Joelho 9: Reuse of Modernist Buildings: pedagogy and profession

2018-12-27

Reuse of Modernist Buildings: pedagogy and profession

Invited editors: Michel Melenhorst, Gonçalo Canto Moniz, Paulo Providência

 

As the story goes, the once-famous Dutch architect Piet Blom liked to take an evening stroll around the sites of buildings of his under construction to critically reflect on the day’s results. If dissatisfied with some beam, column or other part, he would not hesitate to write an instruction in oil crayon on the offending component for the workers, such as ´perhaps better not´ (a euphemism for remove!). For Blom, the architect who had coined the term of structuralism, to design was to solve a puzzle, in which all the pieces should fit regardless of style. Later on in his career especially, the decisions he took had nothing to do with fashion; he crafted, planed and sliced on his own half-finished buildings. Whether new or existing, finished or unfinished, it made no difference to him.

When designing new constructions, architects tend to blithely go their own way with regard to style. When working as a designer with building stock, however, you have to take a stance on dealing with the style of your predecessor(s). For a very long time, the correct ´stock attitude´ was shaped by methodologies developed in the late 19th century. Until recently, within the German-speaking context, the debate was strongly coloured by opinions developed by the art historian Georg Dehio (don´t restore, preserve!) and interpretations of the standpoints of the Austrian Alois Riegl, who was also an art historian, and his pleas for a cautious, respectful interaction with different style epochs without favouring one over the others. This was in fact all very modernist, honest and clear, and provided a counterbalance to the 19th-century eclecticism. Similar discourses and attitudes dating from this time can be found in most European countries. Two well-known representatives of this school are Heinz Döllgast (restoration of the Alte Pinakothek in Munich) and Carlo Scarpa