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- The Sensitive Addition
The Sensitive Addition
- Photo: Flickr
There’s been a lot of talk invested in the last few years in trying to define what is A an historically sensitive addition. The National Park Service has published guidelines, which, in short, recommend preserving historic features and materials in order to preserve a building's historic character. That's the goal.
The Park Service also suggests, in a general way. a means of accomplishing that. The recommendation is that any addition to an historic structure be designed in such a way that it look enough different from the original structure that a visual distinction be apparent to the casual observer In short., respect the old building but don't try to fool anyone that what you've added is old.
There have been a number of strategies devised over the years that aim to accomplish this, and I'll discuss those shortly But first there’s a question to be considered: Although the visual distinction notion has been widely accepted, is it always appropriate? In a word, no. I agree it's a good first assumption but in some cases an architectural solution will emerge that, closely mimics the original and looks just right. It's probably a good first position to assume that a visual distinction is dosn able, but working on older houses requires nothing if not flexibility.
The possibility of not obeying the Park Service dictum raises another important philosophical issue: Is it somehow dishonest to add a new-old structure that isn't distinguishable as being different from the original? Is that playing fast and loose with history?
Some would say, Yes, absolutely. I'd say, Maybe, it depends.
For me, it's case-by-case. It comes down to whether or not we identify a given dwelling as an historic house. No, I would never recommend that their caretakers put an addition on Monticello, Mount Vernon, or any major architectural monument. On the other hand, the definition of historic house has broadened greatly in recent years. You ask Foursquare and Bungalow owners whether their old houses are historic, and lots of them will tell you from the bottom of their hearts that, surely, yes indeed they live in historic houses. And I'm not going to tell an enthusiastic wave of volunteer preservationists they're wrong.
So let's look at some strategies.
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