INHABITING A PIECE OF HISTORY FOR A WHILE: STEWARDSHIP AND MODERN HOUSE PRESERVATION
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Owens, Michael J.
Type of Work216 pages
ProgramMA in Historic Preservation
RightsTo view a complete copy of this thesis please contact Goucher College Special Collections & Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 337-6075.
SubjectsHistoric preservation -- Theses
Rumors of the demise of modern architecture are greatly exaggerated. To be sure, there are constant threats to residential and commercial buildings from the period, and news stories of devastating losses. My research highlights an encouraging paradox, however. While instances of endangerment and demolition are plentiful, there is also a sustained and expanding interest in modern architecture and design. In Los Angeles, architecture and preservation advocacy organizations such as the Los Angeles Conservancy, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, and the Society of Architectural Historians/Southern California Chapter tirelessly promote architecture from the late-1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. One of the most assured lines of defense for preserving Los Angeles’s rich architectural heritage is a dedicated and zealous contingent of historic house owners. My research revealed the significant roles homeownership and stewardship play in the preservation of Los Angeles’s modern residences, and what factors contribute to successful stewardship. Historic modern houses are dependent on owners who are committed to preserving the architectural integrity of their residences. Local designations, such as Los Angeles’s Historic-Cultural Monument status, offer limited legal protections for the houses. Special designations also give owners entitlements to coveted incentives, such as significant property tax reductions through easement donations and the Mills Act Property Tax Abatement Program. Historic designations, protections, and incentives are critical components of house preservation, and they encourage responsible stewardship. Ultimately, however, my research revealed an aspect of preservation so basic that it might easily be overlooked. Originally I expected to find that owners preserved their houses simply because it was the right thing to do. After meeting with owners of different economic strata and researching their ownership histories, I was surprised by my findings. Preservation by noble imperative and for the public good was an important factor for the owners, but the primary motivation to preserve was more visceral. My conversations with owners found that a genuine affection for the house and its unique design and history was the chief incentive for its protection and preservation. The bond between an owner and his or her modern house is formidable. In fact it is the impetus for responsible stewardship. My research confirmed that without an owner’s compassion, commitment, and love, the modern house would languish, and finally disappear.