Director, producer and editor Mark Birnbaum began making films in the 1960s during the Vietnam War. In 1973, he moved to Texas and worked on the KERA program “Newsroom,” a nightly news program. Since then, he has produced and filmed a multitude of films, documentaries and won numerous awards. This week, I talk with Mark Birnbaum about his documentary “Restore.”
“Restore” dives into the world of preservation and restoration of buildings, specifically buildings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Watch behind the scenes as the Old Dallas Municipal Building uncovers the history behind the lost murals, follow the restoration of a 160-year-old log cabin and see a statue be returned to its home on top of a city hall building.
- Tune in to “Frame of Mind” on KERA TV Thursday at 11 p.m. to watch the restoration and preservation of buildings on “Restore.”
On his goal for “Restore…”
The goal for “Restore” is to raise awareness about the history of communities that reside in architecture of all kinds. From a log cabin, to a massive governmental structure to an 11-foot-tall statue on top of a courthouse, all of these things resonate in their own communities and in the larger sense, who we are and where we come from. The identification, preservation and restoration of buildings like that is very important to the life of our community.
On the choice of structures featured…
I was actually doing work for the company that is involved primarily in the restoration of those three buildings [featured in the film]. It’s a commissioned work, so my focus was on the projects they had already undertaken. There were numerous projects and I narrowed it down to those three. What brought me to them was Phoenix One Restoration and Construction and the guy who runs the company, Dale Fellers, he has a great passion for this work, built a company around it and has gained a tremendous amount of experience and expertise in the really unique challenges a company like that faces.
On the difference in preservation and restoration…
Preservation is coming a structure and simply preserving it at that point in time so that the structure is stabilized and preserved as is for the future. Restoration is an interesting question. When you choose to restore something historical, to what point in time should you restore it? Should you restore it to the point at which it was first built or a more recent time when it was perhaps last used and abandoned? There are interesting questions you have to ask when you consider restoration.
On the Dallas buildings he would like to see restored…
Preservation Dallas releases a list of 10 buildings every year that they think deserve preservation and restoration. I’m looking at that list now. I intend to look at all 10 of those buildings and maybe I’ll pick a favorite and do something about it.
His words for future generations about restoration…
If you tear it down, it’s gone. Before you tear something down or allow it to be torn down, give some thought to these older buildings. While it may be necessary to move them and make room for the future and progress, often they can be re-purposed; the old municipal building will be come the UNT Law School, and what a perfect building to be a law school.
Dallas tears everything down; everybody knows that, everybody says that about Dallas because it’s true.The old stuff just gets torn away or remodeled into something more modern than it was ever intended to be. I think that is changing.You may not be able to say that truthfully about Dallas in the near future that “more consideration is being given to existing structures” to see if they are “worth saving.”