When it comes to future architectural projects, urban planning brings the promise of an exciting new built landscape. When building from scratch, possibilities are seemingly endless in this technologically-advanced era.
However, there is a very real cultural threat that comes into play when the new completely takes over with no regard to the old.
Historically, humans have a strong track record in terms of architectural preservation. Certain architectural relics from the dawn of humanity still remain; cave paintings, the pyramids and classical architecture are still very much intact and revered in the modern world.
Issues arise when buildings of a historical nature but that may not be deemed to hold historical importance, are removed in order to make way for their modern counterparts.
Not only does a reliance on new developments create resource issues including waste and excess carbon emissions, it can also create equally destructive social issues.
The journal article ‘The Restless Urban Landscape: Economic and Sociocultural Change and the Transformation of Metropolitan Washington DC’ from the Annals of the Association of American Geographers explores the social impact of urban planning and changes.
“The particular implications of this transformation for the supply and demand of elements of the built environment involve changes in the organisation and product mix of developers and construction companies, in the roles and professional orientations of architects and planners, and in commodity aesthetics and patterns of consumption among a ‘new bourgeoisie,’” the journal states.
Architecture creates a cultural identity. In order to foster the past or learn from it, it is important that architectural history is allowed to remain. It is when this sense of identity or local pride is interrupted or changed that social issues can arise. In completely discounting heritage buildings and infrastructure, cultural identity is lost, oftentimes bringing with it cultural apathy as well as a loss of community and identity.
These issues stand aside from the wasteful nature of not maximising the potential of built spaces. In fact, refurbishing or even retrofitting buildings deemed to be outdated is arguably even more in line with sustainability principles than a modern green build.
“Because historic preservation essentially involves the conservation of energy and natural resources it is really the greenest of the building arts,” says Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
For holistic urban development to be undertaken, a focus needs to include the social elements of future projects. If architectural history is not preserved and stitched into the new urban fabric, future urban planning will not reach its full potential.