The objective of the session is to introduce the methodological approach that should frame the exchange between history and heritage. The session focuses on two notions, architectural history and heritage, both exposed to the challenge of a new interpretive perspective, that of the evolution of time and of its current acceleration. References to this interpretation are included in the work of French historian François Hartog, whose investigation into the development of what he defines as historia magistra, helps reach a common ground for a dialogue that acknowledges a pluralism of well-rooted regimes of historicity. Related to this notion is the concept of authenticity that is identified as one of the dimensions of heritage. My aim is to assess if writing on the history of architecture has truly identified other procedures and methods regarding the question of temporality and the related empowerment of heritage. One major concern is to clarify the role of the historians, who founded the legitimacy of the modern movement and subsequently challenged its legacy. Another focus is on the historiographic aspects of the creation of the concept of modernity and on how it was narrated.
Mots clés :mouvement moderne, authenticité, architectural history, authenticity, conservation theory, historization, modern movement, histoire architecturale, historisation
« Le présent seul est notre bonheur » (Pierre Hadot)
1The aim of this essay is to outline the theme of the session “Rethinking Temporal Boundaries: History of Architecture and the Challenge of Modern Heritage,” which I co-chair with France Vanlaethem, and to explain its origin and main objectives.
Let me begin on a personal note. I initiated this project with great enthusiasm, wishing to offer a platform to elaborate on a question, which Docomomo International has chosen as a banner for one of its activities: Does twentieth-century architecture require a new conservation policy? If so, does the subject concern only practitioners, politicians, preservationists, and managers, or is the enquiry multidisciplinary? What I’m considering here is an exchange addressing how to understand the life of the built artifact in its material substance, as well as in its architectural and cultural history.
The theme I wish to address can be condensed into one crucial question: What is the position of the modern heritage vis-à-vis architectural history?
At present, there are many new approaches to the history of architecture. In that respect, should the discipline, confronted with the growing importance of the modern heritage, reassess its cultural domain? Should the history of architecture be more inclusive of History with a capital H? Should research be more analytical and allow a different approach to resources? These remain open questions, which I cannot entirely answer.
My purpose is merely to introduce the methodological approach that should frame the exchange between history and heritage rather than address their temporal or chronological interpretations.
For those who are less familiar with the acronym Docomomo, let me introduce the organization I have chaired since 2002. Docomomo stands for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement. It now includes the concept of the modern in its broadest sense.
Docomomo’s 49 chapters worldwide are the litmus paper that reveals the evolution of the debate concerning preservation and restoration. And Docomomo is by nature a combination of differentiated and multidisciplinary approaches, motivated by a strong commitment to the protection of the heritage of our recent past.
Why then is the organization so concerned with the interrelations between history and heritage? Are these questions relevant or pertinent in the field of the history of twentieth-century architecture?
The exchange is, of course, meaningful as well as multifaceted.
It implies, for instance, a redefinition of conservation practice, one of Docomomo’s core issues.
Of course, memory in relation to heritage plays a role within this exchange, yet it is not on the act of remembering that our interest is focused today. Memorization almost strangles our faculty to envision the future, even in terms of heritage, which is seen as only a token of the past. Paraphrasing David Lowenthal, whose works have been seminal in the field, I would insist on the fact that we live in an age of “memory overload.”
The session, as its title explicitly announces, focuses on two notions, architectural history and heritage, both exposed to the challenge of a new interpretive perspective, that of the evolution of time and of its current acceleration.
The notion of time, here taken from the work of historian François Hartog, namely from his most recent book Régimes d’Historicité : Présentisme et expériences du temps (published in 2003), is an essential criterion for mapping out heritage.
Hartog’s sophisticated investigation into the development of what he defines as historia magistra, a wide portrait of the relationships with the past from Ancient Rome to the French Revolution and to the subsequent gaps between past and future, helps reach a common ground for a dialogue that acknowledges a pluralism of well-rooted regimes of historicity.
The fact that heritage and temporality are strongly intertwined has been extensively discussed and agreed upon by scholars in various disciplines.
The axiom is that heritage is not merely the gathering of significant artifacts that a society designates, in specific time conditions, to become sign bearers. The heritage embodies the form of the relation that a society establishes with its own time. The heritage makes time’s order visible in the sense that it applies to the here and now of the object, to its current status.
Jumping to a hazardous but hopefully productive conclusion, I wish to state that our duty today is to acknowledge and identify our current architectural production as our future heritage. We can observe heritage from today’s point of view and also look forward. Therefore, heritage is a modus operandi of the present and on the present, that is to say that it also molds and shapes our present, a position that is clearly remote from the previous categorization of the past as a model, from our relatively passé notion of heritage.
This assertion prompts two remarks, one on authenticity and the other on the squandering of heritage in a mass-culture society.
The concept of authenticity is identified as one of the dimensions of heritage. The time notion modifies the cultural framework for questioning authenticity in modern architecture and leads to an anthropological discourse.
Is authenticity also a criterion for attributing values to modern artifacts? In such a context, what expressions of authenticity are adequate as significant parameters in conservation practice? At which level is political negotiation a tool for conservation? Does persuasion through media and public awareness raising open a new perspective in the reception of modern heritage and in its historization?
When critical regionalism started to be discussed in the early 1980s, searching for identity and authenticity was seen as an archetypal paradigm in the cultural evolution of post-colonial societies. This struggle is the common dilemma in developing nations as described by Paul Ricoeur in his essay History and Truth, quoted by Kenneth Frampton in his seminal essay on critical regionalism (1985).
The question raised is: In order to get on with modernization, is it necessary to jettison the old cultural past that was the raison d’être of a nation? Here the authenticity of the built artifact seems to be an appropriate criterion to forge a national spirit as well as to reinforce an identity as opposed to the colonial personality.
The issue is so relevant that it cannot be pure coincidence that two speakers have selected case studies in colonial contexts.
Hilde Heynen in her paper “questioning authenticity” takes a case study in Puerto Rico to explore the issue of locality confronted with imported modernism and to authenticity.
In our present age I would take under consideration the need for an “ethics of authenticity,” which I refer to something specific differing vastly from the traditional search for identical material properties. For my part, authenticity refers to something creative, an authorship, something having a profound identity, but it also carries another concept, which is close and takes into account the historical continuity in the life of the heritage resource, identified by Riegl as age value.
The Nara Statement, the seminal document on authenticity (Nara Conference1994), inspired by the Venice Charter on Restoration (1964), meant to locate authenticity at the apex of the concept of conservation with the analysis of documentary sources and the increasing professionalization of protection and restoration at its base.
The second remark I wish to make is again anchored in the issue of temporality, that is to say when temporality consists merely of ephemeral events at the limit between history and chronicle. In order to understand the role of heritage within this society of happenings and communication, I would like to recall the strategy of reception developed by Umberto Eco in his concept of opera aperta, which may well be suitable to the rising awareness of heritage in today’s society and also related to the question of authenticity.
Eco refers to the two components of the work of art: the creative process and the authorship on one hand, and on the other the plurality of spectators, whose appreciation depends on different time conditions and on cultural and social characteristics.
In this case, the truth of the artifact is the way the public perceives it and that is what we mean by authenticity. Here a link can be made between Eco’s proposition and the way Heidegger refers to the relationship of authenticity to art.
At the beginning of this project, one of our aims was to assess if writing on the history of architecture has truly identified other procedures and methods regarding the question of temporality and the related empowerment of heritage.
During preliminary research and reading, one major concern was to clarify the role of the historians who founded the legitimacy of the modern movement and subsequently challenged its legacy. Another focus was on the historiographic aspects of the creation of the concept of modernity and on how it was narrated.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge some of the sources I have referred to in this introduction, besides those already mentioned.
The special issue of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians “Architectural History 1999/2000,” edited by Eve Blau, establishes the coordinates of the discourse on the discipline and its different narratives.
On heritage I should like to mention the works of Françoise Choay, the issue on “Monument/Memory,” edited by Kurt Foster, in Oppositions 1982, the book of Roland Recht, Penser le patrimoine (1998), and Stanford Anderson’s essays on historiography, memory, and conservation (1995, 1998).
Pour citer cet article
Maristella Casciato, « Introduction », in Repenser les limites : l'architecture à travers l'espace, le temps et les disciplines, Paris, INHA (« Actes de colloques »), 2005.
Maristella Casciato, « Introduction », in Repenser les limites : l'architecture à travers l'espace, le temps et les disciplines, Paris, INHA (« Actes de colloques »), 2005, [En ligne], mis en ligne le 31 octobre 2008, consulté le 19 juin 2013. URL : http://inha.revues.org/817