Thursday, August 26, 2004

I shudder to think of the amount of toxins I have breathed in over the past couple of days. I've spent a significant chunk of time in a decaying building full of mold, mildew, asbestos, lead and god knows what else, documenting it for an architectural description I'm writing. It's actually a nice old building, a 1906 school built in a small town east of where I work. I guess it's more correct to say it WAS a nice old building. It's falling apart now, mostly because of a deliberate policy of neglect.

We're on the wrong side of the preservation question with this one. We should be documenting the school before its rehabilitation. Instead, we're documenting it before its demolition. The owners somehow convinced the State Historic Preservation Office to let them tear the building down and put in a parking lot. I'm not saying there was anything underhanded in the process, but after spending two days in the building, I'm certain that it could have been rescued, especially if someone had started paying attention to the water damage in the 1980s. Old school buildings are ideal for adaptive re-use strategies, and while this one definitely has some structural issues (my boss calls the trusswork supporting the auditorium roof "the most optimistic construction [he's] ever seen"), it could be rehabilitated. It just takes desire and a whole lot of money.

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