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AR December 2019/January 2020 on New into Old + Preservation

1467 cover ar new into old and preservation

Flores & Prats | Witherford Watson Mann | Rural Urban Framework + University of Hong Kong | Aulets | Architectural Design & Research Institute of Zhejiang University | Max Von Werz, Mateo Riestra and José Arnaud-Bello | Lina Bo Bardi | Jamie Fobert | George Monbiot | William Morris

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The architecture of the past might appear as a static and lasting thing; the roof over our heads and the solid floor beneath our feet assuring us that it will outlast at least our short human lives to remain or even become a thing of heritage for future generations. This issue, we look at acts of preservation, from the rituals performed and embedded with the contents of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge to the continuous upkeep of the mud-formed buildings of Tangassogo village in Burkina Faso. The informal cycle of care that is instated in these buildings from their conception sits outside the institutional system of protection that governs the designation and control of European heritage structures, and these should be challenged in their own right: in the keynote, Jorge Otero-Pailos explores possibilities for experimentation in preservation practices, as well as the possibility of alternative heritage objects. However radical this might seem now, the status quo of preservation has been dependent on the experimental action of those who have come before: as Darran Anderson reminds us, ‘today’s rebels are, after all, tomorrow’s puritans’. William Morris, who stars in this issue’s Reputations, exclaimed ‘The past is not dead, it is living in us, and wil be alive in the future which we are now helping to make’.

All is not preserved equally. Modernist architecture is not often treated to the same care and funding as that from the 19th century, and as George Monbiot tells us, ‘we are dominated by single-species thinking, where we will preserve one species at the expense of all others.’ Anna Souter writes of rewilding that it ‘wants to avoid the tropes of traditional conservation movements’, putting forward an idea of preservation that hopes to disrupt the primacy of the human animal it favours. 

With Mill + Jones’ graphic novel, featured in the latest instalment of the book of books, the physical matter of memory becomes a focus as we are introduced to a world of ‘archived salvage’. Architecture itself becomes a repository of memory, and we question what should be done with buildings that have turned into symbols of trauma, whether from terror attacks or from fire, or in cities like Athens, where antiquity itself can become a burden. Tom Wilkinson reviews Yerevan 1996/1997, the 2019 replication of a photo book made by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg for her daughter. The private artefact is made public, dug up and distanced from its historical moment – now appearing as an estranged object that might take on any matter of imagined history. Lina Bo Bardi said that ‘if people thought that everything old hat had to be preserved, the city would soon turn into a museum of junk’, her delicate moves and folding furniture implemented yet to imbue existing buildings with new life.

As the need to find alternatives to short-sighted or heavily consumptive traditions of constant new construction becomes increasingly urgent, we turn our attention to strategies of adaptive reuse with the New into Old awards, examining how buildings can be given a new lease of life and celebrating the creative ways they have been remodelled to welcome contemporary uses. This year, we visited projects in Spain, China, Mexico and the UK before our judges selected Flores & Prats’ Sala Beckett Theatre as the winner. The full table of contents is available here.