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National Trust conference day one: Random observations

by Nancy J. Parisi (courtesy of Visit Buffalo Niagara)

Here are some facts, figures, quotes and (brief) opinions from the opening day of the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference. The tours have started, but the actual conference sessions take place today and tomorrow. It’s been rainy and windy, but from what we hear and see, the conference attendees’ enthusiasm is unfazed. Wednesday’s big event was James Howard Kunstler’s keynote address at Shea’s. Today, the participants will be either scattered far and wide across Buffalo and WNY looking at buildings and landscapes, or sitting at the Convention Center discussing sustainable design, tax credits, rural preservation, and significant LGBT historic sites, among other diverse topics.

Number of registered attendees: 2457 (possibly a record)

Number of speeches: 9

Number of interesting speeches: 2 (Stephanie Meeks and James Howard Kunstler at Shea’s)

Public dollars spent on the Darwin Martin House restoration so far: $20 million (another $20-plus mill has come from private sources)

City Hall factoid: The tallest city hall in the U.S.

Who’s on the board of the National Trust: Diane Keaton

People that National Trust research indicates should be brought into the preservation fold: young activists (3.2 million), green go-getters (3.8 million), community-conscious parents (2.2 million), and architecture lovers (3.2 million)

by Nancy J. Parisi (Courtesy Visit Buffalo NIagara)

Keynote speaker James Howard Kunstler’s most recent books are World Made By Hand and The Witch of Hebron, part of a series of novels novel “set in a post-oil world without electricity, Internet, or national order.” He is perhaps best known for The Geography of Nowhere, his first nonfiction work on the American sprawlscape: "We created a landscape of scary places, and we became a nation of scary people."

Considering the dire nature of most of his subject matter, Kunstler gives a remarkably entertaining speech. The people from Phoneix and Las Vegas in the audience may not have liked it quite as much.

What James Howard Kunstler said about:

Frankenstein securities: one of the reasons America is “broke at all levels”

Planet Earth: “not an oil-filled bon-bon”

Climate change: manmade or not—“doesn’t matter”

Food: we need to grow it closer to home—“the days of the 3 thousand mile Caesar salad are coming to an end”

What will survive an economic and energy crisis: “smaller towns and cities that are scaled to the realities of the future and have agriculture nearby”

America's infrastructure of highways, suburban sprawl, and strip malls: "Greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world"

Cities that will be “toast”: Phoenix and Las Vegas—no agriculture, no water, and too car-dependent  (“What happens in Las Vegas will stay there—forever.”)

What will make a comeback: railway travel

Buffalo’s City Court building: "15 stories that say absolutely nothing"

Most 20th century architecture: “spiritually degrading, ugly, and brutal”

Boston City Hall Plaza: “a place so dismal even the winos stay away” and “there’s not enough Prozac in the world to make people feel OK here”

The ideal city square: doesn’t need any “green space”—look at the Pantheon in Rome

What else is making a comeback: smaller-scale places on inland waterways

The good news for us: the Great Lakes will be important again

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