Rachel’s interest in historic buildings began at an early age. She spent the first four years of her life in a farmhouse constructed around 1800. The remainder of her childhood was spent in the house where her father grew up, designed and built by her grandfather. It was here that she intuited the important role buildings play as keepers of the continuum of our shared experiences and history. Buildings, more than any other historic artifacts, tie us to our past.
While pursuing an art history degree at Colgate University, Rachel focused on the history of architecture. The highlight of her undergraduate experience was a side trip she took to Italy. After working for two years with an architecture firm in Boston, Rachel figured out how to turn her love of old buildings into a career. She pursued a Master of Science in historic preservation at Columbia University. After graduating in 2004, Rachel returned to Boston, working for several preservation consultants in the area. The variety of work led to a fascinating tangent in cemetery preservation, conducting surveys and repairing and conserving grave markers. Rachel was thrilled to return to her love of preserving buildings when she moved to Kansas City, where she enjoys the diverse architecture and its differences from that of the East Coast.
My favorite building is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. Louis Khan’s 1965 laboratory complex is a masterpiece that honors both the building materials and the stunning landscape of the site. The smooth concrete panels project strength and stability while the angles and open spaces between them convey a lightness that softens their presence. The iconic courtyard, particularly when devoid of other people, is almost sacred space, inviting meditation and quiet reflection. Standing at the center of the courtyard, it is hard to not feel a sense of awe.
I love buildings. I love what they can teach us about our past. I also love that they can be reused in completely new and creative ways. Preservation is not about putting a building in a bubble. Maintaining and reusing existing buildings keeps our ties to the past connected and provides a rich foundation for the future.