Week 6 – George

“Its French black walnut paneling has remained reasonably intact, yet almost everything above a certain datum is too far gone to be delayered.” – Suzanne Stephens on the Herzog & de Meuron Park Ave Armory

“Delayered” is a made up word but encompasses so much of what we discuss in the preservation field. How can this “delayering” be considered in terms of placemaking and the curatorial nature of preservation?

Week 2 – George

‘‘To appreciate our past to its full extent,’’ he said, ‘‘we must acknowledge that heritage is a living and flexible body that needs continuous revision and addition to remain healthy and vibrant.’’
– David Lowenthal, ‘‘Prizing the Past for the Present and the Future,’’ keynote speech, University College of London Department of Geographers, June 2011. cited by Kathryn Rogers Merlino in [Re]Evaluating Significance: The Environmental and Cultural Value in Older and Historic Buildings

Similar to what was discussed in the article I choose from Future Anterior for class 1 (Martin-Hernandez, Manuel “Time and Authenticity,” Winter 2014), the article by Kathryn Merlino gets at this idea that the public perception of buildings and heritage must change over time and reinvent itself to stay relevant and connect with the needs of today. How does the climate crisis fit into this idea?

Thinking about the past for the future

What’s next in preservation theory?

After spending this half of the semester thinking, reading and talking about what the past centuries have thought and concentrated on in terms of preservation theory, I want to make some of my own guesses as to what may be the topics that the next century of preservation grapples with. This is not to say that the all the issues raised by Morris, Ruskin, Viollet, Boito, etc. will not be at play–the issues discussed by preservationists in the past are just as relevant as they are today. But today, in the year 2015, there are many other factors at play then before.

First: race and socioeconomic status. The first true example, to me, of race and class explicitly discussed in preservation theory (that we read) was in the Dolores Hayden reading. The next generation of preservationists will have to deal with issues of race, class and socioeconomic status in ways that their predecessors were never challenged to do. Does preservation just serve those who are privileged? Should goals of preservation be expanded to include accessibility issues? WHO is it that preserves? Though these questions have come up before, I believe that the 21st century is going to inform these questions in new ways.

Second: sustainability. In this new “era” of ecological consciousness, the sustainability and efficiency of buildings is all the more important and heavily scrutinized. When making the case to demolish, sustainability has become a frequently cited reason. And who doesn’t want to have the most sustainable structure possible? It’s a hard case to fight against. The future of preservation theory must move to think about the pros/cons of buildings ecologically. Weighing the costs environmentally against those of heritage or cultural value loss. Theory must be pushed to consider the weatherization of buildings: the level of intervention willing to go to make a building more efficient. In certain cases, is it more sustainable to reuse/adapt an old structure than all the resources that would go into a new one?

These are just two issues that I feel are on the forefront of political, economic and social policy today. When preservation theory takes its next steps I think they are issues that need and will be discussed. After talking about economic theory today in class, I am excited to learn more next semester!

Levels of Intervention at the Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain)

El Museo Reina Sofia is the museum of modern and contemporary art in Madrid. The Reina Sofia comes secondary to the Prado when one thinks of art museums in Spain, however architecturally it is a fascinating example of adaptive reuse, or as discussed in class, the “rehabilitation” of a site.

Some background: The museum is situated on a busy lot in Madrid, very close to many tourist sites like the Museo del Prado, the Thyssen and the Atocha station. The building was originally a 19th century hospital and was modified and adapted as a hospital until the 1960s when it was shut down.

Much of the original integrity is maintained and in a sense the building itself becomes an attraction to the visitor, not just the art. I was unaware of the history of the building when I first visited but promptly did some research after clearly seeing that it was adaptive reuse. The plan of the building is a square with a central courtyard and two winged pavilions on the front side. The core of the building is made up of long hallways looking out onto the courtyard that connected to what was originally many small rooms facing outward. The rooms are no combined into long gallery spaces (thus many of the original doorways are closed up, yet the original stone was left to denote its former existence.) The hallways make circulation through the galleries frustrating as a visitor, however it does force people to see more of the building and the artwork.

Please follow the slideshow captions to keep reading…

Unsavory Antiquarians

What do Emperor Augustus and Adolf Hitler have in common?

Though this may sound like the set up to a bad joke, the two historical leaders do have a few things in common. Besides their not-so-savory legacy as rulers, Augustus and Hitler were both avid antiquarians who not only collected and treasured old things but also sought to create their own legacy. While the success of this endeavor was ill fated, the idea of actively creating a past, or planning for the past in the present, is fascinating when we consider the fabric that we preserve.

Augustus was the stepson of Julius Caesar and took over the Roman Empire after Caesar’s death when he was only 18. HE avenged the murder of Caesar by defeating the Egyptians, bringing on an era of peace to Rome. Augustus was known to be manipulative, bold and politically shrewd. But above all else, Augusts was interested in transforming Rome from “a city of brick” into “a city of marble.” He was among the first have such a plan of renewal for the city. Areas were cleared to make way for a number of his monuments: the Campus Martius, an area prone to flooding along the Tiber river, was made useable and on it he built the Mausoleum of Augustus (in an Etruscan style), the Horologium of Augustus and most notably the Ara Pacis. These buildings made up the new forum, which Augustus sought to represent the new era of peace and prosperity under his rule. The Ara Pacis, a sacrificial alter made to honor Augustus’s era of peace depicted relief carvings of mythical and historical events. He created his own imagery about Rome under his leadership and a kind of allegorical imagery of Roman myth. The Ara Pacis makes allusions to The Aneid, a work that Augustus commissioned Virgil to write in order to create a “tangible” mythical history of Rome. The Horologium, a giant sundial, was focused around the Egyptian Obelisk of Montecitorio that Augustus brought back from Heliopolis in Ancient Egypt. Through the Campus Martius, the commissioning of the Aenid, and his larger urban planning works to regularize the city of Rome, Augustus sought to create a legacy for himself that tied himself to the history of the city.

Fast-forward a couple thousand years to Hitler and the Third Reich. I don’t have to explain much as to why the legacy of the Third Reich is less than savory, however the archeological and architectural principals employed by the Nazis are similar to Augustus. The use of ancient artifacts to assert the dominance over the ancient world and a desire to create great civic monuments that would speak to the importance of the Third Reich for centuries to come. Hitler wanted to create buildings that would age like the ruins of Rome. They too would cast a shadow of great power over anyone who looked at them.

Thus, Hitler’s desire to leave Berlin a city of great civic work is parallel to Augustus’s desire to leave Rome a “city of marble.” Both these rulers looked back in time to promote themselves and preemptively create for themselves their legacy. Though now the legacies of both rulers are tainted, and ultimately out of their control, I think it is fascinating to think of this kind of branding in preservation. When we preserve we are branding ourselves. We are choosing what legacy we leave behind, even if that legacy is just preserving what came before us. Does creating a legacy for ourselves or manipulating the built environment to create that legacy inauthentic?

I have a personal fascination with Augustus, and Rome (if you couldn’t already tell from my blog posts) largely because so much of our world was built in reference to it, and for that reason I believe we should understand how it came about looking the way it did. I would challenge anyone to try and find a contemporary issue that did not somehow manifest itself in Rome. I encourage anyone interested to read John Stambaugh’s The Ancient Roman City.


Stambaugh, John. The Ancient Roman City. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988). Pp 53-63. (If you want to read excerpts, it is available on google books here: https://books.google.com/books?id=k0mZufizhH0C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false )

Curtis, William. Modern Architecture Since 1900. Third Edition. (New York: Phaidon Press Inc. 1982, 1996). Pp. 354-356.