remaining old buildings

The following is a scene from Old Quebec. The top view is a photo from early in the last century. Note the tall hotel on the left. It was relatively new at the time. Older images do not show the large hotel but they do show some of the structure, the bottom two floors, before they were incorporated into the expanded structure.

The lower photo is from Google StreetViews. Note how the upper floors of the old hotel were removed and the streetscape "returned", I use the word loosely, to its proper heritage appearance.

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