Spring 2016 Forum Journal: Activating Historic Spaces

By Forum Online posted 06-10-2016 12:12


Activating historic spaces hinges on engaging audiences, existing and new, in the reimagination of a site. Successfully activating places requires connection on two levels. First of all, the activation of a place must credibly incorporate its past. As Jorge Otero-Pailos explains in this issue, installations need “something really intrinsic to the work we do as preservationists” in order to meaningfully enhance historic sites. Just as important, however, is that such interventions authentically resonate with contemporary visitors and meet their needs. It is not enough to recall the past—we must make those stories and the places that house them compelling for our present-day audience.

There are many ways to achieve the necessary balance, and no one formula can be prescribed for all historic sites, which range so widely in their particularities, needs, and settings. Each historic place must be examined on an individual level to determine the kind of activation that best suits it. Some sites engage the community strictly through nonprofit ventures, whereas others can benefit from launching or partnering with commercial enterprises. Some activation can be utilitarian, restoring or expanding upon the tangible functions of a site, while other interventions use aesthetics to convey meaning and enthrall audiences. Many (though not all) such art installations are temporary, whereas business partnerships and other forms of shared use are likely to last longer. Every approach has its strengths, and this issue seeks to explore them in depth by describing a broad range of reimagined historic places. Here’s what you’ll find inside:

  • Introduction: The Power of Light by Jason Lloyd Clement
  • Preservation Art: An Interview with Jorge Otero-Pailos by Katherine Malone-France
  • Activating Iconic Spaces: Art Intervention as a Force for Preservation by Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero
  • Liberating Lyndhurst from the Tyranny of the Period of Significance by Howard Zar
  • CITY of NIGHT and the Impact of Placemaking by Dana Saylor
  • Community Partnerships Activate Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood by Anne Petersen

But whether using art installations to awaken a dormant industrial site, drawing the forgotten narratives out of a riverside landscape, or incorporating the story of a minority-owned restaurant into a site’s revival, it is the buy-in from patrons and customers that truly determines the resurgent relevance of a historic space.

Read the full issue here.

#HistoricSites #art #Interpretation #Lyndhurst

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