San Luis Obispo’s current look is not historic — it is confused. As one California’s oldest cities, there is true historic precedent and rare, authentic, preserved architecture from the 1700s to today because people undoubtedly care about how this city looks.
But that same potentially valuable, optimistic obsession with city aesthetics is heavily contributing to the rapid deterioration of a uniquely beautiful, palimpsest-like architectural character at the hands of developers. The more the community blindly pushes back against what superficially looks “new,” the more they will receive a literally compromised city character, reflected directly in regrettable new projects with a little mission style, some reclaimed warehouse brick and a pinch of modern glass walls and metal panels.
As more people visit and move to San Luis Obispo, the greater demand for shopping, food and services becomes. In order to meet demand appropriately, the design approach needs to be nuanced, pragmatic and brave. Intelligent design response to historical context, views, scale and materiality is critical. Good architecture focuses on these issues, but in order to do so, SLO residents need to understand buildings that move SLO’s singular character forward may look nothing like SLO does right now, for good reason.
Marshall Ford, Cayucos
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