Buildings may stand alone physically, but they are endlessly connected with communities. Buildings are accompanied through time by the comings and goings of people… No matter their purpose, all buildings are lived in: feet move across their floors, hands open and close their doors, eyes look along their balconies and through their windows. It is buildings, then, that are some of the best witnesses to history and some of the most integral parts of communities.
Buildings aren’t only used by communities, they represent communities. Building types and styles developed in direct response to their communities’ needs, desires and resources. The shotgun house, for example, is the handprint of history for parts of Louisiana (and now spanning upward into Illinois), whereas brownstones are almost synonymous with Brooklyn.
What about today? Communities need their history and their identity… and they need other things. Like affordable housing. Community gathering spaces. Old theaters and Mom & Pop shops. This is where you – and preservation – come in. The greenest building is the one that is already built. The building already built also has an irreplaceable tie to the community around it.
All this and you (yes, you!) can be the one to dig your hands in? Help preserve history and help communities at the same time! You can take action on a small scale by supporting adaptive reuse projects in your town, or you can look beyond: Adventures in Preservation has several preservation projects coming up that aim to help communities while preserving their historic structures. For example, restoration work at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum in The Bronx supports a major community resource. AiP is also helping out abroad in places like Nepal and Albania, bringing volunteers to do hands-on conservation work.
In Gjirokastra, Albania, preserving the building fabric of the local tower houses will also preserve the fabric of the community. Albania is rich in culture – and tourism potential – but is one of Europe’s poorest countries. Adventures in Preservation’s trip to Gjirokastra to work on the Skenduli house will raise awareness, create jobs for maintenance and preservation, and support training of local youth in traditional trades. The next group of AiP volunteers heads over in 2014 – just around the corner! Visit the trip page to find out more.
– Susie Trexler