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Loveland Feed & Grain

Just off downtown Loveland, Colorado  is the ancient and intriguing Loveland Feed & Grain building.  A many-year preservation and restoration effort has been taking place to find new uses for this magnificent building.

San Luis Valley - chapels

Chapels of the San Luis Valley

For many years, I have been taking trips to the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. This area feels very different from either the Front Range or the Western Slope and is marked by tiny settlements and the vase expanse of the wide valley. Of particular interest to me are the simple chapels and churches, dotted across the landscape, some lovingly cared for, others abandoned.

architecture and truth and miscommunication

Of the many things that stand between architects and clients, none is so fraught as the architect's quest for architectural integrity which often masquerades as Truth.  Please don't get me wrong, I am not asserting that all architects are questing for Truth while our clients really were only looking for a building.  I have rarely experienced that.  But my more recent experience as a member of the local Landmarks Board has highlighted this difference between how architects and normal people view buildings. Most all architects educated in the last 50 years have been instilled with this idea of Truth in architecture.

Boulder's Embattled Historic Bandshell

Every ten years or so, our local city government, the City Council and some folks in the Planning Department, get the notion that the downtown civic area needs to be revitalized.  So Master Plans are created, consultants are hired, public meeting are held and more often than not, the public has clearly expressed the desire to leave beautiful Boulder as it is.  There is a lot to be said about... 

Boulder 2014 Structures of Merit - some of the best of the 1960's

som eye clinic

As Chair of Boulder's Landmarks Board, I have been heading up an effort to engender greater appreciation and recognition of some of Boulder's remarkable 1960's architecture.

Boulder really flowered in this decade as a number of new, high tech industries moved to town and the overall prosperity lead to a explosive building boom.  On the scene were a number of talented architects that, along with their clients, embraced the future and created buildings that were unconventional and intriguingly creative.

som thron

The City of Boulder had as a part of the Preservation Program an arm called the Structures of Merit.  Many years ago this was a kind of preservation-lite that entailed some limited protection from demolition of designated buildings.  The program's restriction were removed and the Structures of Merit designation became purely honorary, with no limitations on potential building changes or demolitions.  As the teeth were taken out of the program it was largely abandoned.

som kahn

Last year in an effort to raise awareness of architecture of the recent past, the Landmarks Board decided to revive the Structures of Merit program as a  kind of architectural awards.  The buildings shown here are the first crop of this renaissance of the Structures of Merit Program.

som brenton

These buildings will be designated this year with the support of their current owners and I hope this is the first step in extended the range of the Landmarks Board from a Bureacracy-of-No to one of more inclusion, greater outreach and better community partnership.

som sirotkin

From top to bottom:

Boulder Eye Clinic, by Charles Haertling

Thron House, by Hobart Wagner

Kahn House, by Charles Haertling

Brenton House, by Charles Haertling

Sirotkin House, by Tician Papachristou

Willard House, by Charles Haertling

som willard

New Urbanism, 19th century style, Old Louisville

house in Old Louisville, Belgravia court

house in Old Louisville, Belgravia court

"New" urbanism has been criticized enough for its slightly ridiculous and myopic name.  It seems that New Urbanism has now transitioned  from an innovative design process to make walkable, more sustainable cities, to a buzz word bandied about by developers to pack more units and more density into even smaller acreage.  I live in a New Urbanist kind of neighborhood that I quite enjoy even if the mix of residential and retail is a bit light on the shops and restaurants.

On a recent trip to my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, I took an opportunity to head downtown to the Old Louisville section of town.  I wrote about this previously in terms of its formation and history, but what really struck me this time were the small pedestrian-access only areas - a series of green lanes and squares which fronted the houses.  And what impressed me the most was how gracious and carefully delineated each of these areas have become.  Certainly the passage of time - these areas are now 100 years old - have eased and softened some edges lending a composed, relaxed air to the formality of the building designs.  But it is the apparently simple things, like the distance between houses, the width of the lanes, the slightly veiled gates to gardens beyond, that are so impressive, carefully handled and now governed with a loving stewardship.

access to fronts of houses, pedestrian walk, Old Louisville

access to fronts of houses, pedestrian walk, Old Louisville

There was a time when all of Old Louisville, and certainly these pedestrian access lanes, was not so nice or well-loved.  Like most of the U.S., urban flight abandoned downtown residential districts and many of the suffered.  These houses which did not sit facing normative streets paid a particularly steep price, being cut up into so many apartments because the auto-centric culture did not value the density or access.

OL house 01

OL house 01

Luckily these well-built structures survived that time, both due to the quality of the architecture and planning, and most likely, because no developer or urban renewal agency had their eye on this part of town.  This district, the Old Louisville Historic District was quickly formed in the 1970's to fend off some of those early demolishing threats and because of those efforts we not only have a section of beautiful, delightful residential housing, but a remarkable demonstration of old New Urbanism.