The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America’s Communities by Stephanie Meeks is an insightful exploration of the role of historic preservation in revitalizing cities and communities throughout the United States. Meeks, who is the CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, argues that historic preservation is not just about saving old buildings, but rather a vital tool for economic development, social cohesion, and environmental sustainability.
The book is divided into two parts: the first part focuses on the past, examining the history of historic preservation in the United States and the development of the modern preservation movement. Meeks provides a detailed account of the evolution of the field, highlighting key figures and important moments in its history. She also discusses the various challenges faced by preservationists over the years, including opposition from developers and local governments, lack of funding, and changing public attitudes towards historic buildings.
In the second part of the book, Meeks turns her attention to the future of historic preservation. She argues that the field must evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of communities, and outlines a vision for a more inclusive and collaborative approach to preservation. Meeks stresses the importance of engaging with diverse communities, embracing new technologies, and using historic preservation as a means of addressing pressing social and environmental issues.
Throughout the book, Meeks provides numerous examples of successful preservation projects from around the country. These case studies demonstrate the transformative power of historic preservation, from the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods to the creation of new parks and public spaces. Meeks also explores the relationship between preservation and sustainability, arguing that historic buildings are often inherently sustainable due to their durable materials, adaptive reuse potential, and proximity to public transportation and other amenities.
The Past and Future City is a compelling and insightful book that highlights the vital role of historic preservation in building stronger, more resilient communities. Meeks makes a persuasive case for why preservation matters, and offers practical guidance for how to approach preservation in a way that is both socially and environmentally responsible. Whether you are a preservationist, planner, developer, or simply someone who cares about the future of our cities, this book is a must-read.