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Preservation by Design
"Preservation by Design" The Guild: A Sourcebook of American Craft Artists, New York: Kraus-Sikes, Inc., 1987, p.274.

The years bracketing 1850 saw publication of two books, each serving to define the development of two fields that even today remain distinguished — and heretofore distinct — in our contemporary culture: historic preservation and the arts and crafts movement.

Brandishing his pen before an increasingly industrialized society, John Ruskin published The Seven Lamps of Architecture in 1849. In his chapter "Lamp of Memory," Ruskin states, "There are two duties respecting national architecture whose importance it is impossible to overrate; the first to render the architecture of the day, historical; and the second to preserve, as the most precious of inheritances, that of the past ages."

The Seven Lamps of Architecture continues to serve as a guiding light to preservationists engaged in the restoration of historic buildings. Practitioners in this field today include trades- and craftspeople providing services to conserve our artistic and cultural heritage.

The Stones of Venice, first published in 1851, laid the foundation for development of the arts and crafts movement by William Morris and others who were repulsed by the products of the industrial age. Morris, in evolving his theory of design, wrote, "A designer... should always thoroughly understand the process of the special manufacture he is dealing with, or the result will be a mere tour de force. On the other hand, it is the pleasure of understanding the capabilities of the special material, and using them for suggesting (not imitating) natural beauty and incident, that gives the raison d'etre for decorative art."

The seedbed of preservation and crafts was cultivated by outcasts of the technocratic age — signaled by the brutal end of World War II. By the 1960's both fields were fast defining their respective ground. Nonetheless, today it is a rare instance when there is a common ground.

I suggest that such territory exists on each and every territory exists on each and every restoration job and new construction project — in the company of architect, designer, craftsperson, artisan, artist and collector.

This can be achieved through 'preservation by design.' Not 'preservation vs. design,' which suggests a combative stance typifying the debate over the identity of art and craft. Not 'preservation or design,' which is optional or exclusive. Nor 'preservation and design,' this coupling appearing passive and without much objective. But 'preservation by design': a purposeful intent with a deliberate goal realized in a studious fashion.

The intent of 'preservation by design' is to address the two most important issues facing the field of architecture today: preservation of both our architectural heritage (past and future) and preservation of the artisan who created — and continues to create — this work.

First-the preservation of physical fabric, both old and new, can only be accomplished by integrating proper design into new construction, restoration, and even ongoing maintenance and repair of a building throughout its life. This entails designing for preservation from the onset and adhering to the very elementary principle of architecture: that a structure's primary function and design requirement is to protect itself and its occupants from...the elements. This task remains in the hands of architects and other design professionals.

Second: both the traditional trade techniques and contemporary craft skills can best be preserved through a common goal: an adherence to the finest principles of design — in the classroom, studio, workshops and field. With such a purpose, there is not distinction between an individual working on conservation of historic fabric and one engaged in construction of a new work.

Such principles appear separately in the fields of preservation and crafts. Let them combine to form a common ground over which a single banner flies reading opus artificem probat — the craftsman is known by the quality of his work.