Architectural preservation has reached a point where it has to go beyond questions of resurrection and permanence. Now is the time to experiment. Now is the time to break out and challenge conventions of restoration and protection. We are witnessing a paradigm-shift as we enter a time where not only our perceived heritage is being protected, but even our newly constructed environments. As an increasing number of buildings become listed upon completion, they enter an absurd state of presence, averting any potential pain of seeing our ideals and models fail the test of time, by immediately administrating the painkillers of preservation. How then can we create an environment that may broaden the scope of architectural preservation, open to new interpretations? This year’s assignment reexamines the methods and tools of contemporary architectural preservation and seeks an answer to this very question.
AUTHORSHIP AND AUTHENTICITY
Looking back at the history of preservationist practice and discourse, it becomes clear that two main topics of controversy are the concepts of authorship and authenticity. Is there - or indeed can there be - a single author of a work of architecture, or are there many? And given that all architecture interacts with its context, what then of the claim to authenticity?
A building does reach its final state upon completion. On the contrary, it is the process of building that comes to an end. The completed work, now brought into context, becomes part of the social fabric and emerges instead as an entity in constant dialogue with its surroundings, all the while changing and adapting accordingly. How then, can we determine the level of authenticity when the very notion of the “original” is fleeting at best? Over the course of history, the answers to this question have been many,andoftenconflicting.Notleastacrosscultural borders, each with their own distinct set of beliefs
The first instances of preservation as a tool for conserving and transforming the built environment appear in nineteenth-century Europe, during a period of industrial and social revolutions. The emergence of romanticism and historicism brought about not only a wish to protect that which is considered as historical, but also a desire to improve it. Preservation became an act of comprehensive historical appropriation - an associative interpretation of our historic heritage, re-enacting and activating history. This tendency, on the one hand, extended the notion of authorship and authenticity as something transmittable,whilemaintainingthebeliefthatthe creative author could determine and legitimise the work of art as inseparable from time.
The drive to preserve our historical heritage gained additional momentum with the emergence of a series of legislations, most notably the Venice Charter of 1964. that sought to secure international decrees on preservation. As a result, preservation came to be regarded as a global phenomenon with universal ideals, a practice that still dominates to this day
Bungalow Germania (2014), Alex Lehnerer and Savvas Ciriacidis, 14th International
Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
Preserving the future
Appendix, 120 HOURS 2015
under the watchful supervision of institutions such as UNESCO. Largely based on Western traditions, however, its universal application can be questioned in the face of other, especially Eastern, traditions, where the notion of authenticity is a lot more fluid and the question of authorship a lot less relevant.
“To restore an edifice means neither to maintain it, nor to repair it, nor to rebuild it; it means to reestablish it in a finished state, which may in fact never have actually existed at any given time.”1
In his recent publication “Preservation is overtaking us”, Rem Koolhaas argues that, throughout modernity, the very idea of preservation is borne as a testimony to the fact that the first laws for preservation emerge in the richest phases of modernisation. In the age of invention, improvement and evolvement, there is an increasing tendency to leave old things behind. Therefore “... the whole idea of modernization raises, whether latently or overtly, the issue of what to keep.”2
In recent decades, and spurred on by post- structuralist thought and the ambiguities of originality, the romantic paradigm of historical aestheticism has met with criticism for its practice of measuring a work’s authenticity based solely on the criteria of architectural “authorship”. Indeed, many would argue that it is high time to question the determining role of the “sole architectural inventor”. Citing Jorge Otero-Pailos, the idea of architectural preservation is not only to reveal something that is already present, but also to “... disclose architectural dimensions of buildings that were unintended by its “original”.3 According to Otero-Pailos, historic preservationists are more than extenders of some original architectural intent, they are what he labels “creative agents”, who engage with architecture and transform it into something new.
The level of authenticity is thus put into question, especially beyond our immediate notions of originality and authorship as something permanent. Needless til say, a work of art does not come about by itself, it needs an instigator. But through our experience and interactions, we ourselves become both authors and designers of its meaning. Works of architecture exist over multiple moments in time and, as such, have no “correct” stages of being. Preservation in this sense evolves from being mere reconstruction, as its design intervenes with the architecture in different stages of its being, and questions its original physical emergence and its source of inspiration.
EXPERIMENTAL ARCHITECTURE AS A PROFESSION
Experimental preservation takes on the pressing need for expanding our notions and perspectives on the overall conditions and significance that constitute our common cultural heritage. As a growing discipline within the field of architecture, it not only revitalises the architectural debate, but challenges our profession to seek out new knowledge, methods and collaborative ventures with other disciplines. In light of the expanding field of preservation in general, armed with a progressive mindset and unconstrained by convention, experimental preservation can thus lend new relevance to our profession. Perhaps even as a profession unto its own, it could bridging the gap between conservation and architecture, being better equipped to bring new relevance to our extensive cultural heritage.
Remembering and unlocking parts of our history are essential components of preservation. In many ways, architecture starts and ends with preservation. To
Earth Room (1977-), Walter de Maria
Splitting (1974), Gordon Matta-Clark
engage in the historical environment, we must take into account the history of a place, and in doing so, reflect upon the values borne from history and past events that have shaped society’s collective memory. In this way, architecture and preservation become expressions of sets of memories, embodied both in the individual as well as in the collective. As such, perhaps the role -and social responsibility – of preservation is to critically interpret and conceptualise these memories.
In the case of Pyramiden, the site of this year’s competition, the architecture as bearer of memories becomes all the more important. The town was deserted over the course of a few summer months in 1998, and the chilling absence of living memory is everywhere, from the empty production lines and their eery silence, to the broken-glass windows of the empty rooms. This paradoxical presence is enhanced by the fact that these shared grounds not only embody the memories of a unique Soviet community outside of the Iron Curtain, but also the remarkable human efforts of adaptation to an Arctic climate. By reinterpreting Pyramiden in its contemporary context, experimental preservation can bring to life its remarkable history and impart on it a lasting relevance for the future.