Whole cultural landscapes must be preserved, not just individual buildings, he saysIn preserving their community's history, people should look to save entire cultural landscapes instead of just one house or building, said Robert Melnick, dean of the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts.
Melnick spoke on historic preservation before an audience of about 70 in the Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center Friday night as part of the Astoria Community Festival. He was the guest of the Lower Columbia Preservation Society.
Drawing on his personal and professional experience in the fields of preservation and planning, Melnick said towns must find their historic identity and blend it into their future if they want to successfully capture their sense of place.
"Preservation to me is not about rules and regulations and laws," he said. "It is about helping us understand where we are in place and time - what has come before us, and how those events, and places and people have helped us to be where we are today."
Don Peting, director of the UO Historic Preservation Program, joined Melnick in his visit to Astoria.
With his background in landscape architecture, Melnick expressed his belief that historic preservation should include not just buildings, but a location's entire environment.
Painters Lori Andriesian, Barb Roberts and June Osborn display their Beta Sigma Phi sign before the Umbrella Parade."This is especially true in Oregon, where the enormous wealth of natural resources from timberland to agricultural opportunities to the rivers and, of course, the ocean have in so many ways defined what we are as a state," he said.
In light of his belief in preserving the natural landscape, Melnick acknowledged it is dynamic - therefore he stressed preservation is not about stopping change but "directing or managing that change."
Speaking to an audience largely made up of historical society members and historic property owners, Melnick said they need to work against a perception that they are against change. He said he knows that many people wrongly believe those who are for historic preservation are against progress and development.
"We need to stand up and say that preservation is a part of progress, it is a part of moving forward in our communities," he said.
Melnick ended his speech by returning to his main point - preservation is more than just renovating buildings. He described one encounter while speaking at a similar preservation meeting in northern Montana, when a third-generation wheat farmer addressed the meeting.
KIM ERSKINE - For The Daily Astorian
Lyndee and Stephanie Nikkala are ready to cheer on the Oregon State University Beavers. Their entry was "Go Beavs.""He simply said that as he left his house each morning to start up his machinery, he 'checked in' with the hills to see how the day would go," he said. "Historic preservation is really about people and their daily lives - past, present and future. If, in the interest of preservation, we lost that connection, that poetry, than we will have lost a great deal."
Following the speech, audience member Ron Walker of Astoria said he enjoyed Melnick's presentation. "I thought it was good, I learned some things," he said.
Walker, who owns a house from the early 1900s, said he moved to Astoria to be a member of a community that respects its historic properties. He said he had been living in Portland, where he was part of a few unsuccessful campaigns to preserve some historic properties.
"I'm glad to see people here are interested in saving some of the old structures," he said.
Ann Phillips, who also lives in Astoria, said she was impressed with Melnick's message of preserving a whole landscape - not just the building. She said that message especially has merit for a town such as Astoria, which has both historic and natural qualities.
"We have such riches here," she said.