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reduction of memory. It is easy to think of preservation as the opposite of development: there are architects, who make change, and there is preservation, which resists change. But preservation itself has become an element of radical transformation without us realizing it.
We found two moments when preservation was first raised as an issue. The first was two years after the French Revolution in France and the second was at the height of the Victorian Industrial Revolution in England. There is a significant connection between revolution and preservation, because the moment you have to change everything you also have to consider what stays the same.
Listed Cultural Heritage
RELIGIOUS BUILDINGS 1844: Notre Dame restored ANCIENT MONUMENTS 1819: France's Ministere de lÍnterieur attains budget for preservation of remains of classical antiquity 1882: Stonehenge listed in Britain's Ancient Monument Act HISTORIC TOWN CENTERS 1849: Carcassonne is protected and restoration started HOUSES 1896: The Clergy House, UK LIGHT HOUSES 1966: Boston Light, USA CEMETERIES 1975: Mt. Auburn Cemetery, USA RAILWAYS 1979: Avon Valley Railway, UK CASINOS 1990: Water Witch Club Casino, USA CULTURAL LANDSCAPES 1995: Rice Terraces, Philippines HIGHWAYS 2002: Long Island Parkway, USA STORY TELLING 2008: The Art of Akyns, Kyrgyz Epic Tellers FESTIVAL 2008: Gangneung Danoje Festival, Korea PROCESSION 2008: Processional Giants and Dragons, Belgium and France HANDCRAFT 2009: Craft of Aubusson tapestry, France
CALIGRAPHY 2009: Chinese calligraphy ORAL HERITAGE 2008: The Oral Heritage of Gelede, Nigeria DANCE 2008: Tango, Argentina FOLK SONGS 2008: Albanian Folk Iso-polyphony, Albania CONCENTRATION CAMPS 1997: Auschwitz, Poland DEPARTMENT STORES 1993: Colwell Dept. Store, USA FACTORIES 1993: Engelsburg Ironworks, Sweden AMUSEMENT RIDES 1980: Coney Island parachute jump,USA OFFICE BUILDINGS 1979: Flatiron Building, USA BRIDGES 1966: Brooklyn Bridge, USA
We then noticed that preservation became common practice at the beginning of a whole wave of modernization and invention. Rather than see preservation as the opposite of modernity, this enabled us to see preservation as a part of modernity.
Expansion of typologies being preserved from Beijing Preservation study with Harvard, 2003 (updated 2010)
Expansion of scale
If you look at what we preserve, we started with ancient monuments 150 years ago, then we began preserving buildings, and now we preserve everything from concentration camps to amusement parks. The scale of what is preserved gets progressively bigger.
1844: Notre Dame
BUILDINGS + SET BACK
1913: French Law stipulates 100m protected area around major monuments
1973: SoHo District in New York Citry designated as historic landmark
2000: Blaenavon Industrial Landscape designated a World Heritage Site. 3290 hectares
2000 Expansion of the scale of preservation from Beijing Preservation Study with Harvard, 2003
one of the largest in the world. and yet all this activity takes place completely beyond the radar of the architectural profession.There is now a radical moment where if you add all the territories that have been declared “World Heritage Site. Expansion of preservation is also a political issue that hasn’t been theorized yet. and a major country. which is twice the area of India. Current World Heritage Sites around the globe from Beijing Preservation study with Harvard. 2003 39 . World Heritage is a country.” you get four percent of the world’s surface.
or to restore to a previous condition. which in fact means ruins. we have only primitive tools based on two models – to retain authenticity. 2003 . 40 Classical opposition between authenticity and restoration. Beijing Preservation Study with Harvard.When we think of preservagtion.
around 1756 41 . Piranesi. Piranesi. The first one is a the Romantic model.The two models are essentially European. around 1756 Ancient Rome. Ancient Rome.
the European approach to preservation has become fundamentally inadequate. The irony is that since the entire world now has World Heritage sites. France .The second is a Rationalist model. France. 1844 Carcassonne. 42 Reconstruction of Carcassonne. Viollet-le-Duc.
43 . It has now been dismantled. given the current discussion on preservation we simply cannot capture or deal with an issue like the East German parliament in Berlin. This excludes anything that is part of recent architecture.Therefore. At the moment the Wall fell. simply because the very narrow values of preservation dictate that we only preserve buildings that are significant architecturally. the parliament was condemned to death. for their aesthetic or historical values.
which is a museum built in the ‘30s by Nazi architects explicitly to show Nazi art (of course you have many equivalents of such architecture from Stalin’s era).The issue is even more interesting and difficult in a building like the Haus der Kunst. Munich. Haus der Kunst. 1937 44 . This museum still exists and we have to think of a way of dealing with it.
Haus der Kunst. 2008 45 .But it’s impossible to deal with it because what do we do? Do we restore it to its former Nazi splendour and look for the right marble and the right stone to restore it? No one so far has the right answer to this question. Munich.
46 . we really love the quality that the Nazi aura gives to this space.What is also highly ambiguous is that secretly...
. 47 ... and we use it to give our contemporary art additional value.
we like to show the good art of the current moment. We ourselves are unable to deal with this ambiguity. which is itself really bad art.In the Nazi building. 49 .
it becomes a prediction. let’s keep that. the gap was already shrunken to 200 years. almost overtaking creation. From Beijing Preservation Study with Harvard.” Preservation becomes a prospective activity. “That is nice. In 1900. 50 The time between creation and preservation is rapidly shrinking. 2003 . You don’t say.When we first started to preserve in the late 19th century. there were 2000 years between what we preserved and the now. and now we are in a situation where what we preserve is almost coinciding with the present. Preservation is no longer something you look at in retrospect.
that is something that happened to one of my projects.Interestingly enough. even if the family living there wanted to change something. a Villa in Bordeau. 51 . I finished a house and it was immediately declared a monument so it could not be changed anymore.
52 .Preservation is also taking place in the eastern part of the world and we simply don’t have the tools or the conceptual apparatus to deal with the conditions there.
this wall is from the ‘50s. we all talk about the hutongs.We all love the historical heart of Beijing. The lifestyle seems to be completely independent from the physical entity. and we all accuse the Chinese regime of being insensitive to this architecture. What do you preserve in a case like this? Hutong in Beijing. 2003 53 . the original form of housing. some tin and some plastic from the ‘60s and ‘70s. But how could you possibly preserve anything in a hutong? If you look carefully.
This was an old city in Libya made entirely from clay. When it was declared a monument. 54 .This is another example of what happens when a site is declared Unesco World Heritage. a new city was built next to it.
55 .Everyone drained to the new city and therefore life in the old city completely disappeared.
The same is true of the agriculture outside the city. 56 . which disappeared when it was declared a monument.
becoming a World Heritage Site is a death sentence because we are unable to conceptualize how a monument can maintain a degree of evolution inside its preserved conditions. 57 .In many cases.
All of the phenomena I have discussed suggest that we are suffering a compromised and diminishing ability to inhabit our world and to make sure that our world evolves in a coherent manner. a phenomenon we call “Thinning” for want of a better name (but maybe we conclude it is a perfect name). 58 .We are beginning to discover a common theme to many of these different issues.
59 .By thinning I mean that larger and larger territories are inhabited by our culture but the intensity of use is diminishing.
In China in particular you see ghost towns but they are not a sad proof of uselessness. they are simply the presence of a future usefulness. Pearl River Delta development in the ‘90s From Great Leap Forward study with Harvard. 2002 60 . Instead.Sometimes this intensity of use is low because things are in construction.
In cases like this. Landscape is already indicated but it’s not inhabited. infrastructure is an announcement of future inhabitation. 2002 61 . Pearl River Delta From Great Leap Forward study with Harvard.
In Dubai. 62 60 . I didn’t find a single sign so I had to rephrase my ambition to look for signs of irregularity. there is a significant gap between intention and reality. I was in Dubai three days ago and the only thing I looked for was signs of inhabitation in finished buildings. things that weren’t completely perfect anymore.
probably indicating some degree of use. More and more cities are inhabited on a provisional basis. but I cannot be sure. 63 .In these towers I found signs of irregularity. It’s a kind of hedge city. We have entirely finished cities that suggest an incredible density but they don’t achieve it and they’re also not intended to ever achieve it. a city that hedges against a disaster elsewhere.
It’s urban life lite. Dubai is a crucial example of what’s happening in the world: there’s a huge amount of building but we are simply incapable of inhabiting all these conditions in a classical urban way. We have a collective infrastructure to make a city but precious few signs of inhabitation. 64 .This is another search for irregularities.
I would say that this is a perfectly plausible way of inhabiting a city – it’s certainly urban. every square inch is used. really tiny.I was in Damascus yesterday and there. so really. He inhabits a space that is less than a metre and a half square. the same phenomenon is painfully present and painfully obvious. It’s actually dimensioned to accommodate the machine and the man himself. This is a shoemaker. 63 65 .
which means that a number of men are involved the entire day in removing things. a trading hall.. There’s an incredible intensity of use.This is a similar but larger commercial space in Damascus called a caravanserai. This one is in use. 2010 66 64 .. putting them somewhere else. Damascus.
barely any labour. There are some handbags. Damascus. and barely any visitors. It is a process of thinning the caravanserai becomes a place which we are somehow unable to inhabit. just a boy and a girl with pretentious faces managing the situation. some shoes.Our way of preserving the caravanserai is to replace it with a boutique. 2010 67 . some fashion.
It’s also dubious as a form of preservation because we secretly modernize. 67 Damascus. 2010 68 .
in a formerly busy part of the city turned into a cultural center.Similarly. awful Venezuelan art serves as a substitute for life or thinking. 2010 69 68 . Damascus.
Maybe people inhabit cities on a theoretical level.We have a myth that the world has now become urban – statistics say that more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. but what is the effect on the places these people have left behind? What is happening to the countryside? Are there the same processes of abandoned authenticity taking place? And are processes of preservation also falsifying the conditions in the countryside? The Alps 70 . I seriously question that statistic for the reason I just showed.
A village in the Alps: public art 71 . of art. even in nature. getting bigger. something that used to be completely unnecessary. invading spaces that were previously free of art.There is a stunning presence. Public art is shamelessly expanding.
presumably to the city...Here is a village as it was 10 years ago. Thinning in the Alps: old development and expansion 72 . The original population has left.
73 . and we can observe a process of villages being abandoned but growing. the village has become bigger.Today.
The people who live in these growing villages are not living there full time. A village in the Alps 74 .
They restore and preserve space by the use of minimalism and extreme good taste. It is a theoretical life that rarely coincides with real life. achieving quasi-authenticity within highly-defined rules of what you can do and what you cannot do. A village in the Alps 75 .
76 A village in the Alps .This is blatantly not a used interior.the only problem is that it doesn’t have any reality. everything works . In the best case it is used for two weeks every year. everything is perfect. In the garden.
the demographic of such a society reveals that more and more foreigners are required to sustain it.To make matters even more complicated. Population pyramid of the European Union 77 .
Swiss countryside 78 . but the tractor driver who maintains the mountain came from Sri Lanka.This is a Swiss meadow.
This is the new condition of the countryside. inhabited by a different “team. A village in the Alps 79 .” What I hope I’ve been able to say is that we’re in a phase of a completely global phenomenon and we’ve not even begun to develop an intellectual apparatus for understanding it and for operating within it.