Karelia Martinez Carbonell
Martinez Carbonell is the president of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables
A recent article mentions Alfred Browning Parker as one of the modernist architects that became famous for his sustainable designs “maximizing shade and airflow and aimed to work with nature.” The irony is that the story comes at the heels of news that an Alfred Browning Parker residence recently sold for $36 million as a teardown.
“Birds Eye-View” Photo by Ezra Stoller c ESTO
The Parker-designed Gables Estates waterfront property at 140 Arvida Parkway was being considered for historical designation by the City of Coral Gables when the process was thwarted by a new state law effectively bypassing local historic preservation ordinances. HB423, passed last year, allows homes in coastal areas to be demolished and requires no historical oversight or review. All in the name of climate mitigation.
Image of Miami architect Alfred Browning Parker’s waterfront 1963 home in Coral Gables.. Photo by Ezra Stoller c ESTO
The legislation passed under HB423 has far-reaching implications for the historic fabric of the state of Florida and also “catastrophically” aggravates climate change. Mitigating sea level rise is treating the symptom not the cause and does nothing to protect the environment. The new law accepts the dire prognosis of climate fate as fait accompli and this does more harm than good
The genesis of the law may have been in good faith, but the new standards are in bad form. Sea level rise is one of the side effects of poor planning and lack of stewardship of the built environment.
Rising sea levels correlate to rising carbon [mainly due to over development] and it can be mitigated if municipalities accept the reduction of embodied carbon in their sustainability policies. Allowing old homes in coastal areas to be demolished and rebuilt because they are vulnerable to sea level rise is like killing patients because they are vulnerable to disease. This law does not mitigate climate factors, it aggravates them.
Main stair with outdoor view of historic waterway. Photo by Ezra Stoller c ESTO
Building construction and operations are responsible for approximately 40 percent of human produced carbon emissions worldwide, adding to a warmer climate and rising seas.
As a matter of fact, studies show that allowing demolitions for new construction is “environmentally catastrophic.” According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “Arguments that promote a practice of disposable real estate are unsustainable at best and at worst environmentally catastrophic. New buildings…will likely never offset the carbon cost of their construction. We don’t have time to simply build our way to a sustainable future.”
As of January 1 2022, demolitions of coastal homes require no historical oversight. This decree will slowly erode the state’s cultural and architectural heritage while simultaneously speeding up the climate challenge.
According to Randolph Henning, an expert on the architecture of Alfred Browning Parker, the property is a model of environmental and sustainable design. It was Parker’s personal residence and received national notoriety when “House Beautiful” selected it as its PaceSetter home in 1965. According to Mr Henning, the property is the best preserved example of the architecture of Alfred Browning Parker in existence anywhere. Henning adds, “Its loss would be a dagger into the heart of the legacy of Parker and a significant and irreplaceable loss to the architectural fabric of South Florida.”
140 Arvida is a model of environmental and sustainable design. It was Parker’s personal residence and received national notoriety when “House Beautiful” selected it as its PaceSetter home in 1965.
HB423 is causing havoc to our cultural and architectural heritage. Significant waterfront homes are being lost to a de facto law. Just last month, the Al Capone mansion in Miami Beach fell victim to this new reality.
My overture to the new owner is thus: although you have the right to tear down your property, you also have the right to keep it standing. An acquisition of this architectural magnitude can only be appreciated not demolished. Please listen to the expert.
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