I paused on my walk to the office this morning to observe the progress of demolition at a building site in Chinatown. I had been expecting this move for over a year based on the status of construction of the new building adjacent to it, but I will admit that I was still surprised. Demolition thwarts our perception of the permanence of buildings. It also forces us to consider that the association between age and quality is quite subjective. An old building may have an abundance of poor attributes, but it can persist for generations because the justification for tearing it down didn't exist. Also, I have learned the hard way that the cost of renovation often exceeds the cost of new construction, and more importantly, does not guarantee the improvements in function that can be achieved with a new design.
We persist in renovating older structures for reasons of nostalgia and short term economy. All forms of repair work are more expensive in the context of existing conditions. However, the repairs and upgrades do not have to be undertaken all at once, nor do they need to be done correctly. This last point is frustrating but it is the reality of modern building operations and architectural services. We do not build for all time--only for a few years.