A common perception of historic preservation is that of restoring monumental masonry structures, domed and columned mansions, and quaint clapboard cottages into museum-like artifacts to be viewed and admired. This viewpoint creates static structures that are outdated and outmoded for usage today. However, the vast majority of historic preservation projects seek to both preserve historically significant structures and modernize them to meet current and future usage demands.
Due to advancements in technology, evolving philosophies about workplace productivity, improvements to occupant safety and accessibility, and a greater need for energy efficiency, historic buildings often need creative intervention to find a practical function within the current building stock. New challenges arise as early high-rise towers, concrete structures, and glass and metal buildings built in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s have reached the age of “historic” designation, meaning that they have achieved the age and a “level of cultural significance” worthy of classification as “architectural heritage” rather than just a building.
In many cases, these postwar structures were built with untested cladding designs and sealed with experimental materials — plastics, rubbers, and synthetic products — that were never intended to be maintained or replaced. These inaccessible components have now reached the end of their service lives.
The best way to ensure the long-term survival of these and other historic structures is to sensitively address these deficiencies in a way that maintains the architecturally significant portions of the building and to rehabilitate them so that they are desirable and effective at meeting modern usage requirements. In other words, restore them to living, functioning structures rather than preserve them as dust-collecting artifacts only to be admired from a distance.