Melnick: Preservation strategies needed prior to disasters
The ways cultural resources are identified may need to be reconsidered due to the unique difficulties historic structures suffer in disaster events.
UO Professor Robert Z. Melnick will be keynote speaker at the 13th Annual Historic Preservation Symposium Feb. 24-25 at the Langford Architecture Center on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas. This year’s gathering will focus on historic preservation efforts undertaken in the wake of natural and manmade disasters.
Melnick’s opening address, “Protecting Resources That Matter in a Future of Uncertainty,” will discuss the future of cultural resource protection in light of critical environmental and social developments, with special attention to unanticipated disasters. An internationally recognized expert in cultural landscape evaluation and historic landscape preservation planning, Melnick will suggest reconsidering how critical cultural resources are identified. He will focus on the need for stability and flexibility in approaches to preservation, identify lessons from other fields, and propose future preservation strategies.
At Left: Robert Z. Melnick, FASLA
Disasters present unique difficulties to historic structures’ long-term recoveries, said Walt Peacock, director of the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, an architecture research center at Texas A&M.
Such buildings, Peacock said, face special difficulties after disasters. For example, when 50 percent of a residence, regardless of its age, is damaged after a disaster, it needs to be repaired to the latest building code, a standard that makes the recovery effort of historic buildings much more daunting. “It can be a difficult but fascinating process,” he said.
The number of disasters in the U.S. has grown markedly in recent years. “In 2011 the U.S. suffered the most disaster events in its recorded history, resulting in loss of life and $200 billion in damages,” said Robert Warden, director of the Center for Heritage Conservation at Texas A&M. “These tragedies create societal problems in multiple areas — economic, cultural, healthcare, education, infrastructure and psychological — that can threaten cultural operation or identity. We’re concerned with understanding and exploring ways to mitigate loss through response to disasters when they occur and by preparing for disasters beforehand.”
Melnick is a landscape architecture professor and director of the John Yeon Center at UO. A Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, he received the 2008 James Marston Fitch Award for lifetime achievement in historic preservation education, one of numerous awards his publications and professional projects have garnered.
He has published widely on issues relating to cultural landscapes and the preservation of many national and scenic parks, prairies, battlefields, agricultural lands, historic campuses, and other significant open spaces. He has served as lead consultant for such projects in Hawaii, California, Oregon, Iowa, Texas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
From 2005-2007, Melnick served as a senior program officer at the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles while on leave from UO. There, he worked to fund the recovery of New Orleans museums and other public facilities damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and spearheaded the Campus Heritage Initiative, which identified, evaluated, and planned the protection of historic college and university campuses, including that of UO.
Sponsors of the symposium include The Center for Heritage Conservation, The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT), and the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University. Click here for additional information about the symposium.