Smart growth or faux history?

In reading the recent Mountain Xpress article highlighting the Five Points Village development [“Broadway Doubles Down,” July 30], I was disappointed to see the demolition of the historic “Pink House” described as being a good thing for the community.

The Pink House was actually called the Broadway Market Building and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was considered to be a significant early decorative-concrete-block structure and a rare remaining example of a two-story mixed-use building. The building had definitely suffered from years of neglect, but the developers could have made use of federal and state tax credits that are available to encourage owners to rehabilitate these important historic structures.

Smart growth along the Broadway corridor connecting downtown and UNCA has the potential to improve the city of Asheville, and rehabilitating the Broadway Market Building would have helped give real context to the new streetscape. Instead, we will get a cluster of new buildings designed to “[take] a lot of historic buildings into account.”

The Five Points Village design isn’t the only new downtown-development project trying to sell itself by being historic-looking. Other recent examples are the Ellington Hotel, designed to be look like a high-rise Douglas Ellington never envisioned; and the Haywood Park Tower, designed to look like the Grove Arcade Tower that was never built.

As an architect, I understand the difficulties and costs associated with renovating historic structures, but part of what makes this city great is that we have saved so many of our old buildings. It gives Asheville a unique sense of place. Growth, development and change are going to happen, but we will benefit much more from maintaining our historic structures, and infilling with sensitive new development, than we will by tearing [those buildings] down, to be replaced by faux-historic structures that only parody the past.

— Diana Bellgowan

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3 thoughts on “Smart growth or faux history?

  1. hauntedheadnc

    Whenever an architect gets het up about the issue of “parodying the past” this is usually their veiled way of admitting that modern architects are incapable of building anything as beautiful or worth caring as much about as the buildings of the past.

    If architects truly believed in progressive architecture, they would accept the notion that the forms and decorations of the past are as valid as the buildings they keep inflicting on us that look like piles of discarded electronics, dented refrigerator cartons (or the refrigerators themselves), or cancerous growths.

    What’s wrong with reviving something good? It’s every bit as valid an idea as insisting that a building must look like and have the charm of a parking deck in order to faithfully represent today’s reality.

  2. supermom

    There’s nothing wrong with revivals – the greek revival style was lovely. One just has to be careful that it doesn’t turn into Disneyworld, with its fake facades and “ideal” architecture.

    Why not keep the real, instead of building new meant to merely look like the real? Silliness.

  3. travelah

    … early decorative-concrete-block structure ha!

    A LOT of Asheville is crappy looking … the streets just got a tad bit better.

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