Monday, March 31, 2014

Architect Julie Capozzoli's Talk on Architectural Preservation

Here are some notes (hopefully accurate) from a March 19 talk by architect Julie Capozzoli entitled "Architectural Preservation in Theory and Practice", hosted by the Jewish Center of Princeton. Julie is an architect, chair of the Princeton Preservation Commission, and a member of the Princeton Planning Board. The Preservation Commission has a committee focused on the Veblen House, consisting of Julie and Robert von Zumbusch.
  • The modern movement to preserve historic structures began with the fight to save the Penn Central train station in New York City. Though unsuccessful, the effort led to the creation of the NY City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. In 1975, New Jersey passed a law allowing the creation of historic preservation commissions, of which Princeton's is one. 
  • She made frequent reference to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, which include guidelines for "preserving, rehabilitating, restoring, and reconstructing historic buildings".
  • Rehabilitation is applied to deteriorated structures, and allows more latitude due to the buildings' condition. Restoration involves retaining components from the most significant period, and removal of other portions. Reconstruction is a rebuild of the original structure.
  • She discussed adaptive reuse, and the embodied energy in existing structures, and offered a statistic that operational carbon is 65% of a building's total emissions. Preservation can be more sustainable than building new, because it avoids the carbon footprint of new materials. There's a Nantucket guide to making historic buildings more sustainable.
  • There are 18 historic districts in Princeton, including Maybury Hill out Snowden Lane, and Jugtown.
  • Historic designation does not preclude changes to a structure, as long as the changes minimize the loss of materials and preserve the building's defining characteristics. Any new work, such as additions, needs to be differentiated from the existing structure.
  • Historic preservation is not just about buildings.
Though the Veblen House and Cottage were deemed by an architectural study to be of national historic significance due to their association with Oswald Veblen, they never received the official historic designation. That, along with the rehabilitation required, suggest a measure of latitude in preserving the historic features in the process of adaptive reuse. The talk was particularly useful in distinguishing between the various approaches to preservation, pointing to the federal guidelines as a resource, and suggesting a resource for combining rehabilitation and sustainability.