7/07/2009

Urban Disintegration

This showed up in my email this morning as the story of the week from Preservation Nation.

It's a fascinating six minute short about the intersection of abandonment, architecture and video in telling stories about places that are being demolished and disappearing from memory in the Queen City. The opening shot includes a view of 98 Laurel Street, a small defiant place that still stands as of this morning in Buffalo's Cold Springs neighborhood.
Perhaps only a movie can capture the plight of the 1920s bungalows in Buffalo, N.Y., that are being torn down to make way for McMansions. In a six-minute film, a camera moves inside several of the doomed houses as workers tear them apart. Filmmaker Billy Erhard tracks across walls, peers through holes in ceilings and floors, and travels upstairs and onto roofs. Jittery home movies flash against one house's half-razed walls, accompanied by the sound of hammering.
This was film maker Billy Erhard's entry - 'Urban Disintegration' - in a short film contest sponsored by the Los Angeles based Society for Moving Images about the Built Environment, SMIBE.
SMIBE tries to collect films that touch on this notion of recording or "preserving," space visually. Indeed, several competition entries focused on abandoned, blighted, or environmentally damaged structures or areas - read the rest.
Preservation Nation is the on-line magazine and official site for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the same organization that has chosen Buffalo, NY for its annual conference in 2011 - details here.
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3 comments:

Kevin said...

For those wondering about "1920s bungalows in Buffalo, N.Y., that are being torn down to make way for McMansions", the magazine made a correction: "In an earlier version of this story, we incorrectly cited McMansions as the reason Buffalo's bungalows are being demolished."

We at Buffalo ReUse helped Billy Erhard make this film, by lending him equipment and finding some houses in the last stages of the pre-demolition process for him to work in. All the houses were within several blocks of our location on Northampton Street near Jefferson. All were in extreme dilapidation. Perhaps McMansions will spring up in their places, but more likely a mere "vacant" lot will result, or perhaps a Vinyl Victorian, hardly a McMansion.

It's easy from the outside to look at Buffalo's mammoth demolition efforts and mischaracterize what's happening. Many, many structures have no market value at present, have been deteriorating for many years and there's no money available to either mothball them properly for future use or restore them now. There are many structures in Buffalo with no viable option but demolition.

Billy, like a lot of architects we know, is fascinated by the methodical taking apart of buildings, their insides, juxtapositions of inside and out, all those very cool things that result when buildings are taken apart. Crunching them up and loading them into trucks is far less interesting, visually and in other ways. Also, when you dismantle, you have the opportunity to get much more up close and personal with the former inhabitants of what in many cases was a decades-long home for a family, sometimes multiple generations spanning a century or more.

Kevin Hayes
Buffalo ReUse
www.buffaloreuse.org

caesandra said...

D, how do we/are you building a relationship with the NTHP Conference organizers so that they involve more folks? Of course I am excited they recognize Buffalo's historic treasures. I am hopeful there may be some discussion, awareness, idea exchange for preservation or rehabilitation of areas, landmarks, neighborhoods folks which are not yet household names? Any tips for how we get on their radar?
"in a weeklong series of field sessions, education workshops, and tours that showcase outstanding local examples of architecture, historic preservation and community revitalization."

fix buffalo said...

Caesandra,

Very cool. I'll start reaching out to these folks.

Now that Dodge Street looks to be a done deal, one of the few heritage sites remaining in our neighborhood is St. Vincent's.

I spoke with Cash C. this morning about a number of projects in the area - he's open to solutions here. Maybe this is a good place to start.