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How do we recognize a building worth saving?

'Approach preservation from posterity's point of view'

Learn the New Luxury Playbook at Luxury Connect | October 18-19 at the Beverly Hills Hotel

(Last of a three-part series. See parts 1 and 2.) Today, 40 years after their destruction, everyone agrees that New York City's Pennsylvania Station and San Francisco's Fox Theater were the sort of architectural treasures that deserved preservation. But with 20/20 hindsight, these are ridiculously easy calls. The real test, as New York and San Francisco both learned through bitter experience, is to recognize the value in buildings we take for granted in our own time. This is still much harder than it seems, in spite of all we think we've learned about preservation in the interim. Why? The reason is best seen through analogy. In 1963, when the Pennsylvania Railroad began demolishing Penn Station amid overwhelming disinterest from New Yorkers, the building was 53 years old–in today's terms, the equivalent of a structure built in 1951. How many people do you know who would regard a building of this era, however excellent its design or energetic its defenders, as worthy of preserva...