Beyond the Building: Challenges and Opportunities in Evaluating Recent Past Resources

This online panel discussion will use case studies to address the challenges and opportunities regarding the documentation and evaluation of properties from the recent past. Issues to be explored will include:
  1. Issues regarding significance under Criterion A and B: Sarah Hahn and Erica Schultz will present an evaluation of the demonstrations, protests, memorials, and other gatherings that occurred at San Francisco’s Civic Center from the 1950s to the 1990s. The project raised questions regarding scholarship and perspective of social movements that are just decades old. The study resulted in the development of an evaluative approach specific to this civic public space that was used to make nuanced decisions regarding association with significant events and people within local and national contexts. Attendees will consider how to evaluate places associated with local and national social movements – particularly those whose significance is still being debated.
  2. Historic significance for modernist architecture with a difficult history: How do you get the public to see the value of preserving a modernist building that many would like to forget or erase. Adrian Scott Fine, LA Conservancy’s Director of Advocacy will talk about the Conservancy’s efforts to protect the 1955 Welton Becket-designed Parker Center, making the case for its protection and examining its significance as the headquarters of the LAPD during a period that many associate with corruption and oppression.
  3. Issues regarding significance under Criterion C: As case studies Daniel Paul will present Southern California Late-Modern glass skin architecture and Los Angeles School Post-Modernism as completed in the 1970s and early 1980s. Each design system will be contextualized in a summary manner. Additionally, basic character defining features will be introduced, as will be parameters for understanding exceptionally significant examples less than 50 years old.
  4. Seeing the Recent Past in a Different Light: Efforts to defend buildings of the recent past are usually caught on the wrong side of a vicious cycle: where current fashion considers them disposable, history shows that they will almost inevitably be appreciated again with time. What are the skills and attitudes preservationists can cultivate to short-circuit this cycle?
Questions addressed would include the following: Should we apply lower thresholds of integrity to properties associated with people and events? How do historians evaluate buildings and sites associated with people who may still living? What should consultants and historians know about examining significance of modern architecture when the architectural design is secondary to its cultural or intangible significance?


  • Sarah Hahn, Associate, Architectural Historian & Preservation Planner, Architectural Resources Group
  • Alan Hess, Architectural Critic, San Jose Mercury News
  • Daniel Paul, Senior Architectural Historian, ICF
  • Erica Schultz, Associate, Architectural Historian & Preservation Planner, Architectural Resources Group
  • Adrian Scott Fine, Director of Advocacy, Los Angeles Conservancy

Learning Objectives

  1. Challenges of evaluating properties associated with significant events/people in the late 20th century
  2. Opportunities and constraints in evaluation of late modern architecture
  3. Evaluation of public open spaces for late 20th Century significance
  4. Integrity considerations for properties associated with people and events