Tearing Down Ray Bradbury's House
If you're a lover of sci-fi, prepare to get your dander up. Same goes if you love historical preservation. Or, if you're a sensible human being in general.
Reader, I'm pissed. Pissed off. Let me tell you why.
You may remember in 2012 that we lost a great and prolific voice: Ray Bradbury. Like me, you might have met him for the first time when you were assigned to read Fahrenheit 451 for a high school English class. Or you might have solidified your love of sci-fi after reading The Martian Chronicles or Dandelion Wine.
It's no secret that Bradbury was beloved by many. And when a beloved writer dies, you just assume that his or her estate will be taken care of--preserved, turned into a museum, archives donated to a respectable library, the usual pedantic activities of organizing and making suitable for public consumption.
But Ray Bradbury wasn't so lucky. Instead, they tore his house down.
Irony of ironies, the house was purchased by Thom Mayne, a Pritzker Prize-winning architect, and his wife. Yes, an architect--and an award-winning one at that--was stupid enough to pay $1.7 million for a house of great historical value only to tear it down.
Sure, we live in a free country where one can spend one's money however one damn well pleases. But what about principles? What about ethics? Not being an architect myself, I'm unfamiliar with their specific code of ethics--assuming there is one at all--but I'm pretty sure an architect tearing down a historic home is on par with librarians burning books and journalists plagiarizing. No one tells you not to do it, but you shouldn't have to be told not to do it.
I'm sure Mayne is only thinking about the architectural masterpiece he'll build on the rubble that was once Ray Bradbury's home. I should hope he wasn't thinking about the generations of readers and book lovers and tourists he's robbing of a historical site and educational opportunity. Surely, no one would be that selfish.
Besides, if the destiny of the house Mayne purchased was to be reduced to nothing and replaced by some other less historically significant structure, he could've just bought another fucking house. There are millions of houses in the world that weren't occupied by a famous writer for 50 years, so why not tear down one of those?
I get it. Not every author is significant to every person. I'm sure Mayne didn't think twice about crumbling Ray Bradbury's home but would likely be upset if his favorite author's home was destroyed by some obtuse architect. But I guess when you've got $1.7 million to blow on a hunk of land, you probably don't think too highly of the millions of people you're robbing for your own personal gain.
And if you think "millions of people" is exaggerating, think again. Do you have any idea how many people visit the Ernest Hemingway house in the Florida Keys? Or Margaret Mitchell's home in Atlanta? Or Frank Lloyd Wright's house just outside Chicago? If the two hour wait I encountered at the latter is any indication, I'd say it's quite a lot. And at $15 a head, I'd say it's rather good for the local economy, too.
But what does the public good matter when you're the proud owner of millions of dollars and a mighty ego? Not much, I see. Not much.
My only hope is that one day all his buildings are torn down and his Pritzker Prize-winning egocentrism can fade into obscurity, while Ray Bradbury's memory and literary works live on.
If you want to see the destruction yourself, check out this photo gallery. And if there's any question how much authors and being able to visit their homes means to people, just read the heartbreaking comments.