Carlo Scarpa - Olivetti
Is the Built Heritage Adaptable?
O a n a B o g d a n & F r a n c i s C a r p e n t i e r
It is an illusion to believe that a building can be preserved in its initial condition. Natural decay and socio-economic changes are always lurking around the corner, forcing us to intervene on our built heritage.
Following the dichotomous views of John Ruskin (1819-1900) and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879) during the 19th century, conscious conservation and restoration have become common cultural answers to deal with cultural heritage today. While Ruskin praised the aesthetics of decay and pleaded for mere conservation, Viollet-le-Duc invented the modern, western notion of restoration as an act of reestablishing a monument “in a finished state, which may in fact never have actually existed at any given time”.
Designers such as Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) were capable of transcending this dichotomy by introducing a new architectural language and adding a forceful, contemporary layer to significant historic buildings. Our built heritage requires constant adaptation to remain ‘useful’ today. By liberating cultural heritage from its presumed and a priory condition of conservation in the strict sense, it might actually have a better chance of being integrated into contemporary society, and end up being ‘conserved’ in a more sustainable way for future generations.
Adapting historic buildings requires intelligent designers and sensitive clients to foresee that a variety of future functions will be compatible with the identified heritage values. A change of culture within the conservation realm is necessary, a new paradigm where use values and forceful re-actualizations are not seen as a threat but as an opportunity for a sustainable second, third, etc. life. For all existing buildings, especially historic ones, are in the first place resources to build our future.
Oana Bogdan & Francis Carpentier
Oana Bogdan is founding partner in the award-winning architecture firm BOGDAN & VAN BROECK (www.bogdanvanbroeck.com) from Belgium and also involved in research, the promotion of architecture, multidisciplinary projects. In 2016, she worked as a Secretary of State in charge of Heritage at the Ministry of Culture in Romania. She is now commuting between the two countries and has chosen to take part in active political construction.
Francis Carpentier is an MSc in Conservation of Monuments and Sites (RLICC, KU Leuven) and the coordinator for the architecture activities in the framework of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 at the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (BOZAR). He is a board member of Europa Nostra Belgium and Docomomo Belgium.