Bogusław Szmygin, ICOMOS POLAND, 8th US/ICOMOS International Symposium Interpretation as a Factor Altering Conservation Doctrine: The Case

for Reconstruction and Rebuilding. Within the last thirty years we have assumed that all the cultures are equally valuable. It means that the heritage of all the cultures, nations, countries should be protected. Therefore, more and more attention is directed at the identification of the heritage and its protection all over the world. And more commonly is understood the fact that the protection of heritage allows the protection of history and identity. The process of identification and the heritage protection should be described by the conservation doctrine. Within its frames there should be worked out three elements: the methodology enabling the need-analysis of a given society, country or a culture in order to indicate the elements forming their heritage, the methodology enabling the description and analysis of the elements considered as heritage, the conservation principles, which are adjusted to the specificity of the particular heritage – that means the heritage preserving the values important to a specific sort of the heritage.



The contemporary notion of the heritage is very extensive, thus, at the each of three mentioned stages there must be done the process of interpretation. It means that the contemporary conservation doctrine cannot be universal, it cannot operate with ready tenets, it cannot utilize the common conservation principles. The contemporary notion of heritage must be of open and local character, because such is of the contemporary heritage. The conservation doctrine, which has been still used by us, does not fulfill these very three conditions. Above all, this theory does not deal with the process of analysis of the culture or a community in order to define the elements constituting their heritage. It stems from the fact that the contemporary conservation theory is still in the mould of the Venice Charter. We can assume so, since all the charters and conservation guidebooks still quote the Venice Charter as the base document (Washington Charter, Florence Charter, Nara Declaration, Burra Charter, etc.). Meanwhile, the Venice Charter was worked out in the range of European culture in times when the monument was predominantly considered the one out of the great work of architecture. These kinds of objects had been already known and described. Therefore, there was not needed to create the methodology of heritage identification. Thus heritage (the monuments of architecture) was


primarily delt with by the historians of art, architects and conservators. The contact with a society was actually futile. The interpretation of the needs and social expectations was not needed. The consequence, of recognizing the monuments merely in the works of building architecture art, was the possibility of establishing the universal conservation principles. These principles were presented in the Venice Charter. Their essence is the subordination of all conservation actions to keeping the historical (authentic) form and substance of the historic objects. All other forms of acting, for instance the rebuilding or reconstructing serving the recreation of the historical shape happened to be recognized as the inadmissible ones. Whereas, the principles formulated in the Venice Charter can be applied commonly without the need of their interpretation, though to a restricted cluster of monuments – the objects of architectural works of solid material art. One can say, that in the conservation of monuments there was in force “the European culture filter”. Yet, within the space of last decades the social transformations forced, on the whole world, the development of the notion of heritage. One may say that the notion of heritage was replaced with the notion of monument. The notion of heritage is very extensive, local and of subjective character. The heritage can be practically all products of the culture. The cultural heritage is a single object and the entire city, the wooden hut and the palace complex, the thousands-old pyramids and the thirty-year old building. The element of Japanese culture are the actors of the traditional Kabuki Theatre, is the Ayers Rock in Australia recognized as the sacred by the Aborygenees, are the tribal rituals in Africa. The heritage can be beverage production recipes. Such widely understood heritage cannot be protected applying the universal conservation principles. For the particular types (groups) of heritage, there must be created the adjusted conservation principles. The conservation principles cannot exist in isolation with the heritage character. When the heritage is defined by means of values or features, then the conservation principles should indicate how to protect both during the conservation process. That means that the conservation doctrine should be interpreted, respectively to the local character of the heritage. However, this very condition has not been fulfilled in the contemporary monument conservation. Presently, there coexists, the subjective notion of the heritage and the traditional conservation principles drawn up for the monument of the architecture (Venice Charter principles). There must be arising some conflicts between them. Consequently, only the slight part of heritage (first of all the monuments of the architecture) are protected accordingly to the current conservation principles. That is why, many conservators – especially in the New World, regard conservation doctrine dead and useless. Such situation is very bad, from the conservation criticism point of view, the quality of conservation works, trainings, etc.


The above described situation is the reason why the conservation practice is essentially devoid of a suitable theory. Currently, the conservation theory is a self-contained discipline, not susceptible to the interpretation process, isolated from the development of the contemporary societies. Of course, in practice, the very process of interpretation (adapting) of the conservation doctrine to the local needs and requirements has been conducted. It is not of formal character though. The example is the reconstruction of the historical towns in Poland. During the World War II dozens of historical towns were destroyed in Poland. In many of them the process of rebuilding was performed by the monument conservators. For it was considered to be necessary to recreate the historical development. Conservation actions (conservation principles) were applied to the local conditions and needs. That means that the three processes of interpretation were done in the particular cities. Firstly, one defined the conditions and the needs in the given city. Secondly, one defined what the subject for protection should be. Thirdly, the interpretation of the conservation principles was performed. 1st example – Warsaw Warsaw – the capital of Poland, was destroyed several times during the World War II. Hitler gave an order to destroy the capital completely and to change it into a provincial city. The destruction of the city, and particularly its monuments were to lead to the destruction of the history and identity of the Polish nation. Those actions were efficacious. The historical centre of Warsaw – called Starówka, was perfectly wrecked, in one hundred percent. Not a building was left standing. After the War, one considered various possibilities. There appeared some options to move the capital of Poland to some other city. There were some ideas in order to surround the ruins of the Old City with the motorway and later on to show it as the example of the savagery. Also, there was an idea to, similarly to the western Europe, remove the ruins and build up a modern district. However, everyone – the authorities, conservators, ordinary people were right to think it was wrong to do that. That would have meant devoicing the city of its history (that was the Hitler’s target). Destruction of whole Warsaw so that the people loose their identity. The Poles were left no choice. Starówka in Warsaw was the only one. There were no fears then of confusing the rebuilt buildings with the authentic ones. That was why, the conservators decided to restore the Starówka entirely. That plan had its supporters – also financial ones, Polish society. The rebuilding was being done with scientific precision and accuracy. It was possible, for additionally after the War some thorough archeological and architectonical works were performed.


On the basis of those research and the cataloguing all the material elements of Starówka were reconstructed (there were only introduced some small technical and functional improvements). All the historical objects were rebuilt, nearly two hundred tenement houses and the fragments of city walls. The rebuilding of all architectural objects meant, in practice, the preservation of historical town planning. In the case of Warsaw, one regarded the necessity of rebuilding the whole complex of Starówka (circumstance interpretation). One regarded that the heritage is also the historical form of building complex, that constitute Starówka (heritage interpretation). Consequently, one regarded that the justifiable (allowed) conservation exploits is reconstruction of the historical buildings (conservation doctrine interpretation). Reconstruction of Starówka was accepted by the international conservation community and listed in 1989 on WHL. Reconstructed Starówka is the symbol of Warsaw for the inhabitants, tourists and Poles. 2nd example – Gdańsk Gdańsk is the city, which Poland received as a result of moving the borders after the World War II. The historical centre of Gdańsk was razed, in 80-90 percent, during the capture by the Red Army. Most of the bourgeoisie tenement houses were completely ruined. Fortunately, the most important historical buildings (churches, town hall, city gates) were not in a complete devastation. Initially, one did not intend to protect the remaining monuments, for they were treated as the German monuments. That was the reaction to the destruction of Polish heritage by the German. Nevertheless, one regarded that the city the material evidence of its existence. The conservation programme for Gdańsk assumed the conservation reconstruction of the historical objects having the greatest importance to the city (in fact it was a conservation “redecorating”). The conservation works on the facades of the buildings and in their interiors were conducted with the supreme care. German conservators supported them as well. It was considered that in order those building had the spatial context and to preserve the historical urban arrangement it was necessary to rebuild the tenement houses. Though it was not the reconstruction of historical forms – as in Warsaw, but a stylization. The tenement houses built in the Old Town in Gdańsk are to constitute only a proper background for the preservation of the historical buildings. Therefore they are of the appropriate scale and form, both referring to historical tenement houses. Their facades are simplified. In the interiors, these are the modern buildings. The tenement houses do not occupy the entire range of historical plots. That is why, between them in the interior building blocks, there was created some space for the greenery, shops, garages.


One has to add, that in the same way the slight part of the former historical centre was rebuilt. Only a few streets – the oldest part of the historical Gdańsk – so called the Main City - were rebuilt. The remaining area of the old city was developed with the modern buildings. The current research done by the sociologists indicates that the inhabitants of Gdańsk are the proudest of this part of their city. This proves the confirmation, done by the conservator fifty years ago, justified. 3rd example – Elbląg Elbląg is a middle-sized city, lying circa one hundred kilometers from Gdańsk. During a few-day battles in 1945, the historical city centre of the city was entirely destroyed. Only several buildings were fit for rebuilding. After the War, Elbląg become the provincial city devoid of its economic meaning. Therefore, the historical centre, having its roots in the Middle Ages, was not yet rebuilt. The rubble was swept out and the green area arranged. In the 70’s, one was going to build a new district at the spot – Elbląg still lacked the real centre. However the conservation authorities reckoned that also in that case it was necessary to refer to the historical past. The comprehensive archeological research showed that there preserved a medieval city – foundations and the cellar walls. One decided to preserve them and to build new tenement houses on. As the heritage being subordinated to the protection one considered the substance underneath, the planning set of the city, historical plotdivision, the contours of development. Also, the heritage was considered to be the historical appearance and the atmosphere of the city. Equally, it was assumed that in order to present them the new development, which was to be set on the historical foundations should have been of the similar scale, colouring, the roof sets, functions, elevation materials. And those were the precise recommendations the architects were given. Thus the new buildings are not the reconstruction but the modern version of the middle-class tenement houses. That is why, it is yet another form of interpretation of the heritage notion and the interpretation of the conservation doctrine (the conservation recommendations concerning the new development on the historical foundations and the area). In Elbląg, similarly to Gdańsk, the building of the “new middle-class tenement houses”, reconstructing the planning set and implanting some “life” in the area caused that the forlorn authentic monuments gained the spatial context. The inhabitants accepted the form of conservation actions, buying the particular plots and building the tenement houses under surveillance of the conservator. The district has been alive. One hundred and fifty tenement


houses were rebuilt. In Poland, we feel that rebuilding was justified and was a form of conservation activity. The three presented examples of rebuilding the historical cities in Poland, are the illustration of three different processes of interpretation the notion of heritage and the circumstances of its existence and conservation principles. In each case, one acted a little bit differently, for different were the circumstances and the needs. In each case, the process of interpretation led the conservators to departure from the Venice-Charter-conservationdoctrine principles. Judging the legitimacy of the decisions taken by the Polish conservators, one needs to remember that there was no alternative. According to the conservation doctrine, it was an open option not to take any actions and agree for the loss of 50 percent of our monuments. In the cities, practically, all the buildings were razed, and it would entail the loss of their history and identity for good. That is why, in Poland, one regards that the decisions were taken rightly by interpreting (adapting) the conservation doctrine to our times. Taking everything into account, one is inclined to ask a question whether the rebuilding of monuments can be considered the conservation activity (independently on the conservation decisions taken in Poland). It appears that, only by very interpreting the current situation in the international scale we gain some arguments, which let us answer the question positively. Why, in the last decades the international community regarded the heritage to be the good, not only of the specific country, nation or culture, but also of the whole humanity. One honored, that the variety of cultures, and what goes after it, the heritage of particular cultures is a great value. Therefore an excellent idea has been developed – the idea of common responsibility from the international communities for heritage, be it everywhere, be it created by anyone. Because of that, each manifestation/form of destructing the heritage – independently on the circumstances is inadmissible. Thus, one must not agree with the fact that destroying the heritage in sudden and exceptional instances is effective and lasting. One must not regard destruction of Budha’s statue in Bemyan, the bridge in Mostar or the Bam City in Iran as durable. In these situations, the circumstance interpretation fully justifies the decision upon rebuilding. And such a decision should be taken by the conservators. Of course, in each case, the form of rebuilding – then conservation doctrine interpretation, ought to be individual. The Venice Charter doctrine was formed in a totally different reality. At that time, it appeared that the process of reformations touching the cultural and material environment would bring positive effects. But still, the problems connected with globalization, unification, identity crisis of the


whole nations and cultures are yet to see the daylight. Therefore, the restrictive expression of conservation principles, which were to serve the heritage perceived in the museum-like manner, was justified. Nowadays, the situation has changed radically and the functions of heritage are much broader. That is why, the interpretation – performed in different aspects, can fully justify the change in the traditional conservation principles. Considering the lot of presented issues, one can formulate the following conclusions: 1st - relating to the historical form of the architectural monument -The historical form of the architectural monument is a value, which could justify the reconstruction of this monument. The material existence of the architectural monument is very important to identity, tourism, education, promotion, etc. . 2nd - relating to the rebuilding -The architectural monuments ruined presently could be rebuilt. The rebuilding process should be guided by conservation rules – the maintenance of authentic form and substance is a priority. The rebuilding of the present ruined architectural monuments is a form of heritage protection and could be recognized as a conservation activity. 3rd - relating to conservation doctrine -Conservation doctrine is not a law of nature. Conservation doctrine which is treated very formally becomes dead and useless. 4th - relating to the interpretation of conservation doctrine -Conservation doctrine should be interpreted accordingly to the specificity of the heritage, the time, the place and the circumstances. The interpretation of the conservation doctrine should be done locally, by inter-discipline teams, consisting not only of conservators of historical monuments. Illustrations: (Warszawa 1) Warszawa – The Starówka in ruins (in 1945) (Warszawa 2) Warszawa – The Starówka rebuilt (in 2004) (Gdansk 1) Gdańsk – The Old City of Gdańsk after the IIWW (in 1946) (Gdansk 2) Gdańsk – rebuilt Długi Targ Street (in 2003) (Elbląg 1) Elbląg – before the rebuilding of the Old City in Elbląg (aerial view in 1978) (Elbląg 2) Elbląg – partly rebuilt Old City in Elbląg (aerial view in 1998)










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