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#479 The future of preservation policies and movements in Chicago


Elizabeth Blasius, Architectural Historian, She/Her

From the purchase of Chicago’s Oldest House in 1941 by Bishop Louis Henry Ford, to unsuccessful efforts to designate a local landmark district in Pilsen, to the unconventional win in saving the James R. Thompson Center, the history of Chicago’s historic preservation movements are far from monolithic. Grassroots efforts to protect Chicago’s architectural legacy along with public support lead to landmarks ordinances and commissions, supported (and scrutinized) by non-profits, neighborhood groups and activists. While climate change, affordability and equity have broadened the concerns of preservation, its policies and laws have changed little since the establishment of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in 1968. So what might a future for historic preservation in Chicago look like if we widened our lens?

This talk will begin with a history of historic preservation in Chicago that rejects the notion that the field began when historians and photographers documented threatened works by Louis Sullivan, revealing efforts by grassroots preservationists decades earlier. Then, the talk will discuss how existing preservation policy works to protect (or not protect) the historic places that tell Chicago’s story through its built environment. The talk will conclude with how new approaches, ideas and relationships can truly expand preservations’ purview.

Elizabeth Blasius is an architectural historian, writer, and co-founder of Preservation Futures a Chicago-based firm exploring the future of historic preservation through research, action and design. Prior to founding Preservation Futures, Blasius worked in natural disaster recovery and mitigation as it relates to vintage and historic buildings, consulting clients in the public and private sector. Blasius has served as the Midwest editor of The Architect’s Newspaper and has had her writing on architecture and preservation featured in Curbed Chicago, Block Club Chicago, The Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg CityLab and Architectural Record. Blasius serves on the board of Logan Square Preservation and DOCOMOMO US/Chicago and is an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

ASL This event will not have an American Sign Language interpreter.