January 02 2013

The Value of Architecture: Whats Worth Preserving?

In “Writing About Architecture,” Alexander Lange treats the reader to a process as well as a list of critiques that we can employ to deem the importance and worth of a building. Chapter 3 entitled ‘Whats Worth Preserving’ promotes famous art historian’s Alois Riegl’s five values that help the critic utilize a framework, which he can use in constructing an evaluation process.

  • Historical Significance;
  • Artistic Value;
  • Age Value;
  • Use Value;
  • Newness Value.

Lange then gives examples of authors’ Michael Sorkin and Justin Davidson‘s critiques that provide the explanation of a site’s value with an influence of that authors personal style.

The critiques by Sorkin and Davidson are both evaluated in regard to architecture each author wishes to preserve. The common theme in their evaluation processes begin with “Irony, followed with history and visual appreciation, and end with politics.” Lange stresses these particular critiques to show the significance of the role that critics have in society to protect the “Oddballs,” which are generally the sites where value is hard to define under the five values presented.

Sunnier forecast: Brisbane's situation is more positive than Melbourne's.

After I read this chapter, I implemented processes stated within this chapter in evaluating sites of my city (Melbourne, Australia) that have held importance to me.  What stood out were the sites which few held dearly such as the old factories in Melbourne which had an age value that was rarely recognized. However, with gentrification these factories are being turned into contemporary high density apartments with the memory of the once leafy suburbs diminished by the influx of traffic and new age residents that now clog them. This melancholy reflection was able to validate the glum belief of Sorkins critique that, generally, “Politics, economics, and healthcare” are ultimately the imperatives that dictate a sites ultimate worth.

What do you want to preserve in your city? Apply the five values to that site and let us know how it works.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Steven Petsinis

Steven Petsinis is an Urban Planning graduate from Melbourne, Australia. He has been involved in Urban Research and Development projects in Medellin, Colombia and Saigon, Vietnam and is currently pursuing his masters in Melbourne, Australia. His main interests lie in land use and social planning, sustainability, as well as studies involving globalization and it's effect on third world communities. He has recently spent one year travelling throughout North and South America, as well as Europe, where he has gathered material and inspiration for his upcoming blogs for The Grid.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 4:17 pm and is filed under Architecture, History/Preservation, Housing, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “The Value of Architecture: Whats Worth Preserving?”

  1. Christie Says:

    Are you able to clarify – what are the differences between age, newness and historical?

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