Magazine article The Masthead

When Do You Tear It Down?

Magazine article The Masthead

When Do You Tear It Down?

Article excerpt

When does a building enhance its surroundings? When does it ruin them?

There was no consensus, for an NCEW convention audience, between Providence Journal columnist David Brussat and architecture professor Derek Bradford from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Instead, a duel erupted during the convention's "Preserving the Past and Economic Development" panel. On one side was a purist preservationist, Brussat; on the other an arch-modernist, Bradford. Also on the panel were Tina Regan of The Historic Collaborative and C. Carter Wilkie, co-author of Changing Places.

Brussat and Bradford dominated the time period. Moderator Brussat gave a slide-show tour of Providence's old architecture, dropping in shots of new buildings he contended were a detraction from the landscape, Brussat displayed little patience for new buildings in Providence, a city founded 367 years ago, unless those structures were copies of historic buildings.

Showing pictures of Main Street, Brussat said, "These are different styles that fit together nicely. It's a hodge-podge of the old and the old." He argued that modern architecture, on the other hand, "tends to crowd or elbow its more attractive neighbors." He showed slides of new buildings that he praised as being built to look like older buildings.

He expressed special disdain for Old Stone Square, which he likened to a Rubik's Cube, saying, "It degrades the environment."

On the other hand, he compared the architecture of the convention site, the 81-year-old Providence Biltmore, with the newer, albeit architecturally sympathetic, nine-year-old Westin, not far away. …

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