CPF’s annual conference was quite memorable this year. As always, great sessions were presented, but this year, it was held in one of California’s most breathtaking settings, Asilomar Conference Center designed by Julia Morgan in Monterey. Not only a gathering of beautiful buildings, the Center also overlooks a spectacular Pacific Ocean.
The conference, too, was a gathering of beautiful people – most of the state’s preservationists and planners attended. For me, the annual CPF conference is a much-needed love fest. Those of us practicing in the field of preservation are often under appreciated and under paid. We spend the year battling demolitions, destructive rehabilitations, unfriendly developers, usually in unsympathetic communities with very little legal or financial support. At the CPF conference, we come together, share war stories, visions, accomplishments, and, most importantly, hugs.
And this year is a year to share: it’s the 150th Anniversary of the California State Parks; the 38th Anniversary of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act; and a year in which the first woman, Julia Morgan, posthumously won the annual AIA Gold Medal for Architecture. Asilomar Center, already a National Historic Landmark, officially became a California National Landmark.
So I talked to old friends and made new ones. I heard the State Historic Preservation Officer speak about different directions and the Deputy Director of California Parks talk about their mission to preserve over 3000 historic buildings. The National Trust previewed its upcoming report, Smaller, Older, Better. Sold-out tours of Historic Monterey and Monterey’s Modern Masters competed with daily tours of the masterpiece buildings at Asilomar.
I slept in an historic redwood room in Julia’s Visitor Lodge and contemplated how simple it was compared to the opulence of her Hearst Castle just down the road. And it struck me that California’s two most successful, income-producing parks are national historic landmarks designed by Morgan. Yet, they were designed in two very different traditions for two very different clients: Asilomar was a YWCA summer camp in the Arts & Crafts style; Hearst Castle was the residence of a wealthy newspaper mogul with all the elegance of a Beaux Arts complex. Still, both were located in spectacular but unforgiving coastal settings and are vibrantly relevant today, the work of a unique Master Architect.
As I strolled around the former camp, I wondered about the timeless quality of this place and if Julia thought about its future? And I listened as our leaders discussed where they thought “preservation” might be heading: Certainly, we’ll continue to rack up brownie points for recycling old buildings. Of course, a la Jane Jacobs, older neighborhoods will continue to foster diversity and economic advantages. Ecotourism will become an excellent partner to Heritage Tourism and they’ll walk off into a rosy sunset together. We hope that young entrepreneurs will make even more historical/cultural videos. Perhaps most importantly, we hope CPF and AIA will get AB1999 passed, a state tax credit for historic buildings whose time is overdue (thank you Assemblywoman Toni Atkins!). . . .
At the end of the conference, I was overwhelmed by the stellar speakers and stunning architectural legacy that was brought together. However, at the end of the day, I was just as grateful for three sunny days on the beautiful coast with my passionate friends. It was something like what Malcom Margolin, publisher par excellence, recited in his plenary speech, his daughter’s favorite camp song, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.”
All photos by author except Conference program cover, included here under Fair Use Doctrine as a review