What Preservation Means to RDG

For RDG, preservation means finding and expressing meaning through new approaches to maintain historic buildings and districts for future generations. We work in this field to contribute to society, because we believe society is enhanced by carrying forward physical representations of our past.

“What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.”

– Mollie Beattie

Most communities include individuals and organizations that understand the need for stewardship of our historic resources. They advocate for the buildings and places that represent the heritage of those communities. They may realize there’s a need for a façade renovation, a countywide survey of historic properties, rehabilitation and/or adaptive re-use of a prominent historic building, or another project. Such stewardship of historic properties ensures the next generation will experience the character that creates a place people want to visit, work, and live. 

RDG finds great meaning in using our expertise to help these stewards undertake preservation projects that have multiple positive community results: 

  • They contribute to the development of community pride and vibrancy.
  • They contribute to environmental sustainability and conservation by saving the inherent energy within the existing building and keeping tons of debris from the landfill.
  • Often, they provide much needed housing for communities or boost the local economy by providing spaces for the small startup businesses. 

Every historic building has its own unique charm, which requires its own approach to preservation. Each building also must fit into the greater context of its community or city, requiring collaboration and communication with multiple parties to move projects forward. Bringing a building back to life requires teams of tradesman, architects, preservationists, developers, community members, and city staff. Each team member has their own perspective on how the revitalized building or street will fit into the entire community. Considerations include not just the building, but also its street frontage, lighting, landscaping, signage, etc. to ensure the project has the maximum impact possible on its surroundings. 

We love how this approach fits with RDG’s determination to Create. Meaning. Together.It’s the foundation of what we do: bring multiple perspectives and expertise together to design meaningful places and experiences. We’re convinced that, with good collaboration, a wholistic approach to preservation results in the greatest meaning and success for communities.

Design professionals – and indeed, most perceptive people – know that truly vibrant environments include a mix of old and new buildings, of varying sizes and materials. Flexibility and careful analysis are needed to create such vibrant environments. While some buildings require a strict interpretation of history and preservation, others can be balanced with modern amenities. Historic buildings are like an onion, with each new layer revealing a different challenge and opportunity. These opportunities can require some flexibility to give the building a second life.

While new development can be a boon to communities, we can help those communities research and document all the alternatives and help ensure the iconic and irreplaceable structures are maintained. The clients we work with share our same commitment and understanding, as demonstrated in projects like the Hotel Maytag in Newton, Iowa or the community-wide work being done in Grinnell, Iowa. 

“Historic structures represent our broad and varied history which is why I’m dedicated to seeing them preserved either physically or in writing for generations to come.”

– Stephanie Rouse, AICP
RDG Planning & Design

Finally, we are driven by a passion to restore, preserve, and rehabilitate buildings and tell their stories, from the smallest interventions to the largest community wide projects. Historic preservation offers both a place and an experience. The historic main street is a location to go to, but even more is an experience for visitors as they shop, dine, and are entertained. We feel connected to generations before us when walking through a successfully restored historic district or working or living in an historic building. 

As Winston Churchill once said, “we shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us.” The individuals and organizations we work with know these places matter and share our passion to preserve and rehabilitate them, so they can be enjoyed and used for years to come. 

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