Posts Tagged ‘Dick Moe’

New Leadership

June 15, 2010

Yesterday we announced the hiring of Stephanie Meeks as the eighth President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Meeks spent many years at the Nature Conservancy, eventually becoming CEO of that not-for-profit, developing formidable chops in advocacy, management, public relations and fundraising. We are genuinely excited to have a leader of this caliber and pedigree.

I think Meeks’ experience in land conservation will serve her extremely well in the arena of heritage conservation. Over the last 18 years Dick Moe has brought the National Trust into the 21st century, leading the group into the fight against sprawl, pushing beyond the four walls of stuffy house museums and antiquarian peccadillos into the streets where people lived and played. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is about saving the places that matter to people; about saving community; about planning for the future, not the past.

And then three years ago Dick Moe took the next step: he said historic preservation was about sustainability. He backed it up with a slew of facts and I was thrilled when he did it, because in an era when we care about waste of resources and the carbon footprint of our lives and homes, sustainability IS preservation. Now, Stephanie Meeks, whose career has been about saving places that matter to people and the natural environment that sustains human life, can build on this sustainable foundation. Or perhaps the better analogy is not to build but to continue to adapt and improve the National Trust “house” for the concerns and communities of the 21st century.

In Tulsa in October, Don Rypkema gave a great speech about the next 50 years of historic preservation. In it, he said straight out that the next President of the National Trust should be a woman. And here she is and I believe that the movement to conserve our built heritage will be enriched by her presence.

I wrote a blog in response to Don’s speech, and both texts will be in the next issue of Preservation Forum (Join Forum now!) and we will be doing a live chat on the topic with Forum members in late July/early August. Stay tuned!

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Miami Beach

January 25, 2010


all photographs copyright Felicity Rich

In my role as a Trustee of the National Trust I attend three meetings a year and while the meetings themselves are intense and plentiful, we do reap the benefits of visiting stunning historic places in great American cities. This weekend we were in Miami Beach, which seems quite the posh destination, and it is. Thanks to preserving buildings.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

In the 1970s and 1980s South Miami Beach had serious issues of crime and drugs. It also had blocks and blocks of fantastic but run-down Art Deco hotels that had opened in the 1930s when Miami Beach became a vacation destination. A few visionary developers, including National Trust Trustee Tony Goldman, started restoring these buildings and today South Beach draws tourists from all over the world to its beaches and protected, restored Art Deco district.

Friday Tony hosted us on The Hotel rooftop for drinks before we visited another Trustee’s stunning contemporary rooftop condo with views of South Beach.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

There was a great symmetry to this meeting because our President Dick Moe is retiring and this was the site of his first National Preservation Conference in 1992. That was also my first conference, as a staff member of Landmarks Illinois. That was in the wake of Hurricane Andrew and there was much cleanup yet to do but Miami impressed me at the time. It was also sad because this year we lost Floyd Butler, who had founded the Young Urban Preservationists, a way to teach inner-city kids, and he and I had spent much time together in Miami in ’92.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

Thursday we had dined at the home of Arva Moore Parks McCabe, a pioneering local preservationist, who last night related how she came to the Trust in 1973 seeking help saving a house in a historic district and the Trust sent her to Oak Park, Illinois. It worked, and she and others of the Dade Heritage Trust have saved much in the meantime, including a fascinating effort by Trustee Jorge Hernandez and others to save the Miami Marine Stadium, one of the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered properties last year.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

The Miami Marine Stadium is a 1963 concrete composition that is part of an outdoor marine arena unlike any I have ever seen. The folded slabs of the roof and bleachers projecting over the water recall the most visionary concrete designs of the 1950s and 1960s and even in despair the building impresses.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

Local preservationists have defied the odds and the authorities to make significant progress towards its eventual preservation. We had the honor of touring the site by boat with the architect who designed it as a young man, Hilario Candela.

Then we had a lovely dinner at Vizcaya, the stunning Italianate Deering mansion on the shore in Miami, an over-the-top historic house and gardens that is open to the public and which the National Trust helped local preservationists save from over development a few years ago. The whole place is made from coral stone and there is a massive boat folly across from the terrace that reminded me of Cixi’s folly, the marble boat in the Summer Palace in Beijing. Vincent Scully whom we awarded the Louise DuPont Crowninshield Award in Nashville was there and I got to speak with him.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

It was interesting to hear Dick Moe and Arva Moore Parks McCabe and others talk about a Miami that “got no respect” from the preservation movement back in the 1970s, because my first exposure to the place in ’92 was all about preservation. How saving and rehabilitating buildings revitalized a community down on its heels and made it an international destination. Almost a generation later, the Miami Marine Stadium presents the same opportunity. Every generation can reclaim its unique and valued connection to place. If it chooses to.

Green Preservation

November 4, 2009

Preservation is green. It retains the carbon footprint of structures that are already there, requires less materials, less expense of energy to construct – because it is already constructed. It is true that some older buildings (more likely those built 1940-2000) USE more energy than new “green” buildings, but the greenest new building will still take 30-40 years to pay off its carbon debt.

Two years ago, National Trust President Dick Moe made a speech at the National Building Museum about preservation and sustainability. It was epochal. He had the statistics that proved that “the greenest building is the one already built” but he wasn’t just preaching to the choir. He was making it known that there was a vibrant, multifaceted preservation movement, and that this movement was staking its claim to sustainability and moving even further in that direction.

The results are out there. Two sites you HAVE TO SEE are blogs linked at right: Barbara Campagna’s green preservation blog (Barbara is the Graham Gund architect of the National Trust) and Carla Bruni’s greenpreservationist.org blog. Carla is a graduate of our Master’s program in Historic Preservation and she has already made a mark. We had her speaking on her work in New Orleans and now she is teaching a preservation class at the Center for Green Technology.

You can’t consume your way to sustainability, folks.

Back to Dick Moe. He announced his retirement this week, and it reminded me of that epochal speech two years ago and how excited I was that he was leading the National Trust and the preservation movement into the future. And it wasn’t the first time he had done it. During his 17 years at the helm, the National Trust reinvented itself from top to bottom. The Trust, founded 60 years ago to save historic houses, nearly doubled its collection of historic properties, but much more significantly, it broadened that collection to more nearly represent the American experience and American architecture. From the commercial Gaylord Building to Philip Johnson’s modernist Glass House to the Acoma Sky City Pueblo, the National Trust’s collection of historic sites has been revolutionized. Not only do we own the two most famous modern glass houses, we also have a new Modern and Recent Past Initiative, a new Preservation Green Lab in Seattle, a more vigorous series of regional offices and a robust collection of statewide and local partners. There are three times as many statewide preservation organizations today than there were in 1992. Dick Moe didn’t simply grow the Trust, he expanded its relevance and helped make it the leader of an expanding nationwide movement. His leadership will be missed but his impact is visible everywhere you look.

Huge Fact

December 14, 2007

Dick Moe, President of the National Trust made a FANTASTIC speech last night on the occasion of receiving the Vincent Scully Prize at the National Building Museum. The basic point: “Preservation IS Sustainability” This is obvious stuff to those of us who deal with old buildings – they have embodied energy and if we want to slow down climate change, we need to save buildings. Dick had some killer statistics which again are obvious if you think about it. An excerpt from Moe’s speech:

“But according to the EPA, transportation – cars, trucks, trains, airplanes – accounts for just 27% of America‚s greenhouse gas emissions, while 48% – almost twice as much – is produced by the construction and operation of buildings. If you remember nothing else I say tonight, remember this: Nearly half of the greenhouse gases we Americans send into the atmosphere comes from our buildings. In fact, more than 10% of the entire world’s greenhouse gas emissions is produced by America’s buildings – but the current debate on climate change does not come close to reflecting that huge fact. The message is clear: Any solution to climate change must address the need to reduce emissions by being smarter about how we use our buildings and wiser about land use.”

PRESERVATION IS SUSTAINABILITY he said. BRAVO! And then Dick talked about looking at the comparative carbon footprints of old versus new buildings:

“According to a formula produced for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, about 80 billion BTUs of energy are embodied in a typical 50,000-square-foot commercial building. That‚s the equivalent of 640,000 gallons of gasoline. If you tear the building down, all of that embodied energy is wasted.”

“What’s more, demolishing that same 50,000-square-foot commercial building would create nearly 4,000 tons of waste. That’s enough debris to fill 26 railroad boxcars – that’s a train nearly a quarter of a mile long, headed for a landfill that is already almost full.”

“Once the old building is gone, putting up a new one in its place takes more energy, of course, and it also uses more natural resources and releases new pollutants and greenhouse gases into our environment. Look at all the construction cranes dotting the Washington skyline, and consider this: It is estimated that constructing a new 50,000-square-foot commercial building releases about the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere as driving a car 2.8 million miles.”

“One more point: Since 70% of the energy consumed over a building‚s lifetime is used in the operation of the building, some people argue that all the energy used in demolishing an older building and replacing it is quickly recovered through the increased energy efficiency of the new building – but that’s simply not true. Recent research indicates that even if 40% of the materials are recycled, it takes approximately 65 years for a green, energy-efficient new office building to recover the energy lost in demolishing an existing building. And let’s face it: Most new buildings aren’t designed to last anywhere near 65 years. ”

You build a new house and you do more environmental damage than you can undo by never driving a car again.

Then Dick goes after LEED, the admirable system designed to show how green and efficient a building is. BUT IT DOESN”T COUNT RE-USE! D-OH! Here’s what Dick said:

“This emphasis on new construction is completely wrong-headed. The statistics I cited earlier tell us clearly that buildings are the problem – but incredibly, we propose to solve the problem by constructing more and more new buildings while ignoring the ones we already have.”
“Here’s what we have to keep in mind: No matter how much green technology is employed in its design and construction, any new building represents a new impact on the environment. The bottom line is that the greenest building is one that already exists.”
 
and then the kicker, because the punters always whine about energy efficiency:

“It’s often alleged that historic buildings are energy hogs- but in fact, some older buildings are as energy-efficient as many recently-built ones, including new green buildings. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency suggests that buildings constructed before 1920 are actually more energy-efficient than buildings built at any time afterwards – except for those built after 2000. Furthermore, in 1999, the General Services Administration (GSA) examined its buildings inventory and found that utility costs for historic buildings were 27% less than for more modern buildings.”

This is a big no-brainer for anyone with a knowledge of history. ENERGY WAS EXPENSIVE for most of history, hence EVERY VICTORIAN BUILDING WAS DOUBLE-GLAZED. They also had operable upper sashes for cooling. Energy was only cheap for one historical period – 1945-1970 – and that was when inefficient, single-glazed buildings were built. Dick notes this because it is a real challenge for preserving the Recent Past.

Dick winds it up with emphasizing the climate devastation of sprawl, a topic he brought to historic preservation:

“For decades, national, state and local policies have facilitated – even encouraged – the development of new suburbs while leaving existing communities behind. As a result, an ongoing epidemic of sprawl ravages the countryside, devouring open space, consuming resources and demanding new infrastructure. Look at nearby Loudoun County, for example, where pro-growth supervisors have already approved thousands of new homes, and are considering the approval of thousands more, in a semi-rural area underserved by roads and public services. Meanwhile, here in Washington – and in scores of other cities – disinvestment has left viable housing stock abandoned and schools slated for closing in areas where infrastructure is already in place, already paid for.”

Bravo, Dick! This is momentous. Here is a link to the whole speech.

http://www.nationaltrust.org/news/2007/20071213_scully.html

The wheel is in spin, folks, and historic preservation is part of the axle.