Tuesday, July 13, 2010
- Freeman commented on what he called “the astonishing proposition [by Andrés Duany] that any vacant parcel of land in the historic quarters of Havana ... be redeveloped only with replicas of the buildings that stood on those sites previously.... For what other major city would a responsible architect propose such a radically regressive prescription?” One answer is “many German and Polish cities devastated by World War II.” The German Bundestag recently voted to reconstruct the Berliner Stadtschloss, and architects came out of the woodwork to complain. In response, the Association for the Rebuilding of the Berliner Stadtschloss created a website with an impressive selection of Totally Destroyed and Newly Rebuilt Buildings. The site focuses on civic monuments but many whole neighborhoods have also been rebuilt, as in Old Town Warsaw (which actually doesn't have many old buildings). This website has before-and-after photos of Old Town, and this UN site has many links.
- Another comparison is to Prague, where just as in Havana, Communist poverty kept Modernism away. Prague and Havana have an additional similarity, which is that each city has a number of districts largely built in one period, each with a distinctly different character. Duany made a plan for Havana which proposes that each district keep its historic character. For Modernist experiments, there's a "free zone" which is essentially a place where anything goes. That district is designated for resort hotels and the tourism industry.
- Those "immersive" districts are similar to planning done by Duany's partner Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk at Princeton University when she was the Princeton Board member in charge of campus planning. Annual housing preference requests made by freshmen showed that the overwhelming majority of Princeton students don't want to live in the Modernist dormitories, even though some have been done by distinguished architects like I.M. Pei. Therefore, Princeton now has a Gothic Zone in the old center of the campus, and a Free Zone at the periphery: the first building in the center since that decision is the Gothic Whitman College designed by Demetri Porphyrios. Anticipating protests from the faculty at Princeton's architecture school, the University announced the construction of a Frank Gehry building at the same time they announced Whitman. That didn't stop Gehry from biting the hand that fed him and complaining about the contruction of the new Gothic building.
Old Town in 1945 and the same view today
The Duany proposal for Havana sounds to me like an excellent prescription for any city or town that wants to preserve it's heritage or encourage tourism. Who would want to visit Minneapolis or Sao Paulo if they didn't have family or business there? Prague is still an architectural gem but unfortunately Gehry has left his egotistic signature on that beautiful city(the dancing house).
Posted by: BobH at Aug 7, 2010 5:47:09 PM