Re: Re: Reconstructing Lost Buildings

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Anonymous
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Indeed, one often feels that attitudes to conservation diverge considerably within the western world – often between neighbouring countries, such as in Europe. The very project discussed above is not a scenario one could see being played out in Ireland, where a deep-rooted apathy towards the built environment holds sway, and yet conversely, the statutory protection given to buildings here and the resultant level of reverence afforded to Protected Structures is sometimes quite remarkable – often an approach not seen in many parts of the UK and the Continent. Like a frightened dog snapping from a distance at a cat, it seems our post-colonial hang-up on sniping at the law while simultaneously adhering to it continues to hold sway.

I think gunter nits the nail on the head by honing in on matters of ‘authenticity’. For me, this was the crux of the entire debate on the Berliner Stadtschloss, which wasn’t discussed on the night, and as such, Frank McDonald was completely off the mark in his lambasting of the project. How can it possibly be claimed that the initiative is little more than a vacuous Las Vagas proposal, when it involves the reconstruction of an iconic, landmark public building in a capital city, replicating in large part a previous building that stood on the same site? The concept of ‘authenticity’ has manifold strands of meaning, which if condensed into a narrow interpretation that suits a particular agenda, can be quite a dangerous thing. In honesty, aside from discussing general principles of conservation, I do not think any of us here are in a position to adequately adjudicate on such a politically, culturally, emotionally charged proposal as this one; it is for locals to democratically decide the merits and demerits of replicating or replacing a building of such a complicated civic nature. Indeed, the very fact that it is one of the most hideous buildings most of us have every laid eyes on, and presumably the Germans also, makes it all the more apparent that this is about more than just the building itself. To sit in a concrete lecture theatre listening to an academic debate about a building project that was anything but academic, located over a thousand miles away with a steaming pile of emotional baggage behind it, seemed a rather fruitless exercise to me from the outset. Who are we to opine on such a complex project?

To distil cases such as this solely into theoretical principles sometimes just doesn’t work. As the most eloquent speaker on the night, Brian Hamilton of the OPW, pointed out: who are the custodians of the zeitgeist? Should architects alone be allowed decide the ‘dogma of the day’, or should the public be allowed have their democratic voice heard? That is not to say the democracy works well in the built environment – let’s face it, it almost never does – but surely architects are there to guide us and educate us, not preach and dictate to us?

It was disappointing to see a largely architecty crowd show up to the debate. These are issues that the wider public should be engaging with, and the rather narrow, dominant opinion offered by the (too few) people that got a chance to speak did not, I felt, offer a sufficiently considered response to the multitudinous questions raised by the refloating of the Berliner Stadtschloss.

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