Thursday, October 20, 2011

R.I.P. Columbia

This morning I was able to view the remains of the recently dismantled Cleveland Landmark, the Columbia Building. It was demolished for a casino-related parking structure. While public outcry begged the City to support its own self proclaimed preservation efforts, the City ultimately decided that a casino-related parking structure was more sustainable than a Landmark.

Now, this is my personal opinion, and any views expressed in this writing are mine and mine alone.

It saddens me that preservation, while an established profession, has failed to evaluate itself. Mitigation tools that are meant to promote preservation tend to be non-integrated into other existing systems.

The facts remain in the Columbia case that its status of being a Landmark failed. It did go through the process meant to mitigate its demise, but it was never meant to be saved from the start. Therefore, it did not receive fair treatment.

A Landmark should mean that the intent, from the start, is to save it.

All actions should move through the established process to measure any foreseeable harm to the resource.

My first year serving in the Preservation Corps taught me more than I should know, but this makes my future professional career all the better.

I am not a restorationist, I do not believe that anything outside of museums and civic buildings should undergo this type of treatment.

I may not even be a historic preservationist, as what I am out to perpetuate is the efficient management of the built environment, and not pre-packaged idealism placed onto historic artifacts.

What I am is someone who sees the value in a Landmark, as an object that can serve future generations. The best designs are those that seamlessly meld into existing vistas. So far, in this country, the only two systems that can answer these questions are sustainability and preservation. From here, I think we can start educating not only the community, but also the professional market.

Looking over the twelve large-scale black and white format archival pictures was like peering into someone's casket, but there is hope that these documents will serve researchers and active-problem solvers in the future.


  1. The only things we have left are a dozen photographs? Tragic. I'm still fuming about the way processes were circumvented.

  2. There were salvage plans... as there were some original marble floors, etc... But, I am not sure of any of these specifications. There is also a formal architectural and historical narrative to go a long with the photos, which Landmarks requested as part of mitigation. I just hope that the Columbia inspires students, budding professionals, to research and solve some of preservation issues for the future...