Renewal is Valuable for Heart and Hometown

Renewal is a Natural Process

There is not a leaf that has fallen without promise. The promise of renewed life and the coming spring. Underlying this is an order that connects all things. Sometimes, architects have a sensitivity toward nature, but it is something that we could all explore further.

Sustainable communities, like the blood and flesh of our own bodies, are made from living parts. Just as the human body regenerates its own cells regularly, it also experiences entropy. In a similar way, we should not forget that the board and stone are also a part of a greater continuum. Sustainable community development means that we must create balanced equations. A carefully tuned, location-specific balance between local ecology, our population, and all realms within our built environment.  

Since I began writing this blog, I have been led to focus on renewing our homes, neighborhoods, and downtown from the inside out. It is exciting to preach about constructive renewal, and there is a lot of job security! Consider that anything and everything will undergo renewal. Will you allow nature (and entropy) to shape the future of the places you inhabit? If you are not a steward of your community, it is only a matter of time until nature will take over in the process. 

…when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
— Psalms 104: 29b-30 (NIV)

Real Local Renewal

Though my work in Main Street America™ (aka. Main Street) historic preservation, I found insight into the pursuit of renewal. The longstanding elevator speech about the purpose of Main Street is, “Historic commercial district revitalization, through historic preservation.”

Historic preservation embodies the idea of renewal and Main Street is a strong catalyst for it on a community-wide level. I can tell you from experience that most people think of the historic downtown area when you mention their community. In essence, a strong historic core leads to a sense of community pride - in any sized town.  

Here is the great example that I see every day. About one-half of historic Main Street building and business owners have chosen to live and breathe renewal - whether they know it or not. What is it that these Mainstreeters have in common? 

  • They are friendly and understand life is about relationships.
  • They love their community and have a story or two in their back pocket. 
  • They own or rent a historic property, and appreciate its unique sense of place. 
  • They pour their souls into improving their property and growing a local business. 
  • They understand that Main Street property is inherited; they are just the caretaker for a time. 
  • They want the community's next chapter to be better; consciously or not, they want to leave a legacy. 
Photo by:  Claremore Main Street  of their Facade Squad in action

Photo by: Claremore Main Street of their Facade Squad in action

Photo by:  Ponca City Main Street  of muralists that repainted a historic ghost sign. Triva: What is the name of the elfin character? ...Sprite!

Photo by: Ponca City Main Street of muralists that repainted a historic ghost sign. Triva: What is the name of the elfin character? ...Sprite!

I don’t think that the notion of renewal is lost on these folks when they head home at night either. The kinds of people that are active on Main Street give back. They serve in local community groups and committees. They strive to know their neighbors, and help those in need. They believe their home is a place for love to flourish.

Renewal at our Command

I revere the word RENEWAL. It is nothing more than caring about more than ourselves, and then taking the time to impact the future. Community engagement (and seeing improvement) is a little bit addictive. In truth it is the people that make it that way. Even the most isolationist of us can benefit from modest exposure to a group of encouraging community members. 

Image:  Kyle Hagey

Image: Kyle Hagey

Being a person that lives renewal isn’t something that works well in graduated levels. The energy that surrounds us all is palpable, and we are in the driver's seat for all that we can command.

In 2018, I hope to become more like this kind of person. In Main Street we believe that even a small contribution can make a big difference. So, why not make a difference in your community this year? 

Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.
— Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

This post contributes to #Architalks 34

ArchiTalks is a collaboration of practicing architects that blog from all across the world. One day each month, we write on the SAME topic and post on the SAME day. We hope this can give you more insight into the multi-dimensional field of architecture. 

This month my topic "Renewal" was selected. The notion of renewal is central to the Green Heart Town blog as well as the work that I do with Main Street America™ communities. 

To see how the other architects responded to my "Renewal" theme, follow the links below. 

#ArchiTalks 34 Contributors: 

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
get out of town renewal

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Goal Renewal

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
renewal: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Renewal - Re-Ranch

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@BuildingsRCool)
No guts, no glory!

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
5 Tips for Harnessing Renewal to Advance Your Goals

Samantha R. Markham - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
reNEWal. new year. new goals

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Renewal (at Each Beginning)

Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
Break Routines

Larry Lucas - Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Renewal is Valuable for Heart and Hometown

Steve Mouzon - The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
The 12 Steps of Sprawl Recovery