Durable Growth

Finding ways for history to accommodate urbanism

Arc Light Building

Arc Light Building

I love a good historical building.  I enjoy looking at the craftsmanship and building materials from a long-ago time.  I delight in contemplating the human events that have transpired since a building was constructed.  There’s something thrilling about resting a hand on a brick that was mortared into place when Chester Arthur was president.

But the relationship between historical preservation and urbanism can be uneasy.  Sometimes, a surviving building interferes with the street grid needed to facilitate walkability.  Other times, an old building lacks the height and volume to meet urbanist goals. 

Arc Light Building detail

Arc Light Building detail

Thus, it’s a pleasure to find a historic building that has been creatively retrofitted to accommodate urbanism.  The Arc Light Building in San Francisco, near AT&T Park, is a fine example.  As described by John King in the San Francisco Chronicle, the footprint and façade of the building were maintained, with a block of apartments, largely glass-fronted and contemporary in appearance, added within and above the historic building.

I don’t claim to have a particularly discerning architectural eye.  I know what I like, but often lack the education or words to express that enjoyment.  In this case, I can only note that the contrast between the historical brickwork and the modern glass spotlights both elements and provides a clear image of a city moving forward.

I hope that all of our cities are able to find similar opportunities to save the past while accommodating the present and the future.

Scheduling Notes

For August, Petaluma Urban Chat moves to the first Tuesday of the month, which will be August 6.  The change was necessitated by a scheduling conflict.  We’ll begin at 5:30pm at the Aqus Café in Petaluma.  This will be a meeting for which speakers will replace our book discussion.  Bill White and Vin Smith of Basin Street will present the proposed Riverfront project.  Anyone with an interest in the urban form is welcome.

In September, the Urban Chat meeting will return to the second Tuesday of the month.  Susan Starbird of Petaluma Waterways will talk about the Petaluma River Access Plan.

For those willing to don walking shoes, Urban Chat will take walks around Windsor on Saturday, September 21 and around Petaluma on Sunday, October 20.  All are welcome.  More details will be provided as the dates approach.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. – Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

(Note: Photos are from the San Francisco Chronicle article.)

Written by Dave Alden

Dave Alden

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. A University of California graduate, he has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and two dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com.

Comments are closed.