Two Stories on Extreme Conditions

by Don Friedman on September 1, 2016


Two stories that I’ve read in the news recently: a Scottish castle in need of large-scale repair, and the current condition of the city of Venice.

The link between these stories is the mismatch between, on the one hand, the resources natively available for maintenance and restoration, and on the other hand, the scale of the work required. Even though most of our work is in New York – a wealthy and growing city – we are familiar with this problem because it is common to many of our clients. Non-profit institutions, especially schools and religious institutions, often are housed in old buildings that require more work that the institutions can easily afford. Also many people who own old houses do not have the resources for the work that the houses require because of gradual deterioration or because of the effects of nearby construction.

There’s no magic answer to this problem. Ultimately, if a society considers its landmarks worthy of saving it may have to invest cash in saving them. I’m honestly not sure if Venice is salvageable as a viable city any more, given how many people and businesses have left for the mainland. It would be terrible to lose Venice, but turning it into a theme park is an unpalatable way to save it. I’ve said it before, but the way to save old buildings is to keep them as useful parts of daily life. That’s not an option open to Duart Castle because of its location and it may be past viability for Venice, although I hope I’m wrong about that.

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