Development and destruction in downtown St. John's: the embodiment of cultural values in architecture, a case study of urban development and heritage preservation in St. John's, Newfoundland, 1977-1997

Trahey, John A. (2000) Development and destruction in downtown St. John's: the embodiment of cultural values in architecture, a case study of urban development and heritage preservation in St. John's, Newfoundland, 1977-1997. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

Architecture is often interpreted as a reflection of the cultural values of the society that produced it (Gloag, 1975; King, 1980; Meinig, 1979; Penning-Rowsell and Lowenthal, 1986). Change in the architecture of the townscape is seen as indicative of change in the cultural constitution of a society. This study seeks to answer the question: What cultural values are embodied in the architecture of St. John's, Newfoundland - specifically, in the architectural changes evident in the construction of large-scale commercial architecture in downtown St. John's in the period 1977 to 1997. This most dramatic recent change in the townscape of St. John's is characterized by two main physical results- development and destruction - as represented by the advent of large-scale commercial architecture and the concurrent complement of vacant sites and parking lots. -- The starting point of this study is the present state of the townscape - the physical reality of the city. In order to gain an understanding of the cultural values underlying this physical reality, the decisions made leading to that present state, and the context in which they were made, are examined. Through this study an attempt is made to read the physical reality of the city to determine what cultural values may be embodied therein. This is done through an examination of the case study sites of development and non-development in downtown St. John's in the time period given. Data, in the form of interviews and documentary sources, relating to the case study sites, were collected and compiled in case study reports. These case studies were then analyzed with a view to identifying the influences, motivations, and constraints affecting the decisions made about building and the context in which those decisions were made. Frequently recurring themes were identified, and the implications of those themes interpreted as to their importance with respect to the cultural values these decisions reflect. -- On the basis of this research, it is concluded that a predilection for the new over the preservation of the past is demonstrated through the case study sites of development and non-development in downtown St. John's. The primacy of progress, as identified with new development, is evident through the histories of the case study sites examined, taken together and in context. The debates over development that emerged during this period were resolved in favour of development, despite the opposition of those advocating the preservation of older architecture. It is concluded that the primacy of progress represents a cultural value that is embodied in the architecture of St. John's as examined in this study.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/6655
Item ID: 6655
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 214-236.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: 2000
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador--Avalon Peninsula--St. John's
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Historic preservation--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John's; City planning--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John's; Urban renewal--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John's; St. John's (N.L.)--History

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