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23 July, 2007

Signs of stability

I can't help thinking, admittedly without evidence, that this highlights a fundamental difference between UK and US attitudes to the urban environment.

A 1950s illuminated sign outside a 1920s car dealership in Los Angeles (a city which might be expected to acknowledge the role of the car in its evolution and everyday existence) has been designated as a 'historic-cultural monument', despite opposition to the proposal by the mayor and a councillor. Their objection was that preservation would limit redevelopment opportunities.

Compare that to the UK, where the preservation of historical buildings and even street furniture is routine and we have urban landscapes with a little more character than the average strip mall.
As I say, I'm only expressing my perception rather than anything verifiable, but I do have the impression that there's an urge amongst US planners to tear down and renew urban sites every 3-4 decades; 'new-and-improved' takes precedence over preservation of long-term heritage, and there's less of a sense of building for permanence than in the UK.

Of course 'landmark' status limits redevelopment opportunities – that's the whole point!

Actually, it isn't; apparently the designation isn't protection, but merely a guarantee that property owners, developers and city officials will have to consider the sign's role in local and national history before demolishing it anyway.

[Via Boing Boing.]

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