Who Determines the Future of the Past?

 Prentice Women's Hospital, Chicago, designed by Bertrand Goldberg

Prentice Women's Hospital, Chicago, designed by Bertrand Goldberg

Irwin Weiner ASID - My IWI team is in the process of renovating a mid-century colonial revival house in Bucks County, PA, and while interviewing contractors, we're hearing again and again that it would be cheaper to tear down the house and build something new. That's a problem mentality. Without markers from our past, where will our heritage be? Is it better to tear down a wonderfully sound, but in need of TLC, stone-and-stucco house in order to construct a new McMansion? Absolutely not. When I came across Nathan Eddy's documentary on the now-demolished Prentice Women's Hospital building designed by modernist icon Bertrand Goldberg, a film which had its premiere in my native South Africa, I see that the same fight for preservation is raging in our major cities.

 Permission granted by the City of Chicago to demolish Bertrand Goldberg's modernist landmark.

Permission granted by the City of Chicago to demolish Bertrand Goldberg's modernist landmark.

The past, especially the "modern" past, is in jeopardy because it's simply not as cost-effective to renovate as it is to tear down and begin anew - and there's always investment money enticing us to opt for new construction. The recent past is often seen as ugly and startling, and the new as fresh and beautiful (which is seldom the case). Let's see what we can all do to act locally and stem the tide of demolition and empty-headed start-overs.