Sunday, September 18, 2016

Camden Terrace not the only historical structure under threat

Recently I read in The London Free Press that "the city was poised to lose a vital part of its history." A grouping of 140-year-old row houses known as Camden Terrace may be torn down. When I tried to talk to others about the impending loss, all too often I simply got a puzzled response: "Camden Terrace? Where or what is Camden Terrace?" People who didn't get the paper didn't get the question.

The brouhaha surrounding Camden Terrace raises issues the London planning department and others in the city should address. For instance: what is a heritage building? Why is a heritage building important? How many changes can be made before a heritage building stops being a heritage building? And should we be saving single buildings or complete heritage landscapes, areas and districts?

I was surprised that some consider Museum London, despite its relatively recent construction, to be a heritage structure with a "B" ranking. This is a ranking no better than that of Camden Terrace. The London Free Press award-winning writer, Randy Richmond, told readers, "Raymond Moriyama's original design evoked the river, the historical significance of the forks . . . The large arches were painted blue . . . and inside was an airy fan design. . . . "

The dynamic shapes that originally filled the arches are now gone. The fan design disappeared at the same time as blue colour. Today, the museum is dark grey.

If London cannot maintain an architectural treasure for even a few decades, why are we surprised when row houses which have stood relatively unappreciated for more than a century are now facing demolition.

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