Sunday, February 1, 2009

Setting sail

A little local story that seems like it may have a happy ending: Robert Venturi's Lieb House is being relocated from Long Beach Island, NJ to Long Island, NY. Inga Saffron of the Philadelphia Inquirer also has her own blog talking about this, with some interesting comments. More discussion here.

Venturi (and modernism in general) isn't for everyone, and this venture is drawing its share of jeers. There are clearly people who think it's an ugly piece of crap, think the effort is ridiculous, and won't miss it in the least if it disappears. The Atlantic City newspaper article's comment section had someone calling the house "a cereal box with windows."

But this whole situation is encouragement for the rest of us.

I don't think relocating buildings out of context is the ideal way to deal with redevelopment pressure, and I realize most people don't have the celebrity status, funds or matchmaking luck to pull this off, but this preservation story impressed me on so many levels. Here's an example of people using their creative thought to come up with a solution that works for everybody:
  • The Lieb House is saved, takes a trip up the coast, and gets a swanky new waterfront home next to another Venturi house.
  • The new owners get a way-cool guest cottage.
  • The developer gets to build his beach palace on the vacated lot.
  • The architect gets to see his work saved and appreciated.
  • The entire thing is a great subject for media coverage of all kinds, and demonstrates to the world that there are buildings that people care about enough to jack up and move, rather than knock them down.
The only potential losers here are the neighbors of the former house site, who are soon going to have a lot less view to enjoy. And the trip will have its hazards. And there's the potential for permits being denied on the New York end. And the house may not be as visible to the public in its new location. But still, it's much better than a one-way trip to the landfill.

Now, let's just hope the house gets permission to make its voyage. As of now, it's waiting at the marina for the light to turn green.

Big props to the Venturis, the Sarnoffs, and all the people making this happen.

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