30th International Congress of
the History of Art, London 3-8 Sept. 2000
Section 20: Architecture versus Time
Thirtieth International Congress of the History of Art
London 3-8 September 2000
Art History for the Millennium: Time
Architecture versus Time
The surface of architecture as
a medium of time; postwar modernism revisited; the modern construction-site
and its impact on urban and architectural design; listing as a strategy
to assess historic buildings in present contexts; protection versus change
Speakers should come from conservation offices, including the restoration-departments,
from academic institutions, including free-lance writers. Listing and restoring
modern-movement-buildings has been largely discussed among the professionals.
It would be nice to have new examples and not those that have already been
presented on conferences.
Post-war modernism revisited
All over the world our colleagues are now busy to study and protect
the buildings of post-war modernism that were meant to be images and media
of a new time and a new society, in every way contemporary. Now they have
become historic, buildings, images and visions. For many of us the former
„new time" is part of our own history/biographies. To argue for the protection
of post-war modern buildings becomes a double reflexion on contemporariness,
modernity, progress and cultural heritage in post-war societies. Is modernity
a closed chapter in (architectural and political) history? The turn of
the century/millennium seems to be a good occasion to compare the perspectives.
Case-studies that reflect the more general questions should come from different
countries, if possible, East and West, European and Non-European. Architectural
historians are as welcome as historic buildings' conservators.
Time is money: The modern construction-site and its impact
on urban and architectural design
As modern construction is essentially based on credit, it is vital
for builders to keep in time, to build as fast as possible. This has been
one of the most influential motives for architects throughout the 20th
century, to think about norms, standards, pre-fabrication of elements,
modernization of logistics and communication. Thus, building became cheaper,
and housing projects for the people became a task for economists as well
as for engineers. The same reflexion applies to contemporary planning devices
(i. e. CAD) and logistics. How could we define the influence of those basic
factors on the artistic invention in modern architecture?
Listing as a strategy to assess historic buildings in present
Working at the inventory of monuments means to go back and forth in
time continuously and in every single case. We need the distance to value
a building's historic and, possibly, its artistic importance. We put it
back into its context, into its own time to explain, what it was meant
for and why it was built and how. In German, we would call this „Historisierung"
("historizing"?). But, to protect a building successfully, we must equally
demonstrate its use and practical and spiritual function in our own time,
from a present point of view, to convince owners, planners, architects
and politicians today. In German we would call this „Vergegenwärtigung"
("re-presentation"?). Though this may seem paradox: historizing and re-presentation
are a methodological unity, the one does not work without the other. General
reflexions will be as welcome as case-studies.
The surface of architecture as a medium of time
Patina is the witness and the medium of time on the surfaces of architecture.
A restoration that takes off the patina to refinish the surface of a wall,
stone, brick or stucco, makes a building look new and raw, timeless (or
as fresh as on its first day, like our colleagues in the 19th century would
have said). Timelessness is a positive category in discussions about the
artistic and aesthetic value of a work of art. Is the artistic value tied
to the (timeless) image, while the historic value remains with the (ageing)
substance? Does Substance become a liability? Those questions may be put
in all cases. It might be promising, though, to discuss the restoration
of modern buildings that were meant to be images of the future, without
any intention to reflect the past - or to become historic.
Protection versus change
One of the most popular arguments against historic buildings' preservation
is, that time is stopped, the building is frozen to death in its actual
shape. Indeed, from our professional point of view, "autheticity" is the
most precious value, only too often violated by false conservation of building-measures.
But: if there is something like an "authentic" monument - who defines,
what is meant? The actual theories of preservation and conservation consider
later alterations as part of the monument - the become part of the authentic
- and are preserved with it. Time and change never really stopped. So:
why not allow further changes? And: where do we set the limit?
Berlin, March 9th, 1999
changed last: May 2nd, 1999 and May 18th, 2009