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the juxtaposition did not escape me

Post #301 • June 17, 2004, 2:33 PM • 6 Comments

I noticed - and got nervous - when Douglas McLennan ran this story and this story back to back on ArtsJournal.

Free-market libertarianism has a lot of attractive ideas, but I'm not convinced that this is one of them.



mary agnes

June 17, 2004, 10:35 PM

How would you recommend these two countries save the buildings which from our perspective (am I right?) are so essential in the world's architectural patrimony?



June 17, 2004, 10:51 PM

I admit it - I don't know. So we sell them to private owners. Now, what's to stop them from turning them into McDonald's's or knocking them down for being unprofitable?



June 18, 2004, 3:15 AM

Nothing. But nothing's stopping the countries from knocking them down either.

So what? Yes, it would be too bad to lose them to McDonald's, but eventually everything passes away anyways: selling them to private investors who want them as status symbols and who will treat them as the fetish-objects they are may be the best way to ensure their survival.

Besides, if a government doesn't want a building build/knocked down, most of the time it won't be.



June 18, 2004, 4:36 AM

I assume that the countries don't knock them down because they are run by people who can be voted out of their jobs by their constituents, who might be more than a little tweaked to see their cultural heritage destroyed. No equivalent mechanism will check the actions of private owners of these properties.



June 18, 2004, 6:39 PM

It comes down to how much of a national treasure the building really is. If it's important enough (which, i suppose translates into 'if posterity deems it important enough), the government will eventually buy the building back. It will be at a huge loss, and it would turn out that selling was a bad idea. On the other hand, the government can't own every historical building. Some of them need to be sold off. I would think it would be possible to sell a buiding with the stipulation that its historical value will not be injured by the owner ("otherwise it shall fall back into the hands of the stata").

In any case, it's true that eventually it'll all turn into dust - the actual path is not so important.


mary agnes

June 18, 2004, 8:40 PM

Some culture observers consider architecture to be the greatest of the visual arts. Certainly its social value is profound and needs to be thought of as a close companion to its aesthetic one. Of course it will all turn into dust someday as will our bodies and paintings but i am all for slowing down the process and/or chaning our points of view to include the beauty of decay. I think we do need to be aware that the Russian Government is unstable, the population has more pressing physical needs than the average American does, and that combination of those creates conditions in which preservation is not a priority. Just as human rights and environmental concerns have the international watchdog groups, it would be great to have an Amnesty International-type group for Culture. I guess a lot of that is done through diplomatic and arts channels now.



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