By David Brussat
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Chapter members who missed the lecture by Steven Semes a year ago at the College Club can hear the author of The Future of the Past for free at Rosecliff, on Newport’s Bellevue Avenue, this Thursday, May 19, at 6 p.m. Mr. Semes, whose book is a must-read for architects, preservationists and planners, runs the Rome program of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture.
Again, the lecture is free but space is limited, and registration is required. Go here to register with the Preservation Society of Newport County, which is sponsoring the event along with the City of Newport. Or you can call 401/847-1000 ext. 154.
This is the society’s annual lecture honoring Noreen Stonor Drexel, one of Rhode Island’s most dedicated preservationists.
Mr. Semes makes the case that preserving the places we love means allowing them to evolve naturally, by adding new buildings and additions that fit with their historical character – not attack it, according to the orthodox practice of preservationism, which is led by the nose into bed with the modernists. Modernists aim to lull preservationists into helping them destroy places worth saving. The modernists’ plot has been operating smoothly, alas, to the detriment of civic beauty everywhere, for at least three decades.
The professor is on to their game. What he says is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before (if you missed last year’s lecture), and it behooves rank-and-file preservationists to listen, learn and challenge the professional preservationists who’ve turned preservationism on its head. However novel, much of it will seem intuitively self-evident to us classicists, but how enlightening, indeed enchanting, to hear it from the author himself. And we can bring a friend for whom it might be a revelation.