Archive for March 27th, 2006

Neon harbinger

Adjacent lots entirely ravaged by new construction in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland neighborhood.

You can find lots of neon in the downtown Seattle area, and the NY Times reports that the future of a Wonder Bread sign is up in the air, since the building under it is facing demolition and replacement, in a transition from factory to housing and commercial space.

At the core of this is the age-old problem of what to preserve and what to tear down and replace. Sometimes, we chose to walk away from the old and build anew elsewhere—witness, the abandonment of center-city areas in many US metropolitan areas in the late 20th century. Sometimes, we chose to rebuild in the same locations—hence the buildup of tells across the Middle East.

Right now, there’s a furor in Atlanta over McMansions, new homes replacing early 20th century bungalows and other modest, often one-story residences, bringing looming third stories, shadows, and increased taxes to the neighborhood. The mayor even tried a moratorium on permits to halt this trend, but it was only a blip on the city’s history, as the moratorium was quickly overturned in the face of considerable pressure from builders and many others.

Of course, archaeologists are happy with any choice—replacement, maintenance, or abandonment—which gives us evidence of political, economic, and demographic disruption or continuity.