Conservation, Destruction, and Curating Impermanence

This seminar on critical conservation aims to develop concepts and strategies able to describe and curate the transitory and dynamic nature of architecture, landscapes and cities. It combines readings discussions on the philosophy of history and conservation with lectures on case studies in which the premises of permanence, stable meaning, and authenticity – the assumptions upon which the traditional conservation discipline operates – appears as material or theoretical impossibilities.

The first part of the course seeks to establish general theoretical parameters for a new conceptualization and experience of history, memory, and identity, which will be illustrated through examples of the work of architects such as David Chipperfield, Aldo Rossi, and Mies Van der Rohe. The second part of the course focuses on natural and manmade destructions in order to reflect upon the myth of permanence; this includes the reassessment of remnants from natural catastrophes in Chile, or from warlike conflicts in the Middle East. The third section addresses urban dynamics such as radical urban proposals of ephemeral settlements in India, or the transformations prospects of Old Havana in Cuba. These case studies will be presented by GSD professors and external experts.

The readings will lay the foundations for an alternative and contemporary theory of both historical interpretation and critical conservation building from G.F.W. Hegel, Alois Riegl, Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, Pierre Nora, Edward S. Casey, and Edward Said among others.

Guests: Xavier Costa, Michael Hays, Rahul Mehrotra, Alejandro Crispiani, Marina Correia