Recently the LA Times sat down with Linda Dishman, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture in Southern California. Dishman was speaking ahead of the kickoff for the group’s annual “Last Remaining Seats” film series which is held in historic downtown theaters.
Dishman discussed a few of the priorities of the Conservancy, in particular, education and public awareness. She indicated that while the population of Los Angeles has become more engaged in the preservation of its architectural heritage, there is still a great deal of work to to do. She pointed to how the improved economy has increased the pressure for tear-downs in some neighborhoods as an example.
While residents of LA have generally embraced architectural staples such as the Victorian and the Craftsman as resources of value, Dishman says many have not quite grasped the importance of structures of the 1960s. The Los Angeles Conservancy created a program entitled “Sixties Turn 50,” aimed at educating the public about the significance of that decade’s buildings.
Dishman emphasized that the preservation is not purely based in nostalgia, nor is it simply a movement for historical education; it is also a sustainability movement. She points to the argument that older structures should be removed to make room for more environmentally friendly buildings.
“People don’t understand the carbon footprint of doing that,” Dishman says, “ It takes 30 to 80 years to make it equal.”
Dishman believes that a sense of community is required to give any preservation movement its weight. Of the renaissance currently underway in downtown Los Angeles, Dishman says the Conservancy worked for many years for only minimal progress. However, when boutique shops and small businesses entered the area, she knew that the preservation push was making progress.
“When we saw the hot bars open up downtown, we said, now we’re going.” Dishman says.
The “Last Remaining Seats” initiative has proved the viability of old movie palaces, Dishman believes.
“People see a movie in a historic theater, and they engage with preservation,” she says. “You can tell who’s walking in for the first time because their jaws drop.”
Read the entire interview at the LA Times