How do we live forever? Cultural memory is something which binds individuals together across time and space, creating the sense that although mortal, there is a greater continuity persisting both in the pre-life and after-life.
The establishment of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in 2003 marked a profound shift in the custodial objectives of UNESCO as an organisation and the mechanisms it utilises preserve global culture. Since the introduction of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (WCH) in 1972, Unesco policy had, to that point, been driven and dominated by a single, concise, and ultimately incomplete mandate; namely, the evaluation and preservation of material structures.
In the hierarchy of major themes that shaped the modern spirit in architecture, hygiene, the imperative of a more salubrious habitat and city, is undeniably at the top of the list. With the book ‘X-Ray Architecture’, Beatriz Colomina, historian and theoretician of architecture and teacher at Princeton, chooses to make this a structuring principle, more to do with the fear of death and the repressed unconscious than the spirit of innovation. Is modern architecture as hysterical as that of the Baroque period?
One thing gentrification thrives on is heritage. Whether it is the grand redbrick houses of a run-down neighbourhood, or the rich and diverse culture of working-class areas, the middle-class drivers of gentrification are attracted by a sense of history. But as much as gentrification fetishizes heritage, it consumes it, mutates it, and sometimes destroys it.
The story of Liberland, an anarcho-capitalist utopia founded on the Danube in 2015, needs to be told in the inverse direction than that of traditional national founding stories. Rather than a land that gets retroactively invested with a founding myth, it is a founding myth actively searching for a land – and using any means to get there. Hans Larsson met with the President and architect of this Eldorado 2.0
We’re hunter gatherers by nature (yes, women too). And hoarders. We cling onto stuff. We collect during the significant moments of life, only to let go when we move house or get within eye sight of our final destination. There is a fine line between ‘to possess’ and ‘to be possessed’, but either way, there are not many of us that take pride in owning nothing. Whoever had the opportunity to visit one of the main interior lifestyle fairs in Europe or elsewhere will recognize the feeling of despair in the face of the limitless amounts and varying multitudes of ‘stuff’. And yet, we don’t seem to want to do without (anytime soon).
Discover the full Volume 55 ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ editorial.
The question ‘how do we materialize peace?’ is as old as humankind, though unfortunately more relevant than ever. The Middle-Eastern tensions have not come to an end, and yet the USA is preparing for new confrontations. The ‘super-powers’ are arm-wrestling over world hegemony and segregation, and expulsion leads to growing gaps in societies.
When it comes to heritage, the material remains of our presence in the past, the max we do is to protect and preserve. Respect for what was takes over from engagement with what is, or can be.
In her book ‘The Battle for Home’, the Syrian architect Marwa Al-Sabouni focuses on Homs and how the city was destroyed by architecture even before the war began. Lilet Breddels discussed with her in Amsterdam last December, when she received a prestigious Prince Claus Award for her contribution to architectural thinking.
The ‘New Europe’ and Controversy Around the European Idea – an international conference and workshop at the National Museum-Institute of Architecture after Alexander Tamanyan, Yerevan (March 30, 2019).