Reframing the Architectural Conservation Field: The Critical Conservation Works of David Chipperfield Architects, Amateur Architecture Studio (Lu Wengyu and Wang Shu), and Lina Bo
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Escobar Castrillon, Natalia
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CitationEscobar Castrillon, Natalia. 2020. Reframing the Architectural Conservation Field: The Critical Conservation Works of David Chipperfield Architects, Amateur Architecture Studio (Lu Wengyu and Wang Shu), and Lina Bo. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractOne of the greatest and most urgent challenges of our time is to dismantle the oppressive mechanisms by which dominant cultures systematically exclude sectors of the population and their alternative world-views. Throughout the 20th century, the field of architectural conservation emerged in Europe and became one of the mechanisms to serve the ruling classes, providing them with enduring material and symbolic evidence of their historic status. The increasingly scientific character of modern architectural conservation, based on the principles of objectivity and neutrality, reconfirm and perpetuate hegemonic narratives by presenting inherited remnants as objective historical facts. This research project reframes architectural conservation as a critical practice that aims to confront “hegemonic history” and to address the present demand for socially inclusive narratives using the specific means of architecture. In this work, I theorize design practices that reflect this awareness and were able to challenge and subvert established narratives and power structures through architecture, a process that I define as critical conservation.
Through the documentation and reinterpretation of selected late-modern and contemporary interventions on architectural remnants, this work aims to establish and consolidate a renewed and inclusive approach to architectural history. The selection of projects includes the multilayered history of destruction that David Chipperfield Architects present in their reframing of the ruins of World War Two’s Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany; the reuse of material rubble that Amateur Architecture Studio (founded by Lu Wengyu and Wang Shu) pursue as a manifesto against the government-driven systematic demolitions of rural villages in China; and the critique of the elitist culture that Lina Bo features in her subversive reconversion of an obsolete factory into a cultural and leisure center for the Social Service of Commerce (SESC) in Pompéia, São Paulo, Brazil. This selection aims to reflect the late-modern and contemporary global character of architectural production, but also advocates for a historiographical position based on a non-linear concept of history that includes cross-cultural and transhistorical connections. Despite major differences, I argue that these architects show an awareness of the ideological and sociopolitical dimensions of architectural conservation and respectively articulate committed positions responding to the particular circumstances of places. This consciousness and explicit sociopolitical positioning through aesthetic practices of resistance is unprecedented in the history of architectural conservation and defines the core of critical conservation.
For the analysis and reinterpretation of these projects, I borrow from the fields of historical and political theory including Walter Benjamin, Fredric Jameson, Antonio Gramsci, and Chantal Mouffe’s critiques of hegemony and of the role of intellectuals, but also from phenomenological theories such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Edward S. Casey, and Dylan Trigg’s critiques of the notion of “experience” reduced to its sensorial dimension and disconnected from intellectual and sociopolitical discourses. In addition, I borrow from Patricia Hill Collins’s contemporary social theories of intersectionality in order to consider a holistic approach to social oppression within the critical conservation framework. This may also be interpreted to suggest that the critical conservation approach—its theoretical grounds and design strategies—has the potential to address historical narratives and buildings as well as emerging contemporary social demands. The selected projects resonate with these sociopolitical theories while using architecture as a medium to express and articulate counter-hegemonic ideological positions.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368857
- FAS Theses and Dissertations 
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