Welcome to the website of Christophe Loustau - the Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship 2006.

"The day will certainly come when railway stations will count amongst the most important buildings, when the architecture discipline will have to deploy all its resources to deliver monumental constructions. These railway stations will be as important as vast and splendid monuments dedicated to Roman public baths." César Daly

 
   

The Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship is an exchange program co-sponsored by two American foundations, the French Heritage Society and the American Architectural Foundation. It offers the opportunity for an architect specializing in the restoration of historical monuments, to study on the other side of the ocean for six months on a particular subject. This program selects an architect from France every two years and sends him to America to study a particular preservation architecture topic. The following year an architect from America is sent to France. This incredible opportunity allows one to discover the different approaches of preservation of historic monuments and the methods of conservation and rehabilitation of the other country. From July to December 2006, I was travelling within the United States with the theme “the railroad stations along the first transcontinental railroad line between New York and San Francisco”. During this railroad adventure, stations remained the symbol of the power and the importance of the railroad in the American society. These gates into the city showed the progression from the simple depot still existed in the countryside to the mega structures. This raise questions such as: Do the very strong links, which are still visible today, exist between the railroad stations of the old continent? How do they weave together? What were the important periods? What were the influences?

In the United States, since the 1830’s and during the first two decades, the railroad network of passengers and goods developed in the East coast before starting on the West coast in the 1850’s. May 10, 1869, the first transcontinental railroad line was achieved in Promontory Summit, Utah by the companies Union Pacific and Central Pacific during the Golden Spike Ceremony. An Architectural emblem of this railroad adventure from the beginning, the station straight away became an element of representation for the different railroad companies searching the technical feats and the architectural styles of their time. The American railroad network was about to take a big step, when in the 1950’s it started collapsing. My route focused on the first transcontinental railroad line taking into consideration the itinerary followed in 1878 by a unique convoy, the Jarret & Palmer Special. It crossed the country from New York to San Francisco in less than 84 hours transfixing the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne and Sacramento. Today, this fellowship performed a survey on the different railroad stations and railroad complexes that were discovered along the first transcontinental railroad line. In parallel, this trip gave the opportunity to meet all the actors involved in preservation work during meetings, visits or discussions. It was the real asset of this exchange: the incredible opportunity to meet these actors: the institutions, the associations and the professionals. These interviews were always privileged moments with people in direct relation ; with the heritage from the manager of an organization to an architect that restored a building. What happened to these old stations? Who are the actors of these preservations? or to the contrary, of these destructions? What is the known-how of the past and present?

Today, the American railroad heritage is rich with dozens of thousands buildings from the most emblematic railroad stations, such as the Grand Central Terminal in New York, to the smallest depots made of wood preserved in the states of the Middle West. This fellowship allowed me to understand the history of the historic preservation through its major events. It was possible to understand the American heritage through its practices of conservation and restoration on historic monuments. Learning about the main approaches, I was able to understand the heritage from the most respectful, preservation approach, to the more interventionist, conversion approach. Passing through the most delicate, conservation without forgetting the restitution, I could also assess the most radical form through destruction which often preceded of period of abandonment. This fellowship asks several questions: What are the American institutions? What is the American protection system? Does a difference of conception exist in the approaches of the heritage between our two countries?