Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice

By Kortesoja, Sandra L. | Planning for Higher Education, April-June 2011 | Go to article overview

Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice


Kortesoja, Sandra L., Planning for Higher Education


Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice

2nd ed.

by Norman Tyler, Ted J. Ligibel, and Ilene R. Tyler

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2009 375 pages

ISBN 978-0-393-73273-3

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This compact volume, with many examples from locations throughout the United States, introduces the reader to an enormous range of preservation-related issues, terms, techniques, and public sentiments over time. History teaches us that even history can change. New research can lead to new interpretations of the past. So what is historic preservation? And what is its societal role? No single perspective can completely describe this multifaceted topic or the field of practice it has become. Here, Tyler, Ligibel, and Tyler argue that historic preservation is more than architectural conservation, i.e., "more than old buildings," and also more than simple historical account. They suggest understanding "buildings" with the help of a grammatical analogy, that is, thinking in terms of verbs as well as nouns: "In other words, buildings can be seen not only as static structures but also as essential carriers of our community's history" (p. 15). In concluding that historic preservation "puts history to good purpose through use of historic structures as sources of community revitalization" (p. 15), their approach appears to reflect today's context of widespread economic concern. This 2009 edition of a work first published in 1994 as Issues of Historic Preservation reflects (according to the book's cover) a "cultural revolution" now increasingly focused on "green" architecture and sustainability.

In Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice (2nd ed.), Tyler, Ligibel, and Tyler combine complementary perspectives from the fields of architecture, urban planning, and education with the policy patience of historic preservation organizations to "cover the gamut of preservation issues in layman's language" (from the book cover) in a single volume. Norman Tyler is director of the urban and regional planning program at Eastern Michigan University, Ligibel is director of Eastern Michigan University's historic preservation programs and an advisor emeritus to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, and Ilene Tyler is principal and director of preservation in the Ann Arbor, Michigan, office of Quinn Evans Architects. Appreciating the grassroots nature of historic preservation efforts in the United States, they set the stage for a history of historic preservation by noting how attitudes among the American public have changed. The book is timely in the sense that historic preservation has grown from an activity championed by individuals or small local organizations on behalf of their specific communities to a more broadly promoted societal theme as public interest in historic preservation has increased dramatically in recent decades.

Historic preservation and the American public. Chapter 1 introduces the nature of historic preservation and societal reasons for pursuing it. Many things have changed over the last century since interest in historic preservation first emerged in the United States and the first national preservation law was passed. For most of its history, especially during westward expansion, a forward-looking spirit of opportunism characterized America. After the West was won, science and technology became the new frontier. Today, however, the authors suggest that society should redirect its outlook toward preserving America's heritage, noting that some communities are now approaching a "closed to development" status and that "this reality should reorient us to address issues not of growth but of quality of life, recognizing elements worthy of preservation" (p. 15). The first chapter ends with a short section on the diversity of preservation philosophies, including as examples the 19th-century perspectives of Viollet-le-Duc in France and John Ruskin in England and a discussion of "Chinese, Native American, and Japanese Views of Preservation" (p. …

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