Portugal is a country that has much history in all aspects of its culture, most visibly it’s buildings are in varying stages of ruin, restoration and conservation. Despite Portugal’s tough economic times, real effort is being put into the ongoing preservation of the cultural identity of their cities. It got me thinking how drastic the contrast in my own home city of Auckland, of how it once was and how it is now.
Seeing Lisbon’s history within it’s buildings being preserved makes me lament New Zealand’s pitiful record of architectural genocide. Ungraciously euthanizing its old structures only leaving facades of the heritage buildings which are kept almost grudgingly in contrast against the soulless glass monoliths now inhabiting Auckland’s Central Business District.
It is primarily the architecture of a city that immediately signals being in another place, moreso than the people, climate or environment.
What are the main differences between Auckland and iconic cities such as Paris, Rome, London? A wrecking ball, sadly. Iconic cities survived bombing raids with more to show for it afterwards than downtown Auckland.
The cities mentioned above have their historic main centers preserved (as much as possible) and the newer late 20th century buildings further out linked by trams or underground metros.
The tram systems in themselves are seen as an essential part of cities identities and those that kept them intact are vindicated by their popularity with tourists and commuters alike.
As rumor has it, the demise of Auckland’s tram system was due to private interests. In this case a rubber company stood to make a juicy profit in bus tyres and interested parties were “encouraged” to make the shift in Auckland’s transport system to a bus based one. It wouldn’t be the first time nepotism and social engineering for personal profit would be employed within the transport sector and was by far not the last.
Take the example of General Motors in America using the National City Lines company to buy up the street car companies in order to shut them down replace them with bus lines that were run ineffectively with the express intent to drive people away from public transport and to buy a car instead. This really happened and the subsequent civil case and laughable $1 fine they were given are a matter of public record.
So when will society learn the difference that helping a mate when building a fence or hosting a BBQ is a lot different to handing out multi million or billion dollar contracts to your pals especially when counter to the public good.
Nepotism is not only destroying our past, but our future.