Interpretations of the Architectural and Cultural Values of Heritage in the Revitalization Process Cover Image
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Interpretations of the Architectural and Cultural Values of Heritage in the Revitalization Process
Interpretations of the Architectural and Cultural Values of Heritage in the Revitalization Process

Author(s): Nina Stevanović
Subject(s): Fine Arts / Performing Arts
Published by: Historický ústav SAV, v. v. i.
Keywords: Architectural heritage; interpretation; revitalization; cultural identity; Sarajevo; Barcelona

Summary/Abstract: The starting point for the cultural interpretation of an architectural work with respect to its potential revitalization can assume a decisive role in terms of determination of the guidelines for evaluation, protection and/or revitalization of architectural heritage. Starting in the 19th century, when the fundaments of a theory of architectural heritage were laid down, two main approaches might be discerned regarding architectural heritage’s evaluation and revitalization: Viollet-le-Duc’s interpretative (stylistic) position, presented in ‘Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architeture franςaies du XIe au XVe siècle’ (1854 – 1868) and John Ruskin’s view of heritage as a living organism, presented in ‘The Seven Lamps of Architecture’ (1849). Up to the present, we might say that the theoretical positions and practical policies and legislatives on protection and revitalization of heritage are determined by those two different standpoints on the substantial value of architectural heritage. Nonetheless, it can be noticed that at the heart of the question of what characteristics of heritage take precedence – the material features or the immaterial significance, lasting from Viollet-le-Duc’s and Ruskin’s times up to modern heritage-protection policies and contemporary revitalization approaches, there lies the problem of the construction/delimitation of cultural identity. And this matter, in its own turn, forms the core of national, regional or cultural politics. Therefore, the reinterpretation of the characteristics and particularities of architectural discourse in specified period(s) throughout the process of heritage revitalization reveals the efforts of societies to deploy both architecture and cultural identity towards ideological needs. If ‘culture’ is defined as a collage of “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society;” or “the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group” and the concept of ‘identity’ as “the characteristic determining who or what a person (group, society) or thing is” /3/, then a cultural identity can be defined as the collective characteristics, or more accurately the categories for belonging that determine one’s place within a cultural category or, in other words, the features that characterize the group/society. In this context, architecture, as a form of cultural achievement and identity manifestation, might be interpreted as material heritage that gathers, exhibits and transmits non-material ideas, beliefs, traditions for the ways that we inhabit and perceive the world.In those terms, the process of cultural identity (re)definition can be correlated to the process of revitalization of architectural heritage. The correlation between the positions for the origination of cultural identity and the approaches to heritage revitalization is reflected within the stance taken toward the originality (authenticity) of the heritage.Hence, the conservational approach stems from an essentialist perception of cultural identity as an inherited and thus long-established category, one that is rooted in the cultural tradition of the society. The essentialist position on cultural identity as an “authentic set of characteristics which (are)… share(d) (by) all and which do not alter across time” has thus formed the conservationist approach stressing the importance of preservation of the existing cultural connotations through the retention (recovery) of architectural imagery taking precedence in the process of heritage reconstruction. This attitude assumes that the cultural identity of built heritage is unchangeable, as its character was determined in the moment of its construction. From this view, it follows that the architectural features of heritage are themselves an inflexible category. As this approach strives to grasp the original design (despite the frequently implied supposition in of originality) or what is estimated to be the most significant plan, it therefore dismisses all other, differing stages of the building’s cultural and architectonic evolution. Because of its aim to fix created cultural imagery in a state of originality, this approach frequently is applied in the use of heritage for national or supranational cultural and/or ideological purposes.On the contrary, the interventionist approach is linked to the constructivist vision of identity as a socially and historically constructed category. “Cultural identity, in this sense, is a matter of ‘becoming’ as well as of ‘being’. It belongs to the future as much as to the past. It is not something which already exists, transcending place, time, history and culture. Cultural identities comes from somewhere, have histories. But, like everything which is historical, they undergo constant transformation.” In these terms, the constant transformation of architectural heritage, as a consequence of the shifts in societal needs following new scientific, social and philosophical advances, lies at the centre of the interventionist approach. Here, the focus is on the creative interpretation and upgrading of architectural features of built heritage, placing an individual artistic vision above the role of cultural and national self-affirmation.The third approach, or what might be perceived as an anti-approach to heritage preservation, follows the postmodern position on the ‘dislocation’ of identity construction, assuming that cultural identity is shaped from outside of itself through the process of exclusion and difference. The rejection of the ‘Other’ in the process of development of architectural thought is revealed in the modernist yearning for progress and the postmodernist need for never-ending growth. Hence, it is a legitimate question if, in these circumstances, the symbolist approach to heritage revitalization could even be considered as an approach, since it does not rely on material features of heritage, but mainly, indeed entirely, on its immaterial values (both in the architectural and cultural senses). As will be demonstrated by one case in point, I argue that this position is after all an approach to the preservation of the achievements of architecture as an profession even if it does not preserve architecture as an ‘archifact’.The correlation between the processes of (re) construction of cultural identity and interpretation, the preservation and revitalization of achievements of the architectural profession, appears to have influenced the broader trajectory of theoretical stances towards the value of architectural work from the 19th century onwards, and subsequently the legislative framework for architectural heritage protection. From the Athens Charter (1931), and the Venice Charter (1964), through the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), up until the Declaration of San Antonio (1996) on the connection between authenticity and identity and finally the Burra Charter on Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance (1999) the dual role of heritage, as an artwork and a social product, is constantly questioned. Thus the determination of an initial theoretical standpoint for the perception of built heritage, whether as individual ‘archiwork’, social mega-structure for inhabitation of people and their activities, or cultural symbol expressing spiritual visions of society, can influence the selection of revitalization methods. Therefore, the outcomes of the heritage revitalization processes in Sarajevo and Barcelona, as presented below, are intended to examine in reverse the reliability of the investigated theory...

  • Issue Year: 49/2015
  • Issue No: 3-4
  • Page Range: 258-273
  • Page Count: 16
  • Language: English