Rethinking Preservation

Could rethinking the very idea of preservation, preserve its future?

In 2007, a demolition permit had been granted for Paul Rudolph’s 1960 Blue Cross Blue Shield office building to make way for New England’s tallest tower by Renzo Piano. Intrigued by the collision of new and old, and the lack of demolition alternatives, we set out to rethink the meaning of preservation using this project as an example.

The legacy of Rudolph’s building lies mainly in its innovative facade that contains the mechanical and structural systems, thereby freeing the interior floor space for office use. Drawing from the work of artist Gordon Matta-Clark, we hypothesized a series of concepts that reinterpreted preservation as: integration, anatomical exhibition, dissection, public art and remnant. In doing so, we revealed aspects of the building that prompted a new understanding of its cultural contributions, and began a new dialogue about how architecture should be preserved. These explorations led us to new projects and speaking engagements, as well as a successful stay of demolition for Rudolph’s building.