Fragile Monument
On Conservation & Modernity
Trita-ARK-akademisk avhandling 2003: 5

By Thordis Arrhenius
October 2003
Kungl Tekniska Hogskolan
ISBN: 9172834862
190 pages, Illustrated, 8" x 11 "
$115.00 Paper Original

This Ph.D. dissertation is a study of the discourse of conservation and its effect on the notion and role of the monument in modern western society. Through a revisionist account of the history of conservation it is shown how the monument has been transformed from an object that originally communicated permanence to an object that is perceived as fragile and in need of protection. The thesis suggests that the expansion and popularization of conservation is bound to a narrative of loss and danger which reveals a paradoxical relation between destruction and preservation.

The study shows how spatial devices have been used to negotiate that paradox and investigates how this use of space has contributed to define the monument as an object of conservation. This investigation is made through a series of case studies, chosen and studied in detail because they constitute examples of what the thesis terms 'sites of conflict,' instances in the history of conservation where the existing tradition or practice no longer make sense because the relation to the 'heritage object,' the monument, is fundamentally transformed.

Throughout its history, conservation has been surrounded by a polemic dominated by concepts of authenticity, origin and authorship. By studying that debate in relation to the case-studies the thesis adumbrates the implications these concepts carry with them, both for the discipline of conservation and for the discourse of architecture as a whole.

The cases studied are: Le Corbusier's plan to modernize Paris, the "Plan Voisin"' the iconoclastic crisis of the French Revolution in relation to its emerging discourse on conservation; Eugene-Emanuel Viollet-le-Duc's and John Ruskin's experience of the new media of photography in the context of their theories of conservation; the art historian Alois Reigel's notion of the monument as expressed in his essay The Modern Cult of Monuments.


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