Revitalization – interpreting the past, guiding the future

Author: Nina Stevanović

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

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. …

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