Listed, obliterated or status unknown : an analysis of the 50-year rule, 1966-2010
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The report evolves from previous work in the field that questions the efficacy of the 50-year rule, or criterion consideration G, of the National Register of Historic Places program to register and protect modern and recent past resources. Proponents of the recent past argue that by restricting evaluation of historic architecture to only that which is 50-years or older is leading to widespread endangerment and demolition of buildings and sites with periods of significance from the postwar era. This report studies the use of criterion G in-depth since the inception of the National Register program and attempts to identify and quantify the resources lost through continued adherence to the 50-year rule. The analysis is done in two parts. Part one examines the history of the use of criterion G by tracking patterns in the National Register of Historic Places data between 1966 and 2010 to determine how and where the case for exceptional significance has been made. Part two challenges the capacity of the existing framework of the 50-year rule and the NRHP program to protect the recent past by surveying the current status of a 145 AIA award-winning buildings from the 1960s. Most are virtually undiscovered in the canon of American architectural history, and all could likely be found as exceptionally significant. The study finds more than 75% of the AIA award-winners standing and possessing good integrity, but only 6% actually listed on the Register. The report concludes that we are losing less to outright demolition than estimated, but lack of context studies and an inconsistent vocabulary for postwar architecture is preventing the registration of intact resources from the 1960s that could greatly benefit from the awareness and recognition that is the primary purpose of the National Register.