What is the value of historic design? When does built work become historic? Because it’s old, or was created by a designer of significance, is it more valuable? According to The Cultural Landscape Foundation, the Long Beach Convention Center has great value and should be preserved.
TCLF makes an interesting case for retaining the original architecture and design of the Long Beach Convention Center. The current conditions, however, no longer meet the needs of the city. The original project has inherent challenges of code compliance, structural integrity and inhospitably barren plazas and courtyards. A case can be made for the reuse of the buildings, but the open spaces require significant upgrades that go beyond surgical design solutions.
A complete redesign that encourages everyday use by individuals and small groups is needed, but what of the historical significance of the design and designers? How will the redevelopment interpret their work? Is there a value in their work given the changes in culture and lifestyle over the past 40 years?
These are interesting challenges for development and design in Southern California. We’re not known for our long view and rich history of built work and environments. There are a number of examples of historically significant works being celebrated – Los Angeles City Hall, The Getty Villa and Griffith Park and Observatory – but more often than not we’re a culture of NEW.
It’s a double-edged sword for designers. On the one hand we have the opportunity to re-imagine the built environment. On the other, we’re never certain how long our solutions will last. For landscape architects this is especially difficult, as our designs often need 20 to 30 years to fully develop. By then a new owner, user or style may have come along to re-imagine our re-imagining.
Every generation assumes their approach and knowledge base is superior simply because it is the most current. Time allows for analysis and interpretation to combine with technology for new ideas and methodologies. Southern California embraces this dynamic more than most cities in the US, which makes for an exciting design laboratory.
The joy of practicing in Southern California is not only having the ideal natural environment for outdoor living, but a design environment that consistently reinvents the way we live outdoors. The current generation of low impact development, sustainability, urban renewal and appreciation of social connection is certainly the most complete. But how will it hold up in 2054?